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Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Mauritius to host Battle of Grand Port reenactment 2010

The Mauritian and French governments will co celebrate the Bicentenary of the Battle of Grand Port with a reenactment of the battle in Mauritius in 2010, Mauritius’ Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Xavier Luc Duval, Minister of Tourism and External Communications said here today.

Mr Duval is in Australia this week leading a 25-member tourism and trade mission which includes functions for a total of 450 travel industry guests in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

In Sydney, the DPM will invite the Australian National Museum to send "Endeavour" to Grand Port 2010 and in Perth propose the reenactment flotilla sail on to Perth.

“The reenactment will be a very colourful event, in a very colourful country,” he said.

Mr Duval also pointed to a more immediate event, the 3rd International Creole Festival late November highlighting the country’s food, fashion, jazz and poetry and concluding with an all-night concert attended by around 100,000 people.

The Battle of Grand Port

The August 1810 battle was Napoleon's ONLY naval battle win. It is inscribed upon the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Eight ships, four French and four British, fought a gruelling battle in the bay of Grand Port in the south east of the island. The sea was red with the blood of hundreds of bodies as 200 canons thundered incessantly for two days. At the end of the battle, two British frigates had been sunk and Napoleon's navy had registered its first and only win.

There were some gallant deeds and the commanders from both sides were wounded and treated by the same surgeon in the same room of a creole mansion which has today been converted into a Naval Museum.

Many Irish deserters fought with the French. When the British took over the island three months later with an overwhelming force, these Irishmen were executed and the uniforms of their officers sent to the King of Madagascar as a token of peace, by the British governor.

This battle is depicted in the novel "Mauritius Command' by Patrick O'Brian, whose other epic "Master and Commander" was masterly interpreted by Russell Crowe.

In the case of the bicentenary celebrations, artistic license will be used as the date of the battle is brought forward to May instead of August. There are two reasons for this. First, the month of August is in winter and the seas are quite formidable in the region. Secondly, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa will be held in the month of June. In order to seize the opportunity offered by the fact that the world media will be on Mauritius’ doorstep, a Meeting of Tall Ships is planned for the month of May in Cape Town. These ships, mainly Sail Training Ships and other large sailing vessels of various nationalities will congregate there. Festivities are planned. The flotilla will then sail to Reunion Island and eventually to Grand Port, Mauritius, where the reenactment will be staged and festivities organised.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Tourism was appointed by Cabinet as the Chairman of an interministerial committee to set up the event. In turn, the Minister of Labour, Employment & Industrial Relations (in whose constituency the event will be staged in) has been appointed as Chairman of the Organising committee of Grand Port 2010.

Mauritius is not just a tiny tropical island - like so many others - it is steeped in history and has a rich maritime past. It appears on the first World Map ever published, in 1502 -- Alberto Cantino's Planisphere. (Only tiny parts of the Americas are shown and certainly no Australia!)

The battle of Grand Port took place only a few months after Matthew Flinders left the island where he had stayed for six years under house arrest. He had landed there at the same time as his French colleague Naturalist Nicolas Baudin. The latter got sick and is buried there.

Another historical link with Australia. La Perouse's wife Eleonore Broudou was a beautiful creole lady he had met in Mauritius. They only lived together for two years in France before he set off for his ill-fated expedition which took him to the Australian shores. When he was mounting his expedition, a 16 year old Artillery Officer applied to join him. La Perouse refused. If the lad had been accepted on board, he would have disappeared at sea like all the other members of the expedition. Instead he went on to face another great destiny. His name: Napoleon Bonaparte.

Details: www.tourism-mauritius.mu, tel 03 9685 2600

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