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Landing in Saigon

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Life on board a Dutch trooper
Raoul Coutard Film-maker
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When I enlisted, we were told- you are going to fight against the Japanese. After that it came to en end, since the Japanese had stopped. Yes, there had been Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We had been sent to what we thought was French Indochina. Well I mean it wasn't something that worried us. So eventually there were all those little incidents. And there was something that was quite strange, because it's still worth talking about. Because since it was a trooper, and there were 2500 passengers onboard, so obviously there was a whole organisation and in particular for the toilets. The toilets were on the bridge, and there were about fifteen toilets, on one side, about fifteen back to back on the other, separated by a thin partition like that, in open air. And some people couldn't go to the toilet when there were- So they spent their time at night checking if there wasn't anyone so they could relieve themselves. We really came into contact with promiscuity. So afterwards, obviously, we were eating sumptuous things and the French arms captain intervened to say -An early morning tea and a breakfast is out of the question. We're going to sound the reveille, we give them breakfast, with the tea, we take out the- There was smoked fish- I don't remember what they're called- Some sort of smoked herring, etc. Sprats? Yes, well they weren't sprats, they were big things, big fishes. No they were big herrings, I don't remember what they are called, I can't think of the name. But there were loads of things, there were sausages, loads of things. So we reduce all that, the French are not in summer camp, it's out of the question that the food- So which meant that when we got to the point when it was time to fill up on food, which had been planned, they threw out loads of food. So it happened in India, in Singapore, obviously there were loads of small boats that came to collect what we were throwing out. And so then we disembarked- How long did the trip last? Almost a month. 28 days. Without a hitch? Nothing? No, without a problem.
Quand je me suis engagé, on nous a dit- Vous allez vous battre contre les Japonais. Ensuite l'histoire s'est arrêtée, puisque les Japonais ont arrêté. Oui, il y a eu Hiroshima et Nagasaki. On nous a expédiés pour revenir dans ce qu'on pensait être l'Indochine française. Bon donc c'était pas un truc qui nous turlupinait je veux dire. Alors donc finalement il y avait tous ces petits incidents. Et il y avait un truc qui était assez curieux, parce que ça vaut quand même le coup d'être raconté. Parce que comme c'était un trooper, et qu'il y avait 2 500 passagers à bord, donc il y avait forcément toute une organisation et en particulier pour les WC. Les WC étaient sur le pont, et c'étaient des rangées d'une quinzaine de WC, d'un côté, d'une quinzaine dos à dos de l'autre, séparés par une petite cloison comme ça, en plein air. Et il y avait des gens qui ne pouvaient pas aller aux chiottes quand il y avait- Alors ils passaient leur temps la nuit à aller voir s'il n'y avait personne pour aller faire ses besoins. Là c'était vraiment le contact avec la promiscuité. Alors ensuite, naturellement on mangeait des choses somptueuses et le commandant d'armes français est intervenu immédiatement pour dire- Il est hors de question qu'il y ait un early morning tea et un breakfast, on va sonner le réveil, on leur donne le breakfast, le thé avec, on enlève les- Il y avait du poisson fumé là, des- Je ne me souviens plus comment on appelle ça- Des espèces de harengs fumés, etc. Des sprats ? Oui enfin c'est pas des sprats, c'est des gros trucs, des gros poissons. Non c'est des gros harengs, je ne me souviens plus comment on appelle ça, le nom ne me revient pas. Bon il y avait tout un tas de trucs, il y avait des saucisses, il y avait des tas de trucs. Alors on fait diminuer ça, il faut surtout pas qu'on apprenne aux Français pendant un mois, ils ne sont pas en colonie de vacances, il n'est pas question que la bouffe- Alors ce qui fait que quand on est arrivés au point où il a fallu refaire les pleins de nourriture, qui étaient prévus, ils ont foutu en l'air plein de nourriture. Alors c'était en Inde, ça s'est passé à Singapour, il y avait naturellement plein de petits bateaux qui venaient chercher ce qu'on foutait en l'air. Alors donc on a débarqué- Le voyage a duré combien de temps ? Pratiquement un mois, 28 jours. Sans anicroche, sans rien ? Non, sans problème.

French cinematographer, Raoul Coutard (1924-2016) was twice nominated for the César Award for best cinematography which he won in 1978 for 'Le Crabe-tambour'. He made over 75 films and documentaries, including 'À Bout de Souffle', Le Mépris' and 'Band à Part'. He was the most acclaimed French cinematographer of his generation and one of the key figures of the New Wave.

Listeners: Bernard Cohn

Benard Cohn is a French filmmaker and writer, who has directed five films as well as numerous documentaries and television series. As an assistant director, he worked with many important filmmakers, including Luis Buñuel, François Jacob, Otto Preminger and Woody Allen. He was a founding member of the Ciné-Qua-Non cinema club and has acted as editor and translator for various publications on the world of cinema.

Bernard Cohn est un réalisateur et écrivain français, ayant réalisé cinq film ainsi que de nombreux reportages et séries télévisées. En tant qu'assistant réalisateur, il a travaillé avec plusieurs grands cinéastes, notamment Luis Buñuel, François Truffaut, Otto Preminger et Woody Allen. Il fut membre fondateur du ciné-club Ciné-Qua-Non et a participé à la rédaction et traduction en anglais, de plusieurs ouvrages sur le cinéma.

Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008