Later French Armored Cruisers, 1902 - 1911

Colourised postcard of cruiser JEANNE D'ARC

The Jeanne d'Arc in a smart colorized postcard flaunts her six buff-colored funnels and crisply creased deck awnings. The two groups of three funnels bore off the fumes from two blocks of boiler rooms that sandwiched the ship's three engine rooms. Laid down in 1896, she went into service six years later, the prototype of the last generation of French armed cruisers: the Edgar Quinet and Léon Gambetta classes.

Starboard running lightShip's steering wheelPort running light

Decorative swag

Decorative band

Le Jeanne d'Arc, 1896/1903

Photo card of presidential visit to Algeria showing the ship, 1903

Ship's History - Read on.    |    Specifications    |    Photos

Above, commemorative postcard of the visit of French Président Loubet to Algeria in 1903 aboard the brand-new Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc), by far the largest and mightiest cruiser of the French Navy at the time, which presaged a resurgence of French naval building. This design made for a very long, narrow hull, convenient for dispersing the large number of single-mounted quick-firing guns. The 5.4" secondary guns were mounted on two levels: in three sponsoned casemates along each side of the hull, and in shielded single mounts on the weather deck above: on each side, four alongside and forward superstructure from the bridge aft, and one at the aft end of the deckhouse. The ship's main armament consisted of two 7.6" guns in electrically trained single turrets at bow and stern; there was a step down from the weather deck to the fantail on which the aft 7.6" stood, at about 21 feet above the waves, compared to 29 for the bow turret. The sided guns rode at the same height as the aft 7.6" turret. The midships 5.5s had a peculiar feature to their ammo lifts, which were routed through the engine rooms.

Constructed at the same time as the République class battleships, Jeanne d'Arc was conceived with a modest and gradual tumble-home on flat sides: a noteworthy departure from the voluptuous curves of most French warships in the 1890s. The more sensible hull shape bore immediate benfits in a smoother ride, much appreciated by long-suffering French navy seamen. The ship retained some elements of the older style, however: the armored foremast with its large gunhouse and internal elevator hark back to the 1890s battleships that had given the French navy its well-deserved reputation for eccentricity.

Stern of the JEANNE D'ARCAt left, another nearly unique feature of this big cruiser: the strangely shaped stern, half-cruiser, half-counter, with its overhang most evident at slow speeds or stopped. As nearly as BBB's research team can determine, this was the only large warship in the French navy to adopt this form; it is, however, curiously reminiscent of the 1898 armored cruisers Terrible and Powerful in Britain's Royal Navy, which debuted around the time that Jeanne d'Arc was laid down.

At the same time that the Jeanne was building, France built a class of reduced cruisers to similar pattern. These were the Dupleix class of 1903, 7700-ton vessels mounting a powerful armament of eight 6.4" guns all in twin turrets, disposed in the classic diamond pattern. Succeeding classes reverted to the Bertin armament layout seen in the Républiques and Amiral Aube class cruisers. Only four funnels were required by the smaller steam plant, but they were laid out in two groups with the engine room between, just like the Jeanne d'Arc and her predecessors. This remained the standard boiler room layout for French battleships and armored cruisers through WWI. And in those boiler rooms, the Jeanne featured banks of Du Temple boilers, an early three-drum small-tube type. Although at 28,000 max horsepower she was designed for 23 knots, the ship disappointed, being capable of only 21.7 at full power (metric: design speed 42.6 km/hr, actual speed 40.2 km/hr).

One of the ship's high moments came in 1903, when she ferried Président Émile Loubet to Algeria and back. France's politics at the time were struggling to emerge from decades of turbulence, when few governments survived a year in office. Imperial ventures, particularly in Africa, provided a welcome distraction from the knotty social problems at home, and were tacitly encouraged by Britain and Germany to lessen their friction with Paris over Continental matters. It was for one such ceremonial honoring the glory of the French Empire that Loubet made his trip aboard. For much of her first decade, the new cruiser was prominent in France's Mediterranean fleet based at Toulon. In 1912, Jeanne d'Arc replaced the venerable ironclad Dugay-Trouin as the school ship of the French Naval Academy, departing from the tradition of using ships-of-the-line for this purpose. It was in this rôle that the cruiser found her niche, for which she is best known because of her long service and unforgettable profile.

Jeanne d'Arc took a responsible rôle in the First World War, at first with the thin Atlantic squadron, and later in the Mediterranean fleet. In this capacity she defended the Suez canal against frontal attack by the Turks in 1915, then patrolled the Dardanelles and the Med off Syria and Anatolia, supporting the Gallipoli and Salonika campaigns. After the War she was reinstated as school ship, sailing for nine seasons. She was eventually decommissioned in 1928 and struck in 1934.

Plans and Specifications

White represents armor protection in profile above.

Specifications for the Jeanne d'Arc:
Dimensions: 475'8" x 70' x 26'7"    Displacement: 11,300 tons. Armament: (2) 7.6" (2x1) and (14) 5.4" guns; (26) smaller calibre guns; (5) 18" torpedo tubes. Armor: Harvey type. 6"/4"/3" belt; 3" upper belt; 6" CT; 7¾" turret; 4" turret base; 5" casemate; 2½" deck. Coal capacity: 1,400 tons std; 2,100 tons maximum; undisclosed qty bunker oil. Propulsion: 36 coal-fired DuTemple boilers; 3 inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 28,500 hp; triple screw. Speed: 21.7 knots. Crew: 626. Cost: £900,000+ at 1900 valuation.       Schematic

Metric Specs:
Dimensions: 145m x 21.34m x 8.1m    Displacement: 11,300 tons. Armament: (2) 194mm (2x1) and (14) 138mm guns; (26) smaller calibre guns; (5) 45 cm torpedo tubes. Armor - Harvey type, in millimeters: 152/105/76 belt, 76 upper belt, 152 CT, 197 turret, 105 turret base, 130 casemate, 63.5 deck. Coal capacity: 1,400 tons std; 2,100 tons maximum; undisclosed qty bunker oil. Propulsion: 36 coal-fired DuTemple boilers; 3 inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 21,252.5 kW; triple screw. Speed: 40.2 km/hr. Crew: 626. Cost: £900,000+ at 1900 valuation. Full-size Schematic

Images of Joan

JEANNE D'ARC steams majestically away from the camera

Jeanne d'Arc was as majestic in her exits as in her entrances. Undoubtedly her imperious presence impressed the Algerians with France's unassailable might. This evocative silhouette provides another risqué glimpse of the ship's stern, as naughty as a line of can-can dancers at the Moulin Rouge.

French cruiser JEANNE D'ARC, anchored

This photo shows the Jeanne d'Arc's long, narrow, slab-sided hull to advantage despite some condition problems with the print. Technician "Radar" Radetzky offers his apologies; an 800-mile trek from Ulan Bator by yak train to the wilds of Outer Mongolia was required to retrieve this photo: the only known print of this negative still extant in the whole world. But that harrowing journey was only the beginning. Back in the BBB labs, months of painstaking labor under high-powered magnifying glasses were required just to clean the yak dung off the bleached areas at top. Further weeks of processing chemically restabilized the distressed photographic emulsion and restored tone through lithium-isotope magnetic emolument. The magnificently restored 3x7 cm photo will be featured on Antiques Road Show's next visit to Devil's Den, Tasmania, winter headquarters of the Royal Tasmanian Y.C.

JEANNE D'ARC anchored at Toulon
Jeanne d'Arc captured by Toulon's legendary lensman Marius Bar.   Enlarge

French cruiser JEANNE D'ARC steams majestically away from the camera
Another stern view of Jeanne d'Arc, also by Marius Bar.   Enlarge

The Amiral Aube Class (1899/1903-04)

Quarter view of the AUBE, anchored

The Amiral Aube shows the characteristics of her class: great length and height, four funnels in two groups of two. Like the Jeanne d'Arc, this is a transitional ship. She still sports an armored foremast with octagonal gunhouse, but has a pole main. These ships were an improvement of the preceding Gueydon class with refinements in the secondary armament layout.

As in the jeune école period, the Marine Nationale built several classes of smaller armored cruisers in descending tiers of size, armament, and protection. The 10,000-ton Amiral Aube class of four ships were workhorses of the French fleet; they were supplemented by two 3-ship classes of smaller armored cruisers: the 9,400-ton Gueydon class and the 7,600-ton Dupleix class, each of which lost one ship in the War. At some future point BBB may feature more of these ships, but for now the Aube will stand for all the smaller armor of the French navy in this period: and she was not a small ship except by comparison with the very largest of her time.

AMIRAL AUBE photo-postcard, anchored, bow viewLaid down at Penhoët in 1899 and named for the founder of the French Naval Academy, the Amiral Aube compiled quite a war record. Like the rest of her sisters she served with the Atlantic squadron throughout WWI. In the cconcluding phase of the War she was ordered to Murmansk to support an Allied expeditionary force sent to keep a vast cache of Allied war matériel in northern Russia out of Bolshevik hands. At war's end the Aube represented France in Operation ZZ, the formal surrender of the German High Seas Fleet on Nov. 22, 1918. She was withdrawn in 1922 and subsequently scrapped. The other members of the class served in the Atlantic; all were convoy escorts late in the War. Marseillaise was the escort ship for the SS George Washington conveying President Wilson back from Europe after the Versailles Treaty negotiations that ended WWI. She survived until 1929; her sister Condé, the last extant member of the class, made it to 1933. A fifth sister, the Sully, was irretrievably wrecked off the coast of Vietnam in 1905, only a few months after hoisting her commission pennant.

Plans and Specifications

Specifications for the Amiral Aube class:
Dimensions: 452'9" x 63'6" x 26'6"    Length OA: 460'    Displacement: 10,000 tons. Armament: (2) 7.6"/40 (2x1), (8) 6.4"/45 (8x1), (6) 4", and (18) 3-pdr guns; (2) 9-pdr boat guns; (5) 18" TT. Armor: Creusot type. 6¾"/4" belt; 5" upper belt; 2¼" bow; 8" turrets & CT; 4" turret bases; 4¾" small turrets and casemates; 3¾" small turret bases; 4" bulkheads; 2½"/1¼" deck. Fuel capacity: 970 tons normal; 1,590 tons maximum. Propulsion: (8) coal-fired Niclausse (Gl, C) or Belleville boilers (Mar, AA); (3) VTE developing ~22,000 hp, shafted to triple screw. Speed: 21½-22 knots. Crew: 612. Cost: £875,000 at 1900 valuation.

Ships in class:  Gloire · Marseillaise · Condé · Amiral Aube · Sully

Metric Specs:
Dimensions: 138m x 19.35m x 8.1m    Length OA: 140.2m    Displacement: 10,000 tons. Armament: (2) 194 mm/40 (2x1), (8) 165 mm/45 (8x1), (6) 100 mm, and (18) 3-pdr guns; (2) 9-pdr boat guns; (5) 45 cm TT. Armor: Creusot type. 172/100 mm belt; 128 mm upper belt; 57 mm bow; 254 mm turrets & CT; 100 mm turret bases; 121 mm small turrets and casemates; 96 mm secondary turret bases; 100 mm bulkheads; 64/32 mm deck. Fuel capacity: 970 tons normal; 1,590 tons maximum. Propulsion: (8) coal-fired Niclausse (Gl, C) or Belleville boilers (Mar, AA); (3) VTE developing ~16,400 kW, shafted to triple screw. Speed: 39.8-40¾ km/hr. Crew: 612. Cost: £875,000 at 1900 valuation.

The Léon Gambetta Class (1905)

Bow view of GAMBETTA moving fast

This dramatic view of the name ship emphasizes her resemblance to the République/Liberté group: reduced but still notable tumble-home amidships; square scuttles; armament layout patterned after the battleship template.

Ships' History - read on.    |    Specifications    |    Photos    |    Menu

The three Léon Gambettas were very slightly larger than the Jeanne d'Arc, a knot slower, but more heavily armed. Where Jeanne had embodied jeune école design doctrine in her multiple single mounts, the Gambetta class embodied the new thinking of Louis-Émile Bertin, Director of Naval Construction and Ingénieur général, who had shaken things up with his Républiqe class battleships of 1903.

One of GAMBETTA's cantilevered 7.6-in turretsThe Gambettas shared many details with the battleships: the individual funnel caps, the concave line of the bow, the foremast a scaled-down version of the battleships' masts. But more essentially, their gunnery layout with its emphasis on twin turrets was identical to the Républiques. Four 7.6" guns in twin turrets (left) benefited from improved armor protection around the bases; twelve quick-firing 6.4" guns in twin turrets were ranged three to a side along the weather deck, just as the Républiques' secondary armament; again like the Républiques, the aft turret stood on a stepped-down quarterdeck. And even as in the battleships, four secondary guns in casemates on the main deck provided axial fire ahead and astern. Utilizing the by-now standard sandwiched-engine-rooms layout, the cruisers made do with four lofty funnels, two fewer than the Jeanne d'Arc. With 4,000 fewer HP on their three shafts, they still were good for 22 knots, even with their heavier armor.

Before the start of WWI, the British and French redeployed their fleets, the British bringing most of their armor home to face the Germans in the North Sea while the French transferred most of their Atlantic coast units to the Mediterranean. There was an explicit agreement that each nation would cover its ally's rear in the event of war. All the Gambetta class were pressed into wartime service in the Mediterranean. Léon Gambetta was part of the French Fleet based at Malta blockading the the Austrian Navy in the Adriatic, usually from a position south of the Strait of Otranto between that body and the French base at Corfu.

On the clear, calm night of April 26-27, 1915, Léon Gambetta was patrolling the Ionian Sea about 15 miles south of Cape Santa Maria di Leuca, off the SE tip of Italy. At the approximate position 39.30’N, 18.15’E, she was torpedoed twice by the Austrian submarine U-5, under the command of Lt. Cdr. Georg von Trapp. The ship was cruising at only 6.5 knots with no escort, a sitting duck target. U-5 fired her fish at a range of under 500 yards. One torpedo hit the port side dynamo room and the other, the aft boiler room. The stricken cruiser took only ten minutes to sink. Of the 821 men aboard, 684 were lost, including Rear-Adm Sénès, commander of the 2nd Light Division; 137 survived. After this disaster, the blockade line was moved further north to the longitude of Cephalonia, western Greece, because of expected Austrian naval activity. At the time, Italy had not yet openly joined the war on Austria, and was technically Austria's ally through the Treaty of the Triple Alliance (the third partner being Germany). The Allies were pressuring the Italians, soon after prevailing on them to declare war on Austria-Hungary.

Plans and Specifications

Schematic of LEON GAMBETTA

Specifications for the Léon Gambetta class:
Dimensions: 476' x 71' x 26'3" Displacement: 12,400 tons. Armament: (4) 7.6" (2x2), (16) 6.4" QF guns (6x2, 4x1), and (24) 3-pdr guns; (5) 18" TT. Armor: 6¾"/3" belt; 8" CT, turrets, and turret bases; 5½" secondary turrets & bases; 5" aft bulkhead; 2¼" deck. Fuel capacity: 1,320 tons of coal normal, 2,100 tons coal and 100 tons oil. Propulsion: Boilers: 20 coal-fired Niclausse(LG), Guyot (JF), Belleville (VH); (3) 4-cyl VTE developing 29,000 hp, shafted to triple screw. Speed: 23 knots. Crew: 730. Endurance: 1,500 nm @22 knots; 12,000 nm @10 kts.

Ships in class: Léon Gambetta · Jules Ferrer · Victor Hugo. In service: 1905-07.

Metric specs:
Dimensions: 145m x 21.6m x 8m    Displacement: 12,400 tons. Armament: (4) 194 mm (2x2), (16) 165 mm (6x2, 4x1), and (24) 3-pdr guns; (5) 45 cm TT. Armor: 172/76 mm belt; 254 mm CT, turrets, and turret bases; 140 mm secondary turrets & bases; 126 mm aft bulkhead; 57 mm deck. Fuel capacity: 1,320 tons of coal normal, 2,100 tons coal and 100 tons oil. Propulsion: Boilers: 20 coal-fired Niclausse(LG), Guyot (JF), Belleville (VH); (3) 4-cyl VTE developing 21,625 kW, shafted to triple screw. Speed: 38.4 km/hr. Crew: 730. Endurance: 2,778 km @40¾ km/hr; 22,224 km @18.5 km/hr.

A Gambetta Class Compendium

LEON GAMBETTA side view, at anchor
And here she is from the other side.

Color lithographic card of VICTOR HUGO at anchor w/French flag
A handsome postcard of her sister ship Victor Hugo.

Georg von Trapp, studio portrait

Lt. Cdr. Georg von Trapp, who was knighted for his exploit in sinking the Gambetta. Von Trapp went on to command the main Austro-Hungarian sub base at Cattaro, to be promoted admiral, to emigrate to Vermont after the Anschluss (annexation by Nazi Germany), to found a resort with his second wife Maria. Much later, in the 1960s, the couple achieved worldwide fame through the Broadway and film musical The Sound of Music, loosely based on their romance as told from her point of view. Although the family has expressed frustration with the many liberties Rogers & Hammerstein took to make their story more appealing, one assumes the von Trapps were glad to get their royalty checks over the years.

Color postcard of the U-5 submarine

Colourised photo postcard of the U-5. This was a small, first-generation Austrian sub built at the Whitehead torpedo works on the Adriatic. Following his success with the Gambetta and sinking the French sub Néreide in the war's only fatal sub-on-sub torpedo duel, von Trapp became a national hero in Austria-Hungary (this was far from being the only combat between subs in the war, however). As the first step up the greasy pole of promotion, von Trapp was given command of a more recent and powerful submarine.

The Edgar Quinet Class, 1905/1910

Photo of the armored cruiser EDGAR QUINET underway

Ships' History - read on.    |    Specifications    |    Photos    |    Links

A vigorous interpretation of the Edgar Quinet shows her underway, puffing clouds of sooty coal smoke. The ship shares the look of the 5-funnel Danton class battleships of 1909-10: plumb stem, standardized pole masts, moderately tumbled-back hull with stepped-down fantail, patent anchors snugged into recessed anchor beds in the hull. Roofed deckhouse behind single turret on side is a ventilation trunk to the engine rooms. The gun disposition shown here precisely tracked that of the Liberté and Danton class battleships with scaled-down weapons. Photo by Toulon's own Marius Bar.   Enlarge

French armored cruiser WALDECK-ROUSSEAU, 1910There were two ships in this class, 3,000 tons larger than Jeanne d'Arc and more heavily armed. The original disposition design had four 7.6" guns in twin turrets fore and aft, and twelve 6.4" in twins along the sides, and an additional four in single casemates at the corners of the superstructure. Early in construction this was changed to all 7.6" guns with the six top deck turrets changed to single 7.6" mounts, giving the ship a withering broadside of nine 7.6" barrels and a clear firepower advantage over the preceding Gambetta and Jules Michelet classes. The main turrets were all electrically trained and fed, with generous arcs of 270° for the twin turrets, 150° for the single turrets, and 110° for the casemate-mounted guns. The turrets rode 29'6" above the brine, except the aft twin turret, 21'; fore casemates were 20' above water level, and aft casemates (two guns), 12'. The arrangement of boiler and engine rooms, funnels, and screws followed the model used in the French fleet since the Jeanne d'Arc. The stacks were of three different sizes: those closest the ends of the vessel were slender and oblong, with the long side aligned with the ship's keel; those funnels closest the midships were the largest and fattest, venting eight boilers each. Driven by three triple expansion engines developing nearly 40,000 hp (Quinet) for nearly 24 kts, these were the largest, grandest, and ultimate French armored cruisers.

Both the Quinet and the Waldeck-Rousseau survived WWI, when they were stationed in the Mediterranean. The Quinet was wrecked in thick fog, running aground off the coast of Algeria on January 4, 1930. All attempts to free her failed, and she sank January 9. No lives were lost in this incident.

Plans and Specifications


Specifications for the Edgar Quinet class:
Dimensions: Length: 521'4" Beam: 70'8" Draft: 27'6"    LOA: 527'6"    Std Displacement: 14,100 tons. Main Armament: (14) 7.6"/50 Model 1902 guns (2x2, 10x1), (8) 9-pdr, and (24) 3-pdr guns; (2) 18" torpedo tubes. Armor: Krupp type. 6¾"/3" belt; 10" CT; 6" turrets, casemates, and aft bulkhead; 5" turret bases; 2½" deck. Fuel capacity: 1,400 tons of coal std; 2,300 tons maximum. Propulsion: 40 coal-fired Belleville (EQ) or Niclausse (WR) boilers; (3) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 36,000 SHP (WR), 39,808 (EQ), shafted to triple screw. Speed: 23.1 knots (WR), 23.92 kts (EQ). Crew: 738 peacetime; 892 wartime. Endurance: 6,560 nm @10 knots. Maximum Range: 28,390 yards @ 45° elevation (16.1 miles) with a 197.3 lb. AP projectile. Cost: £1,226,593 (EQ), £1,247,035 (WR).

Ships in class: Edgar Quinet · Waldeck-Rousseau

Dimensions: 208.5m x 28.3m x 11m    LOA: 211m    Std Displacement: 14,100 tons. Main Armament: (14) 194mm/50 Model 1902 guns (2x2, 10x1), (8) 9-pdr, and (24) 3-pdr guns; (2) 45 cm torpedo tubes. Fuel capacity: 1,400 tons of coal std; 2,300 tons maximum. Armor: Krupp type. 172/76 mm belt; 254 mm CT; 152 mm turrets, casemates, and aft bulkhead; 126 mm turret bases; 64 mm deck. Fuel capacity: 1,400 tons of coal std; 2,300 tons maximum. Propulsion: 40 coal-fired Belleville (EQ) or Niclausse (WR) boilers; (3) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 26,845.2 kW (WR), 29,685 kW (EQ), shafted to triple screw. Speed: 42.6 km/hr (WR), 44.32 (EQ). Crew: 738 peacetime; 892 wartime. Endurance: 12,149 km @ 18.5 km/hr. Maximum Range: 25.96 km @ 45° elevation with a ~89.5-kg AP projectile. Cost: £1,226,593 (EQ), £1,247,035 (WR).

A Quinet Class Collection

Cruiser EDGAR QUINET getting underway
The engine room telegraph reads "Dead Slow Ahead," but the clouds of smoke predict swift acceleration: Edgar Quinet c. 1912. Enlarge

Stern quarter view of WALDECK-ROUSSEAU at sea
The sister ship Waldeck-Rousseau at sea in a large halftone book illustration.   Enlarge

Profile view of QUINET at anchor

Quarter profile view of WALDECK-ROUSSEAU cruiser at anchor: pink blush in sky, steel-blue water
The Quinet at Toulon, wearing her largest ensign for Bastille Day. Enlarge

Bow 3/4  view of the QUINET, sunset tones in sky
A colorized postcard of the Edgar Quinet shows her derivation from the Jeanne d'Arc, and also her greater modernity.

Hand-coloured photo of the QUINET at anchor, simulated sunset

The Edgar Quinet in a rather garishly hand-tinted B&W photo card. (Garishness greatly reduced by the painstaking efforts of BBB's digital darkroom wizard, Ross "Radar" Radetzsky, who had to get new Rx sunglasses after this job!) Like the Dantons, these were splendid-looking ships.

Quarter profile view of WALDECK-ROUSSEAU cruiser at anchor: pink blush in sky, steel-blue water

Quarter view of the Waldeck-Rousseau, named for a 19th-century French prime minister.

Relevant Web Resources:

Coil of lineShip's binnacleCoil of line