April 1898
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Month April 1898

Friday, 29 April 1898

The departure is set for Sunday morning instead of Monday. Orders have come from Paris and the Bruix will be leaving for Manila. We should have weighed anchore since yesterday, but we did not have any coal. We need a hundred tons more, in case of a prolonged mission; and to economize, we shall go at no more than 10 knots. I am not happy about this delay. This ship, after 20 days in Saigon, should be ready for immediate departure even at a few hours’ notice. But the existing regulations are inept. Every warship should be strictly required to refuel as soon as anchor is dropped. Indeed, one should always be prepared. One day we are at peace, the next day we could be at war.

The dispatches from Europe inform us about the departure of the squadron from Cape Verde for an unknown destination.

Thursday, 28 April 1898

Saigon. On board the Bruix.

In Washington, war has been declared by Congress. France and England have expressed their neutrality. The commandant’s final orders state that we are to leave Monday for Manila.

What are we supposed to do? How long will this mission take? Are we merely going ashore? In the mess hall, varied opinions are heard all around.

Meanwhile, the daily naval drills continue as I keep watch to make sure nothing escapes me. I just pray that we see some action soon.

There is a rush to consult the orders: in Manila, between May and June, the maximum temperature is 41, the minimum is 27. And what raging fevers! “We will be prohibited from going ashore even during the day, will have to survive on canned food, and miss inspection tours!” notes someone who has no desire to leave Saigon. There are those who are looking forward to something new, and others for whom the notion of war seems vastly exciting. Personally, I detest departures, but all voyages delight me. I find that each experience, each situation corresponds to a special spirit that gratifies the soul.