We're delighted to provide an update on one of our earlier blogposts, written in 2019 about the Redoute Béar Sidi-Ferruch Monument at Port Vendres. The old fort houses the monument originally erected at Sidi Ferruch in 1930 to commemorate the original French landings there in 1830, and later repatriated to Port Vendres after independence. Today, the small museum commemorating life in French Algeria is closed, but new memorials have been erected around the site. We are grateful to Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid for sharing her impressions and photos of her visit to the site in 2022.
On a visit to Cap Béar on a summer's day, we grew nervous of the winding, narrow road, with sheer drops to the rocks and the Mediterranean below. When we couldn't take it any more, we decided to turn back, park, and explore by foot.
Parking in a dusty carpark overlooking the sea, I spotted an interesting building. Wandering towards it, I noticed the large inscription 'A L'Armée Francaise, Air, Mer, Terre', with two Orientalised carved figures and, below, the admonition from General Bourmont to his troops to remain 'worthy' of their beautiful mission. The building itself was closed off; later I learned that the grounds housed the Sidi Ferruch monument.
Wandering down past the Poisson Rouge restaurant in a little cove, where we swam and tried but failed to get lunch (book ahead!), we decided to walk up towards what looked like a ruined fort. Dotted along the path were old lookout posts, and a couple of large cannons, trained mercilessly on the approach routes into Port Vendres harbour. When we got closer to the fort, we noticed another set of monuments, 'aux militants francais disparus'. The monument looked new - I saw that it was dated 2022, erected by SOLDIS ALGERIE - but was taped off behind red and white rope. The main stone detailed the circumstances of the monument: to the 652 French soldiers who were presumably killed during the Algerian War of Independence, but whose bodies had never been recovered. The monument was intended as a memorial to them and a site of contemplation for their families and friends. Farther inside, a series of other stones contained the names of the disparus. A final carved slab was perhaps more pointed, noting that the families could not believe that France had abandoned her soldiers.
It was a curious juxtaposition: the new and elaborate monuments, the red and white plastic tape forbidding entry, and the elaborate final slab which seemed to suggest a further monument - a sculpture? - was imminent. It felt new, unfinished and abandoned. We wandered around for a while and then headed down the path. Coming against us was a large pickup truck, out of which poured half a dozen people carrying fishing rods, chairs, baguettes, ready to set up for the rest of the afternoon. It seems the memorial site, for now, is more used for fishing than for remembering.