The French Warship “Guichen” – A Symbol of the Salvation of the Armenians of Musa Dagh

The French Warship "Guichen"This photo portrays a symbol. It is the French ship “Guichen” that came to the help of the defending Armenians of Musa Ler (Musa Dagh). It was “Guichen” that opened cannon fire at Turkish units to support the fierce resistance of the few Armenians.

“Guichen” appeared on time – the Armenians were nearly out of ammunition. After receiving the Armenian messengers who swam up to the ship, Captain Brissen expressed his admiration for them and telegraphed to the squadron commander Admiral Louis Dartige du Fournet.

The captain of “Guichen” requested a permission to support the Armenians. Not confining himself by a telegram, Brissen ordered the “Guichen” to open fire from the sea at Turkish positions: French volleys destroyed the Turkish armory in the church of Kebusiye and drove off the soldiers who fired at the boats.

Brissen gave the Armenians lead for making bullets and promised to convey the response of the admiral in 8 days. The inspired Armenians continued to successfully defend their mountain camp from Turkish attacks.

Meanwhile, Admiral du Fournet did not receive a concrete response to the requests of the Armenians from the headquarters. However, he decided to take responsibility and act at his own discretion.

On September 8, aside from the “Guichen”, the cruiser “Desex” and the flagship “Jeanne d’Arc” approached Musa-Dag. All escape routes and possibilities for the evacuation of Armenians had been checked and the number of the Armenians specified.

On the evening of September 11, the evacuation commenced. Armenians were forbidden to take anything other than clothes with them. Over 3.000 Armenians, mostly women and children, were stationed on the several French ships that had arrived for rescue. The evacuation ended on September 14.

In mid-September, the five ships transporting the Armenians arrived in the Egyptian city of Port Said. According to one estimate, 4.200 people were rescued, according to another – 4.058.

The name of “Guichen”, one of the main heroes of the Musa Dagh epic, would be inscribed in Armenian history textbooks, becoming a symbol of the salvation of the defending Armenians.

The ultimate fate of the French ship was tragic. The vessel that played such an important role in the life of the Armenians would be considered obviously unsuccessful and fiercely criticized.

Laid down in Saint-Nazaire in October 1895 and launched in 1898, the cruiser 2 years after the Musa Dagh events would be partially disarmed and re-equipped as a military transport ship. In this capacity, “Guichen” was used mainly during WWI. Its initial armament had been too weak for the tasks of the war.

In 1916, the ship was transported to Thessaloniki by a Russian expeditionary force. In 1919, the “Guichen” participated in the Entente’s intervention in Russia during the Civil War under the command of Charles Tillon, a future leader of the French Communists.

Eventually, in 1921, the cruiser was decommissioned and scrapped.




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