Penarth can breathe again – “The Jackal” – or perhaps we should say “Le Chacal” – has departed, without a single shot being fired.
Anyone who was out and about this morning on Penarth seafront would have seen a mini-flotilla of 4 French warships passing Penarth after spending “Le Weekend” in Cardiff “Pays de Gaulle”.
Some may have jumped to the hasty conclusion that this was the just first wave of an EU pincer movement designed to stop we Welsh escaping from the European Union but this visit was entirely a “goodwill” affair … perhaps more than can be said for the climate in Brussels at the moment.
The Marine Nationale is still called informally “La Royale” – even though, as everyone knows, France dispensed with the services of its royal family in 1793. The French Navy however is larger both in manpower and in the number of ships than the British Navy.
The ships visiting Cardiff were FS LYNX A751, FS EGLANTINE A771, FS LION A755 and FS CHACAL A753 . “Chacal” , of course, is French for “Jackal” – a name with a special resonance for fans of Frederick Forsyth’s famous ’70s-era thriller “The Day of the Jackal” about a fictional pre-EU plot to top the then French President, General Charles de Gaulle – a politician notable for his post-war ingratitude to the British and who most definitely did not want Britain to join the Common Market in the first place.
It was allegedly Winston Churchill who – in planning his own funeral – arranged for General de Gaulle to suffer the indignity of saluting his former war-time ally as his coffin was loaded aboard a steam-train at the exquisitely-named Waterloo Station.
However no such snub was administered to our French friends this morning as they bade “adieu” and “au revoir ” to Wales in brilliant weather which was easily a match for the Riviera.
However – just in case anyone was worried about what our Gallic cousins might have been getting up to in Pays de Galles – the Royal Navy’s HMS TYNE was also in Cardiff Docks, keeping them company. She departed Cardiff shortly after the French fleet.