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Admiral Raoul Castex, the French naval strategist of the 20th centurye century

Episode 1 As early as 1937, Vice-Admiral Raoul Castex concluded that it was necessary to decompartmentalise the work of civilians and the military in order to prepare the country for future dangers. To coincide with Euronaval, we take a look back at the career of this illustrious sailor.

As early as 1937, Vice-Admiral Raoul Castex concluded that it was necessary to decompartmentalise the work of civilians and the military in order to prepare the country for future dangers. To coincide with Euronaval, we take a look back at the career of this illustrious sailor.

 Vice-Admiral Raoul Castex was the first director of the Collège des hautes études de défense nationale between 1936 and 1939, the forerunner of the IHEDN. Graduating top of his class from the École navale and the École supérieure d'application, Raoul Castex made a name for himself with the publication of several works on the defence of Indochina and the rise of Japan. Particularly attentive to educational issues, Castex advocates in his book The Grand Naval Staff, published in 1909, "reciprocal intellectual penetration [uniting] our two armies, land and sea, so that these two branches of national defence cease to ignore each other". This idea had a lasting impact on his thinking on political and military relations in the Third World.e Republic. Inspired by the work of Alfred Mahan and suspicious of the theories of the Jeune école, Castex emerged as the main thinker of the the french maritime strategy between the warswith the publication of Strategic theorieshis major work published in five volumes between 1929 and 1935. This career as a sailor and writer enabled him to take command of the Centre des Hautes Études Navales (CHEN) and the École Supérieure de Guerre Navale between 1932 and 1934, and again between 1935 and 1937. At the same time, he became the first director of the CHEDN in August 1936, thanks to the support of Édouard Daladier, then Minister for National Defence and War. During his tenure, he developed a teaching method based on a series of lectures, study visits, joint projects and exercises for both civilian and military students. For example, on 3 November 1937, Vice-Admiral Raoul Castex gave the following lecture his vision of the concept of national defence at the "Introductory Conference" of the second session of the CHEDN. Recalling a "combined exercise that took place recently at the Centre des hautes études militaires [CHEM]", in which representatives of the three services took part "side by side", he noted that a purely military approach quickly revealed its limitations.

"The criticisms inevitably led us to broaden the debate a little and to talk about foreign policy; [...] unfortunately, the diplomat, who had not been invited, was absent from the meeting. The same thing happened [...] when the demographic and military situation in West Africa and the problem of the Trans-Saharan railway were brought into the discussion... We looked for the colonialist; he wasn't there. Finally, on the subject of maritime communications and their protection, there was an epilogue on the respective importance of the various transport lines, imports, foreign purchases [...]. We needed [...] the insights of an economist, and we regretted his absence".

From this point of view, the new CHEDN is a key element: "Personally, when I came here, I stopped thinking of myself exclusively as a sailor. I stripped off my old shell. I lost my sex, if I dare say so. The Navy seems no more or less important than the other branches. I'm only interested in the whole.

A reflection that is still relevant today.