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30 June 2020

Ernest MERCIER, CIGRE President 1933-1948


1946 PARIS OPENING SESSION SPEECHThe full text of the 1946 Paris Opening Session Speech by Ernest MERCIER, CIGRE President 1933-1948 is below. It is worthy in these times to review history… 


Our great family of CIGRE endured a Session in 1939 whereby “heavy storm clouds already threatened the world.” [Quotes from 1946 Opening Session by Ernest MERCIER]. “They burst with the implacable fury of a world-wide cataclysm.”

For CIGRE’s 25th Anniversary, delegates called for a great Session in 1946. To the delegates, “you have eloquently answered by easily beating all your previous records, for today there are 950 [delegates] registered, thus showing your impatience to resume those trusting and warm contacts of which you had established the tradition, like the members of a single great family dispersed all over the globe.”


The full text of President MERCIER' s speech:


(C. I. G. R. E.)



Mr. President,

Ladies, Gentlemen,

I declare open to-day, June 28th, 1946, at 10.30 a.m., the eleventh 
ordinary session of the International Conference of the Big High Tension 


At the very beginning of this meeting I wish, on behalf of all of you, 
to express our very sincere and warm thanks to Mr. Simon, 
the distinguished President and General Manager of ELECTRICITE DE FRANCE.
Under difficult and exceptional circumstances, at a time when it was 
necessary to ensure continuity between a previous régime, now abolished, 
and a new régime on the threshold of its enforcement, the Government's 
confidence was reposed in one of the men, perhaps in the only man, who 
could assume such a task without appearing unequal to it. It is in 
the vital, fundamental interest of our country that this transformation 
should take place with the greatest and indisputable success. 
Mr. Simon's name represents for us a promise that this will be so.

Seven years ago, almost day for day, in this same hall, we opened our 
tenth Session under the Chairmanship of Mr. Albert Lebrun, 
President of the Republic.

Heavy storm clouds already threatened the world.

They burst with the implacable fury of a world-wide cataclysm? 
the horror of which exceeded everything which imagination could 
conceive of; and for five long years humanity offered a desperate 
spectacle of destruction, of murder, of criminal and dishonoring 
barbarianism. The courage and the heroic sacrifice of innumerable lives, 
of a still greater number of youthful existences, could not cover up and 
compensate so much shame. Humanity is rising again, slowly, painfully. 
The unchaining of fury without measure leaves behind it traces which 
last long and which give painful evidence of the lowering of the mind 
and the debasement of character.

In this long martyrology we will not attempt to classify the various 
countries according to some sinister right of precedence. 
All our countries have suffered, all our countries are materially and 
morally bruised and shaken on their traditional foundations, even those 
which were privileged to remain sheltered from direct blows.

And now, Gentlemen, it is for us to work together with all our strength, 
above our troubles, our misery and our mourning, for the rehabilitation 
of the world and the reconstruction of its ruins by Peace; that Peace 
which henceforward can be restored durably only by the intimate, close 
and total union of all the truly peaceful nations. 
Let us always remember that to-day we are all citizens of the same ideal 
Motherland of which our countries are merely different provinces.


Your gesture in renewing the lengthy tradition of your Congress takes on 
an exceptionally important symbolic character. You once again take up 
the sacred bonds which the war broke but could not destroy: those of 
confraternal labor, above frontiers, beyond all the hindrances and all 
the barriers left behind by the tyrannical, bureaucratic organisation 
of war time.

My dear friends of C.I.G.R.E., your colleagues in France extend to you 
all to-day the most affectionate welcome. Many of you have come from 
afar off, have undergone fatiguing journeys and put up with innumerable 
formalities (I have been shown a passport decorated with 82 visas), and 
you come to a country which has not yet found again all the conveniences 
and all the abundance of the resources you were accustomed to find there. 
But at least you will always find it animated by the same inexhaustible 
feelings for its friends, even and above all those who are furthest away.

I must report to you on the successive facts which have led us, step by 
step, to this resurrection of our Association. As early as June 1945, 
that is to say, immediately upon the cessation of hostilities, we 
received the first messages from our faithful colleagues:

First of all a telegram from our eminent friend Borquist, General 
Manager of the Forces Hydrauliques de la Suède; then, other telegrams, 
next letters, particularly from London and New York, then from Holland, 
Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, even from Rumania. We gathered from them 
such an obvious desire to resume our activities that we did not hesitate 
to call a meeting of the Council in the middle of November 1945. This 
meeting, cordial and filled with confidence as in our most prosperous 
times, but different from its predecessors by the fact that many of its 
members were still in uniform, terminated on November 16th with the 
decision to organise the meeting of a Congress during the summer of 1946.

In view of the general uncertainty, often cruel, in which we were all 
then struggling, it might be feared that, on riper experience, this 
measure would appear to be too optimistic and premature. Gentlemen, 
you have eloquently answered by easily beating all your previous records, 
for to-day there are 950 of you Congressmen registered, thus showing your 
impatience to resume those trusting and warm contacts of which you had 
established the tradition, like the members of a single great family 
dispersed all over the globe.

You only had four months at your disposal, instead of the six which used
to be our rule, and yet, while we were expecting 75 reports, you have 
produced 110, resulting from a selection made by your National 
Committees out of a still more abundant harvest.

Owing to physical difficulties we were only able to send you 56 reports 
in French and 40 in English on June 1st, but this was already a veritable
"tour de force" both for us and for you, for these documents as a whole 
represent 6 volumes of 500 pages which had to be set up in English and 
French in spite of the fact that our Parisian printers, leads had, to a 
great extent, been seized and confiscated. With their reduced resources, 
our printers have had to work for you night and day. You will find the 
complete collection of these reports at the Session Secretariat.

I have been wondering, Gentlemen, to what the durable and 
ever-increasing success of our association is due. Regarding matters in 
the cold light of the objectivity which my age permits, I think I can 
say that this success is due essentially to the high type of the men 
who have devoted themselves to creating and developing our association 
and to the indisputable talent of the writers of nearly all its reports. 
In this connection, permit me to recall the memory of our great friends 
who have passed on:

  • that of our first and incomparable President, Marcel Ulrich, and of 
    that exceptional friend, Mailloux, one of the most captivating 
    sponsors, and inspirers of our Association,
  • then, in this chronology of bereavements, the brilliant names of 
    Bellaar Spruyt, of W.B. Woodhouse, of Emile Gevaert, of Semenza, 
    of Eugène Brock, this latter a victim of those atrocities which 
    no word in any self-respecting language can adequately condemn…
  • and I must further add, alas, the names of Marc Dutoir, of Bruckman, 
    of Jean Fallou,  of Edouard Roth and of so many others Bru ckman, 
    of Jean Fallou, of Edouard Roth and of so many others for whom we 
    are still mourning and who have been prematurely taken from us, when 
    we should have been able, all our lives, to marvel at and enjoy 
    their magnificent mastery, arrested in full flight.

These names raise inexhaustible regrets in your hearts, but what wealth 
they affirm, and how can we be surprised that they have sown the 
harvests which we see growing and ripening to-day and which bring about 
the success 
of C.I.G.R.E. !

Certainly, the actual organisation you selected has been favorable to 
the development of this success. For, indeed, you have wisely avoided 
overcrowding our programmes by voluntarily limiting a field of activity 
which never­theless still remains a very vast one.

You have maintained reasonable frequency in your meetings and permanency 
in your headquarters, which has enabled us to ensure that continuity 
without which no effort can be fruitful;

Nevertheless, you have given the necessary counter-balance to this 
permanency by holding your Council Meetings between the successive 
sessions in the different countries having National Committees;

You have ensured the permanency of the direction of your Research 

Those are excellent methods, which I advise you to maintain.


It would, however, be especially unjust not to mention, as a singularly 
efficient element of vitality and progress, the activity and devotion 
shown by nearly all the principal National Committees in order to 
interest a wider and wider audience in our work. In this connection, 
permit me to cite here particularly the National Committees of Sweden, 
Belgium, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada and the United States. For 
the latter, especially, its President, our charming friend Frederic 
Attwood, has made a magnificent proselytising effort which has already 
produced highly remarkable results. To these National Committees and to
 those which I have not been able to mention, we address our warmest 

I am afraid you may find some imperfections in the physical organisation 
of our Congress. You will see in them the effect of the difficulties 
which have arisen out of the war - difficulties which sometimes become 
absolute impossibilities. You will perhaps think the simple buffets, 
where you relax from your daily labors for half an hour, somewhat 
Spartan.You will also note that we have been forced to give up our 
traditional dinner this year, which, thanks to the French National 
Committee, brought us all together; for, indeed, not a single restaurant 
proprietor was prepared to assume such an undertaking, as none of them 
have yet been able to reconstitute their essential equipment - knives 
and forks, table cloths, napkins - which were stolen.

You will certainly help each other your philosophic good humour, 
to forget these inadequacies, which have almost brought our friend 
Tribot-Laspière to despair and suicide.

Our Congress counts among its members a large number of young newcomers, 
who are here for the first time; we welcome them with particular 
pleasure, but do not dazzle them too much by recollections of a happier 
past, which will certainly return one day.

Since our last Congress a scientific event has occurred of which the 
immense scope cannot yet be appreciated: a discovery due to research 
work to which are and will remain attached, names of scientists of many 
different nations, the discovery of the method of freeing atomic energy. 
Humanity, as only too often happens alas! to be its terrible destiny, 
already possesses the means of using it to do the greatest possible 
harm, and it is to be expected that it will rapidly perfect them. 
In between whiles, it will certainly also work on turning it to peaceful
uses, but this will surely be more difficult and take longer. I expect 
you will consider it advisable to constitute a special Commission to 
follow the developments of this vital question.

Before closing, I still have a particularly agreeable duty to fulfil.

C.I.G.R.E. completes its first quarter of a century, celebrates its 
25th birthday this year. On this occasion, your Council has decided to 
have a few commemorative, medals struck. These medals are not yet 
actually created. Present-day difficulties have resulted in their 
arriving too late. We shall forward them to their holders, who will 
forgive us for merely handing them to-day provisionally empty cases.

These medals will be awarded, as too slight a testimony of the gratitude 
of C.I.G.R.E.,

  • To those members of the Council who have been in office since the 


  • To the seniors in office among the Presidents of the National 


  • To the Chairmen of the Research Committees,


  • To Mr. MacMahon, who for 25 years past has, among other things, 
    been an incomparable interpreter at our Congresses,


  • To Mr. Tribot-Laspière, for conf1dent1al reasons which I shall not 
    reveal to you, and


  • To Mademoiselle Defrance, for similar reasons.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have completed the official task assigned to 
your President.
Please now permit your old friend to add his very cordial personal good 
wishes and very affectionate welcome.




Welcome to the world of CIGRE

Welcome to the world of CIGRE


Welcome to the world of CIGRE



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