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Zuydcoote (Municipality, Nord, France)

Last modified: 2021-01-30 by ivan sache
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Flag of Zuydcoote, two versions - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 20 November 2020

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Presentation of Zuydcoote

The municipality of Zuydcoote (1,616 inhabitants in 2018; 260 ha; municipal website) is located north-east of Dunkirk.

Zuydcoote is named for Dutch words meaning either "salt's hut" or "south coast". The village was several times suppressed by sea and sand storms, in 820, 1200, 1404, 1570, and, for the last time, on the evening of 31 December 1776. The village was eventually rebuilt a bit further from the coastal dunes.
The main source of income in Zuydcoote was fishing; in the 18th century, most men enrolled for cod fishing campaigns in Iceland.

The Zuydcoote sanitarium, now the Zuydcoote Maritime Hospital, was built in 1910 in the middle of the dunes by the industrialist Georges Vancauwenberghe (1853-1929; Mayor of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, 1878-1910; President of the General Council of Nord, 1910-1922). During the First World War, more than 100,000 soldiers, either sick or injured on the Yser front, were healed there. In May-June 1940, the sanitarium was transformed into a military hospital for soldiers injured during the evacuation of the Dunkirk pocket (Operation Dynamo). The sanitarium was designed as a small city able to live in autocracy; animal products were supplied by an industrial farm, built in 1918, transformed in 1940 into the Navy's main infirmary.
The Zuydcoote National Necropolis was established in 1922 to keep the remains of 1,150 French, 324 British, 202 German and 1 Belgian soldiers killed during the First World War. In 1953, the cemetery was increased to keep the remains of 904 French and 14 Spanish soldiers killed during Operation Dynamo. The remains of French soldiers were repatriated from different local municipal cemeteries and from the Zuydcoote provisional cemetery.<+P>

The book Week-end à Zuydcoote, written by Robert Merle (1908-2004), who had himself been captured there by the Germans, was awarded the Prix Goncourt 1949. Henri Verneuil (1920-2002) released in 1964 a film based on the novel (making off), with the same name and dialogues written by Robert Merle. The international production and funding allowed Verneuil to hire top actors of the time, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean-Pierre Marielle, François Périer, Pierre Mondy and Catherine Spaak.
Totally different from Nolan's Dunkirk, Week-end à Zuydcoote does not relate Operation Dynamo but two days in the life of ordinary soldiers waiting for evacuation in the dunes of Zuydcoote under the pressure of German air raids. Deprived of any heroism and magnification of war, the film is rather considered as anti-militarist.

Ivan Sache, 20 November 2020

Flag of Zuydcoote

The flag of Zuydcoote (photo, photo) is light blue with the municipal coat of arms, "Argent, a double-headed eagle sable beaked and armed gules between two lions respectant sable armed and langued gules", surmounted by the name of the municipality in red Zapfino letters. On the coat of arms, the lions are represented in smaller size and the name of the municipality, written in small black Times New Roman letters, is placed beneath the eagle.
The arms are represented in Costumen der stede, casselrye ende vasselryen van Berghen Ste Winockx (Customs of the town, domain and dependencies of Bergues), printed in 1617.
[Armorial des communes du département du Nord, 1909]

The flag displayed in the seafront in Malo-les-Bains is white with the municipal emblem.
The motto reads "Sea and Nature Village". It is a straightforward reference to the preserved sea shore - no port, no wharf - and the Marchand and Dewulf dunes. The Marchand dune, coveted by Belgian investors to establish a marina, was registered as a National Nature Reserve in 1972.
[Conservatoire du Littoral]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 20 November 2020