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National Society of Maritime Salvage (France)

Société Nationale de Sauvetage Maritime (SNSM)

Last modified: 2002-10-26 by ivan sache
Keywords: national society of maritime salvage | societe nationale de sauvetage maritime | snsm | anchors: 2 (yellow) |
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[Flag of SNSM]by Zeljko Heimer

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History of the SNSM

The SNSM was founded in 1967 by the merging of the HSB and the SCS.

  • HSB were Hospitaliers sauveteurs bretons (Breton Rescuers Hospitallers), founded in 1873. They were active on the coasts of the Channel, Brittany, and Vendée.
  • SCS was Société Centrale de Sauvetage en Mer (Central Society of Sea Rescue), founded in 1865. SCS was active on the other coasts of France.

SNSM is a mutual aid association and its members are volunteers. Rescue is free but cargo salvage must be paid by the ship owner. Money received by the SNSM members goes to the association.
In most ports of France, SNSM has a boathouse, on which its flag is hoisted, and motor boats which are always prepared to sail. The SNSM volunteers saved a lot of human lifes and are highly respected by the sailors.

The small island of Molène, located between Brest and the island of Ushant is famous for his rescuers, now members of the SNSM. The area, known as Sea of Iroise or Ushant track is one of the most crowded and dangerous in the world.
The islanders founded in 1866 the Société centrale de secours aux naufragés (Central Society of Ship-Wrecked Rescue) with a rowing boat named Saint-Renan. The alarm was given by two cannon shots and women pushed the boat into the sea. The boat was put on a heavy wagon and the way to sea was very long at lower tides. The women were paid half an euro for their hard work. According to the archives, the Saint-Renan rescued 98 people between 1865 and 1901. One of the followers of the Saint-Renan was the Amiral Roussin, commanded by Aimable Delarue, a.k.a. Tonton Aimable or le Grand Delarue. At the end of his carrier, Delarue was the most decorated man in France and received the unofficial title of 'World Champion of Rescue'. His records was 132 missions, 75 ships helped and 355 lifes saved. When the Swedish steamer Makinnen broke on rocks in 1917, Delarue dived and brought back 20 passengers.


  • P. Rault. Les drapeaux bretons [rau98].
  • H. Hamon. L'Abeille d'Ouessant.

Ivan Sache, 30 July 2001

Description of the flag

White over blue flag, the colours divided by the lines from mid-hoist to center and from center to lower fly. In the lower hoist two yellow fouled anchors in saltire. In canton the French flag with white and blue initials SNS counterchanging.

Source: Album des Pavillons [pay00]

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 23 September 2001

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