Tombs of French and Spanish Soldiers

17/06/2016 21:11

A joint Franco-Spanish expedition, under the command of Admiral Charles Rigault de Genouilly, landed at the port of Tourane (now Da Nang) in September 1858 and occupied the city after a brief bombardment.


However, the allies were soon placed under siege by the Vietnamese and, unable to advance inland beyond the protection of the squadron's guns, they were effectively immobilised at Tourane.  The force left a small garrison in Da Nang and sailed south to seize Gia Dinh in February 1859. 

In April, Rigault de Genouilly returned to Da Nang with the bulk of his forces to reinforce his hard-pressed garrison.  On 8 May 1859 he personally led a French attack on the Vietnamese siege lines in Da Nang. The French were unable to break the siege, and it eventually ended with the unopposed evacuation of the French garrison in February 1860.

After 19 months, the French were defeated in Da Nang and left behind a cemetery in which the allied dead had been buried.  Many of the tombs of the French and Spanish soldiers who died in the attack on the city are beneath a chapel near Tien Sa Port.  The names of the dead are written on the walls.  To get there, cross the Han River Bridge and turn left onto Ngo Quyen Street, continuing north to the port.  The ossuary, a small white building, stands on the right on a low hill, about 500m before the gates of the port and below the chapel.

The chapel is about 3 metres wide, 12 metres long and 3.5 metres high, within which is an altar in the Catholic style, a line of French words.  Inscribed in dome- shaped symmetry is "A la Memoire des combattants Francais et de l'Expedition Espagnols Rigault de Genouilly.  Mort en 1858-59-60 en lieux et ensevelissement” ("To the memory of French and Spanish soldiers of the expedition of Rigault de Genuoilly.  Died in 1858-59-60 and buried here.")