The sea is oil at dawn on August 5, 1907 in front of the sleeping ramparts of Casablanca. A few soldiers from the Makhzen nonchalantly watch the little rocky port exposed by the low tide when, at 5.30 a.m., the bows of a launch towing two long boats loaded with men pierce through the mist graying the horizon.
A stone’s throw from the port, “Smaller and more difficult than the most archaic of Breton ports”, reports a witness from the time, the steamer let the landing craft slip by towards the shore. On board are lined up with weapons and baggage sixty marines, three officers, a doctor and two civilians.
A few Moroccan port workers hand them planks and help them land on the rocks. The order is then given to put the bayonet in the barrel, the carabiners must be supplied but not loaded.
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In good order, the column of “blue-collar workers” climbs the ramp leading to the fortified gate of the Sea. This has been opened to let them pass. M. Zagoury, interpreter for the French consulate, was the only one to welcome ensign (naval rank equivalent to “lieutenant”) Charles Ballande and his detachment.
At the front of the column, Ensign Ballande came within a few yards of the heavy double gate of the Sea Gate when he saw it close. “Open! he orders, translated into Arabic by Zagoury. A shot answers him from the ramparts. “Any hesitation on my part could cause the annihilation of the whole body,” Ballande wrote the next day to his parents, with whom he maintained a correspondence to which the author of these lines, great-grandson of the officer, has accessed .