Myriam Achari, Director for Heritage, Remembrance and Archives
After two special commemorative cycles like the First World War Centenary and the 70th Anniversary of the Second World War, 2017 was an important year for laying the foundations for remembrance of the servicemen and women deployed on overseas operations. While the current reality of the Ministry of the Armed Forces often takes us outside national borders, to overseas theatres where our armed forces are deployed, this form of conflict is by no means new. It has been around a long time, since the 1960s, which it is important to remember and provides an opportunity to honour several generations of servicemen and women.
In addition, 2017 saw work get under way on the construction of a memorial to French soldiers killed in overseas operations. In tandem, an educational initiative targeting the general public, and young people in particular, is being carried out. 2017 also saw the production of an exhibition and film by the ECPAD, the Ministry of the Armed Forces’ communications and audiovisual production arm, together with a call for educational projects about overseas operations. A dictionary of overseas operations is soon to be published by the DPMA. A whole series of events and actions intended to honour and value a recent, living memory, in the process of being formed.
It was this desire to transmit the history and memory of our servicemen and women deployed on overseas operations that led me to want to devote a special edition of Les Chemins de la Mémoire magazine to this subject. This special issue has been structured around three main aspirations: to explain, to study and to teach about and commemorate overseas operations.
To explain overseas operations is to situate them within the legal, institutional and operational setting in which they were launched, in order to look at events from an informed perspective. To study overseas operations is to chart their history and show how these conflicts have today become, in the same way as the two world wars and the wars of decolonisation, a subject of study for the scientific community. To teach about and commemorate overseas operations is to take up a fundamental challenge for today’s society, and in particular its young people: the link between the nation and its armed forces must be able to provide youngsters with some of the answers to their questions and some substance to enrich their thinking, in a seemingly ever more complex and dangerous world.
Drawing on the synergies created around it, this special edition reflects the capacity of the commands, directorates and services, public establishments and partners of the Ministry of the Armed Forces to work together to ensure that our service personnel, past and present, are remembered; these men and women, the proud bearers of the flag of their forefathers, who in these pages receive the admiration, solidarity and recognition of the French nation.