1) early days and volcano

1893-1903 : young navy officer

Born in Paris in 1875, Georges Hébert entered "L'Ecole Navale" at the age of 18, became a naval officer and made several trips on the last sailing ships of the Navy.
During his travels, the young officer was enriched by observations: he noted the extraordinary resistance of the gabiers who, in all weathers provide athletic work in the mast of ships.
It is surpized, during stopovers in distant lands, by the address, speed, strength and resistance of men.
 
He noted, during the Spanish-American War and the South American revolutions, that the most efficient combatants had not only  physical strengh, but also of action and moral qualities.
 
The benefits of the natural environment, the benefit of physical exercise for a utilitarian purpose, the role of moral factors in physical worth, is essential to him.
In 1901, in New York, he visited the Gymnasium (bodybuilding) of Atilla and he met Sandow (Inventor of the elastic sandow as an instrument of exercises..).

He found these training methods very artificial and very far from what he has seen in Africa and Central and South America.

At that time, he became friend with Demeny. Demeny inspired  him for the exercise families and the scorecard.

He also read the books of Amoros ( Spanish Colonel 1770-1848 ) from which he took much inspiration  (In 1838, Amoros wrote the "New complete manual of physical, gymnastic and moral education).
 
Amoros described 15  families of exercises (including horse riding) and introduced the idea of quality of action:  courage, velocity, skill, endurance but also moral qualities: wisdom, altruism...

1902 : The Volcano

(Ceorges HEBERT: Saint Pierre de la Martinique Mercure de france , N° 1074 ,Paris , p 297-299)
(Pierre Philippe Meden: Du sport à la Scène, Presse Universitaires de Bordeaux, I.2.3)

In 1902, HEBERT was 27 years old, and his ship was in Martinique ( a french Caribbean island)

On May 7, 1902, on the eve of the eruption of Mount Pelee, he went to the island main city (named Saint Pierre).

 

The eruption occured the next day, May 8. It completely destroyed the city and killed its 30,000 inhabitants within minutes…

With volunteers, Georges Hébert was assigned by the commander of his ship to go on the shore with a rowboat.

He was the first officer to land on the beach. He managed to rescue more than 700 inhabitants in the irst day.

It was there, in dramatic circumstances, in the midst of panic scenes, that he realized that only physically and morally strong beings are capable of making themselves useful.  He wrote shortly after this tragedy:

The town of Saint Pierre entirely devastated .

"From then on my path was clear. In our peaceful and perverted society, perhaps by excess of civilization, we had to recreate strong beings".

(Georges HEBERT: La culture virile et les devoirs de l'officier combattant: Avant propos, P 173)

His vocation was born; it was to become the work of a lifetime.  After the tragedy, he wrote the formula that would  become the motto of the Natural Method:

"Be strong to be helpful"