French Armored Cruiser Dupuy de Lôme - 1888/1893
Cruiser Dupuy de Lome at high speed

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The Dupuy de Lôme making speed on her trials, 1892. With her streamlined hull and aggressively French styling, she was the apotheosis of jeune école cruiser design. Her gun layout echoes the diamond pattern common in French battleships of the era, scaled down to cruiser size. The largest guns, 7.6-inchers, were carried on the beam, while trios of 6.4" single turrets bow and stern rounded out the disposition. Likewise, the bulging tumble-home of the hull echoed Jauréguiberry on a scaled-down level. Like contemporary French battleships, Dupuy had armored masts with internal elevators, and fighting tops bristling with small guns (once again reduced in size to fit her more modest dimensions). Built as a commerce raider, she was intended as a 23-knot speed demon, as can be seen in this photo of her dashing through the brine. More realistically, her engines could deliver a sustained 19.5 knots when in good repair.

DUPUY at seaThe ship was named for Dupuy de Lôme, the father of the modern French navy, who had died only 2 years before the ship was laid down. She was built at the Brest Naval Dockyard, launched in 1888, and commissioned in 1893. Her gestation was prolonged by an accident in her boiler rooms during trials in 1890, necessitating extensive rebuilding below decks.

At only 6,676 tons, the ship articulated a very different vision of the cruiser from the 1/3 larger vessels in the British and American fleets. To begin with, she carried her big guns on the beam ends, not at bow and stern. With her very light armor protection she was clearly not cut out for battle, but only for capturing unarmed merchantmen. Doctrine should have made her speedy enough to outrun anything she didn't out-gun, and in 1893, 23 knots was a good turn of speed; but within a decade, even fast battleships were capble of 19.

Dupuy's reliance on speed and moderately heavy armament showed an emphasis on bravura performance over protection/survivability. This design philosophy was in keeping with the offensive spirit of the jeune école, even though she was conceived at the end of that group's reign in the Marine Nationale -- a time when big battleships were again being laid down, starting with the Hoche and Brennus. More broadly, the jeune école doctrine of dash and spirit triumphing over heavy armament and greater numbers was precisely the same romantic claptrap that led the French Army into disaster after disaster in the First World War.

In 1911, after 20 years service in the Marine Nationale Française, the Dupuy was stricken from the list and sold to Peru. Delivery was never consummated, however, and the ship was recommisioned to fight WWI in 1914, bearing her original name. At war's end, she was sold to the Belgian firm of LRB and converted to a coastal freighter under the name Péruvier. Evidently she was not a roaring success in commerce, for she went to the breakers in 1923.


Plans and Specifications

Plan of Dupuy de Lome

Specifications for the Dupuy de Lôme:
Dimensions: 364'2" x 51'6" x 24'7"   Displacement: 6,676 tons. Armament: (2) 7.6", (6) 6.4", (6) 9-pdr, (8) 3-pdr guns; (4) armored torpedo tubes. Armor: Harvey process throughout. Belt: 4" Turrets and barbettes: 4" Conn: 4¾" Deck: 2½"/1" Propulsion: (12) coal-fired Normand boilers; (3) vertical triple expansion engines developing 14,000 IHP, shafted to triple screw. Maximum speed: 23 kts. Crew: 521. Initial Cost: £416,000 at 1892 valuation.

Metric specifications:
Dimensions: 111m x 15.7m x 7.49m   Displacement: 6,676 tons. Armament: (2) 193 mm, (6) 165 mm, (6) 9-pdr, (8) 3-pdr guns; (4) armored torpedo tubes. Armor: Harvey process throughout. Belt: 102 mm. Turrets and barbettes: 102 mm. Conn: 120 mm. Deck: 63.5/25 mm. Propulsion: (12) coal-fired Normand boilers; (3) vertical triple expansion engines developing 10,440 kW, shafted to triple screw. Maximum speed: 42.6 km/hr. Crew: 521. Initial Cost: £416,000 at 1892 valuation.

Plan of Dupuy de Lome

Postcard of DUPUY DE LOME in harbor



French Cruisers Through the Years

1880s French cruisers TAGE and SFAX

Typical of 1880s French steel protected cruisers, the 3-funnel Tage in the foreground and the earlier Sfax behind her. These ships had composite hulls of iron over steel frames; speeds of 16.5 kts (Sfax) to 18 kts (Tage), nominal armor of 2.4" belt, and armament of (6) 6.4" and ten 5.5" guns. These fast, steel-hulled ships were designed as commerce raiders in any potential war with England, or any other power. As in all French warships, an intimidating appearance (known as the "fierce face") was one of their chief weapons. Don't those ram bows make you cringe?

French coast defense gunboat TONNANT

French armored cruiser design descended from early efforts of Dupuy de Lôme such as Tonnant of 1884, an armored harbor defense ram with 34cm barbettes at either end (13.4"), protected by futuristic-looking streamlined shields (compare to Amiral Duperre). It is instructive to trace how the two-tiered hull developed into the Le Bruix, a ship with the exact opposite military philosophy from this defensive ram.

French armored cruiser LeBRUIX

Above and below, two views of the armored cruiser Le Bruix, commissioned 1894. Clearly derived from Dupuy de Lôme, this vessel took radical tumble-home one step further: her cut-away hull with vast waterline bulge and straight-up sides above it echoes the battleship Masséna. As a result, Le Bruix was so unseaworthy that she seldom ventured more than a few miles from port, preferring to do what she did best: glower and look mean. The armored masts with their internal elevators and armored gun-stations were removed to reduce top-weight and replaced by simple pole masts (below). Bruix and her 3 sisters were appr. 4,800 tons, armed with two 7.6" and six 6.4" QF guns; had a crew of 390 and a speed of 18 kts. All four served in the Aegean during WWI; Amiral Charner was sunk by the U-21 while patrolling off Beirut in Feb. 1916, going down in 4 minutes with her entire crew, save for one lone survivor.   Enlarge photo above

French cruiser LeBRUIX at anchor

French armored cruiser POTHUAU

Last of the Dupuy-style armored cruisers was the 5,400-ton Pothuau of 1896. Smaller, shorter and higher-built than Dupuy, she was a much improved sea boat compared to the original. All turrets and hoists were electrically operated; she carried two 7.6" guns and ten sided 5.5", all in single mounts. Armor included a 3⅜" deck, 2¼" belt, 7" turrets and 9½" conn, all of the acier special durci type. With ten Belleville boilers and 10,000 hp installed power, she made 19 knots and survived rigorous service in WWI to become a gunnery training ship in the 1920s. Schematic and Specs

Cruser DeCHAYLA of 1896

The radical look of Dupuy de Lôme was adapted in multitudes of smaller cruisers as well until the entire cruiser fleet had a consistent look. Here is the 4000-ton second-class armored cruiser du Chayla of 1896 quite artistically colored to mimic dawn over the anchorage.

French 2nd class cruiser SUCHET

Descending even further down the cruiser heirarchy, here is the 2300-ton protected cruiser Linois of 1894, lying calmly at anchor. Armed with four 5.4" guns (all in sponsons), two 4", torpedoes and a few machine-guns, she was primarily a coast-defense vessel in the peaceful Belle Époque, and used strictly as such during the Great War too (though coast defense vessels were not immune to German torpedoes, alas). Note the thinly-armored masts with internal elevators, and armored gunhouses in the tops.

French cruiser DAVOUT, bow detail

Close-up of a one-off protected cruiser, the Davout, shown in 1889. This ship had a particularly provocative curve to her bow. In this shot, the ram is nicely exposed for the viewer's appreciation. This mighty warrior is floating high out of the water and (given the pristine quality of the paintwork) probably in a late stage of fitting out after building. This shot emphasizes the extremely exposed placement of the forward 6-in gun -- a common demerit in all French warships of this era, all the way up to the battleships. The 3,000-ton Davout carried four of her 6" guns in sponsons popping from her voluptuous tumbled-home flanks, and two bow and stern.



Fouled anchorFrench flagFouled anchor