1932. Albert’s last voyage to London

On May 16, 1932, the liner became Georges-Philippar goes on fire off the coast of Somalia, then Italian. The 21,000-tonne ship launched in 1930 in Saint-Nazaire was on its way to Marseille. Flagship of Messageries Maritimes on the China-Japan route, the Georges-Philippar had been baptized, against all the use of the sea, with the name of the company’s CEO, alive in the best of health.

675 people out of 767 come out of the fire unharmed. They are assembled by the Soviet tanker Soviet UnionNave, whose sailors take all risks during the rescue. The survivors are then transferred to support boats, comforted and put ashore in Djibouti. that General-Voyronback from Madagascar, will drop them off in Marseille a few days later.

There are 52 missing who could not save themselves due to the late warning and the frightening speed of the fire. Among them the famous journalist Albert Londres (1). He had just returned from a long report in China, from Shanghai to Manchuria, amid the conflict between Japan, the Kuomintang and the Communists, and assured his friends on board to bring back explosive revelations.

The reporter did not know how to swim and we never knew if he died of suffocation and burned in his cabin like many others, most likely, or drowned after pulling out through the berth with the help of a sailor trying to save him. from upper deck.

Electrical faults

All the press reports on the tragedy and it does not take long to incriminate the faults in the electrical installation and report on the numerous short circuits caused by it in the previous days.

Especially since, as reported by the daily weather, “We would like to do Georges-Philippar a luxury boat. And to achieve this goal, the company of Messageries maritimes did not hesitate to neglect certain design principles to give wealthy passengers certain benefits, such as a swimming pool, tennis court, car garage, etc. On the other hand, the decoration of cabins and rooms had required an accumulation of flammable materials to provide light food for the fire . Everything had been sacrificed to luxury, including the most elementary precautions required of the lives of hundreds of men on board a ship ”.

In short, the material causes of the disaster, exacerbated by the delay taken by Captain Vicq to sound the alarm to sleeping passengers so as not to disturb their rest, clearly explain the drama.

A drifting boat and brown shadows

But while the burning wreck of the ship left behind after the rescue continued to burn for three days as it drifted and eventually sank the night between May 19 and 20 in 2,000 meters of water off the Arabian coast, the controversy sparked . To understand it, remember what happened that month of May.

As violent repression rages in the factories while the families of the unemployed live through a nightmare, an enlightened white Russian, Paul Gorguloff, just on May 6 assassinated the President of the Republic, Paul Doumer, at last. of a charitable sale.

On May 8, parliamentary elections take place in which the Tardieu government is rejected and the victory of the left. The cartel led by Édouard Herriot is being revived. The Communists get only 11 deputies.

In Germany, Marshal Hindenburg beats Hitler in the April election. The bands from SS and SA generate a wave of violence on the streets. On 20 May, Engelbert Dollfuss becomes Chancellor of Austria. Across Europe, clouds of brown plague are gathering, with lantern Albert Lebrun being elected president of the French Republic on May 10.

The thesis of an attack

It is in this climate that the controversy swells over the shipwreck, and some look into the hand of the Moscow, and gather a bundle of more or less obscure traces, especially as the shipowner would like to remove his liability to insurance. The journalists of Humanitywho knows the matter well, is working to thwart the plot.

The ship apparently transported armored vehicles and ammunition to Japan on the departure. A bomb could have been planted there during the stopover in Port Said. An unfortunate blind passenger, quickly identified, would be a saboteur. The courage of the Soviet sailors from the nearest boat during the rescue turns against them. All of these items were quickly dismantled.

The most famous victim of the shipwreck, Albert Londres, had gained so much fame through his articles and travelogues published in numerous newspapers that we were able to launch the somewhat credible hypothesis of an attack. His writing and investigative skills have inspired generations of journalists.

Certain studies, such as those on the penal colony of Cayenne, the disciplinary battalions in North Africa, the atrocities of colonization, the state of insanity, the convict of the Tour de France cyclist, forced the powers in place to reform. In his memory, his daughter created the Florise Albert-London Prize, which was awarded in 1933 with the help of prestigious journalists. Every year, it rewards the best French-speaking journalists.

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