Remembering the Rainbow Warrior bombing

Feature story - 10 July, 2010
"One of the principles of Greenpeace, one of the things that makes us so strong and special, is that we are non-violent. Fernando did not have to die; he was a threat to no one. We will never forget him. I hope the generations of activists who sail on the new ship will be as determined and as exceptional and as inspired as he was," said Rainbow Warrior Captain Pete Willcox, as he laid a wreath today for Fernando Pereira, the Greenpeace photographer, who was murdered when French agents bombed and sunk the Rainbow Warrior 25 years ago.

Rainbow Warrior sunk by French secret agents on 10 July 1985

Willcox was the skipper on the night the Warrior was bombed, he continues to sail with Greenpeace, and is in Gdansk, Poland, to witness the laying of the keel for a new Rainbow Warrior. A purpose built sailing vessel to replace the current, and second Warrior, to continue her mission.

Fernando was the father of two young children, and had just turned 35. He lost his life that night because a government chose to respond to nonviolent protesters with deadly force.

A team of French secret agents were dispatched to New Zealand to "neutralize" the Rainbow Warrior, from where the ship was sailing to Moruroa Atoll, to peacefully oppose French nuclear testing.

Explosion heard coming from the harbour

The first bomb exploded at 11.38pm, lifting those in the mess off their seats. Chief Engineer Davy Edwards rushed into the ship's engine room to find a hole the size of a car, water pouring in. A second bomb went off shortly after.

Naming the bombers

Of the many secret agents implicated in his killing, Only two served any time in prison, and then less than three years, before returning from their bombing mission to France. The total list of agents is still unknown, but they include: Dr. Xavier Maniguet, Chief Petty Officer Roland Verge, (alias Raymond Velche), Petty Officer Bartelo (alias Jean-Michel Berthelot), Petty Officer Gerald Andries (aliases Eric Audrenc, Eric Andreine), Major Alain Mafart (alias Alain Turenge), and Captain Dominique Prieur (alias Sophie Turenge).

"The struggle of man against power", wrote Milan Kundera, "is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

It goes without saying that the bombers were not a rogue terrorist outfit - they were acting under orders from Paris. While their spying and bombing careers may be behind them now, nine states continue to threaten humanity with the spectre of a nuclear holocaust. They are the United States, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel.

You can't sink a rainbow

When the original Rainbow Warrior was bombed the threat of nuclear war represented our worst nightmare, and concern over climate change was just beginning. Now, it is well understood that hundreds of thousands of people are already dying as a result of the impacts of climate change.

The new Rainbow Warrior will play a vital role in Greenpeace's campaign for action to avert catastrophic climate change.

Since the first Rainbow Warrior set sail in 1978 the ship has been an icon of non-violent direct action and a beacon of hope for millions of people around the world. The Rainbow Warrior has been on the frontline, bearing witness to and challenging environmental abuses. More than ever the world needs hope, it needs action, it needs a Rainbow Warrior.