[WG news] French Destroyers: The History

[wg-news]-french-destroyers:-the-history

FROM WARGAMING WEBSITE

To celebrate, we’ve prepared an article on how the original ships came into being, and how we went about recreating them in the game. We hope you’ll find this information interesting, as we’ve tried to provide a detailed overview of every destroyer in the new branch.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the newcomers!


Tier II Enseigne Gabolde

At the beginning of the 1910s, France built two series of 800-ton destroyers: the Bouclier class and the Bisson class. Their development resulted in the larger 1,000-ton destroyers of the Enseigne Roux class, laid down in 1913 at the “Arsenal de Rochefort” shipyards. The third ship of this class—Enseigne Gabolde—had an experimental design. The difference from Enseigne Roux destroyers was in her power plant: the new ship boasted geared turbines. Additionally, the experience gained from World War I resulted in changes to her armament: as opposed to the dual-caliber (2х100 mm and 4х65 mm) guns of her predecessors, Enseigne Gabolde carried three 100 mm guns. 450 mm torpedo launchers were also replaced with 550 mm ones.

Enseigne Gabolde was laid down at the “Normand” shipyard in Le Havre, in June 1914. With the outbreak of World War I their construction was put on hold and renewed only after the war. The destroyer was launched on April 23, 1921, and entered service in 1923 after trials. The ship was a testing platform for new turbines and triple torpedo launchers with a large caliber for new ships. However, the destroyer’s layout and other specifications weren’t adequate as a prototype for new projects. This role was filled by the German and Austro-Hungarian destroyers that France received as spoils of war. In 1938, the ship was sold for scrap.


Tier III Fusilier

The search for an optimal destroyer configuration began in 1914, soon after the construction of the 1,000-ton Enseigne Roux-class ships had started. The new ships were built to surpass the most modern of their British counterparts in terms of qualitative characteristics. However, the ministry rejected project M89 and its updated M90 version proposed by the Navy’s Technical Service of Naval Constructions. The beginning of World War I postponed any new design efforts until the spring of 1917, when the French studied the work of Italian shipbuilders with their esploratori leggeri (light scouts), and British engineers, who divided this type into destroyers and destroyer leaders. This encouraged the French Navy to develop two types of destroyers: Torpilleur d’Escadre (squadron destroyer) and Conducteur d’Escadrille (division leader). The former was to carry 550 mm torpedoes in two triple launchers and three 140 mm guns. It was also to have a speed of 32 knots and a displacement of 1,650 tons. The provisional design was ready by the end of the war, but in 1919 the French economy was hit by a crisis. The industry was in depression after the hard experience of the war, so laying down new ships in the following two or three years became problematic. Moreover, because of the collapse of the Franc in relation to Pound Sterling in June 1919, France had to give up the planned purchase of two W-class destroyers from the British company, Thornycroft. When Georges Leygues became naval minister, he approved the new concept for the development of the Navy’s ship composition put forward by the Chief of Navy General Staff, Vice Admiral de Bon. The plan gave priority to the construction of destroyers. The same de Bon defined two main operational objectives for naval light forces, that required designing Torpilleur d’Escadre and Contre-Torpilleur (destroyer leaders). For the Torpilleur d’Escadre, the number of guns aboard was increased to four thanks to a reduction of their caliber to 100 mm. Their armament also included two 75 mm anti-aircraft guns and two or three twin torpedo launchers. The displacement was to be 1,350 tons, and their speed, 33 knots. Simultaneously, the Navy approved the design specifications for the larger of the two types—the Contre-Torpilleur—with a displacement of 1,780 tons, five main guns, and two triple torpedo launchers. However, these projects were deemed inferior to the latest British and Italian destroyers and leaders. Their further development was aimed at growing their specifications, which led to the construction of the Bourrasque-class destroyers and Jaguar-class leaders. In the game, we have recreated a destroyer of the Torpilleur d’Escadre project.


Tier IV Bourrasque

The destroyer project put forward by the High Naval Council in April 1920 turned out to be too weak in terms of armament: compared to British and Italian 120 mm guns, the French 100 mm guns looked inadequate. Therefore, mounting more powerful 130 mm guns became the next logical step. The standard displacement of their ships grew up to 1,300 tons. Between 1923–1924, in accordance with the financial program of 1922, 12 ships of this type were laid down at shipyards in Saint-Nazaire, Nantes, Dunkirk, Caen, Le Havre, and Bordeaux. The Bourrasque class and its mildly improved version, the L’Adroit class, became the backbone of the French destroyer fleet until the creation of the Le Hardi class. Seven ships of that class were lost during World War II.

Bourrasque was laid down at the “Ateliers et Chantiers de France” shipyard in November 1923, and launched on August 5, 1925. Having passed her trials near Cherbourg, she was commissioned on September 23, 1926. In October 1927, the first four Bourrasque-class ships formed the 1st Destroyer Flotilla of the 1st Squadron in Toulon. In 1932, the lead ship of the class was transferred to Brest and joined the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla. In 1936, Bourrasque was based at Cherbourg. After the outbreak of World War II, the destroyer participated in search and convoy operations. On May 30, 1940, during the evacuation from Dunkirk, Bourrasque hit a mine off Nieuwpoort and sank with the loss of some 500 of the 1,100–1,200 troops and crew aboard.


Tier V Jaguar

While the Torpilleur d’Escadre project of 1920 eventually led to the Bourrasque class, the Contre-Torpilleur design evolved to become the Jaguar-class destroyer leader. Development followed a familiar path: five 100 mm guns were replaced with the same number of 130 mm guns. As a result, the standard displacement increased to 2,126 tons. In accordance with the financial program of 1922, six ships of this class were laid down at shipyards in Lorient, Saint-Nazaire, and Nantes between 1922–1923. They were commissioned between 1926–1927. Five of them were destroyed in World War II, with only Tigre surviving the hostilities.

Jaguar was laid down at the “Arsenal de Lorient” shipyard in August 1922, and launched on November 17, 1923. She was commissioned on July 24, 1926. In 1928, Jaguar became the flagship of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla of the 1st Squadron based at Toulon. In 1935, she was assigned as the flagship of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of the 2nd Squadron at Brest. At the beginning of World War II, the destroyer belonged to the 2nd Large Destroyer Division and participated in convoy and patrol operations. On May 23, 1940, near Dunkirk, Jaguar was struck by a torpedo fired by a German Schnellboot and sank.


Tier VI Guépard

The series of destroyer leaders that followed Jaguar received a range of improvements. 130 mm main guns were replaced with the new 138.6 mm, model 1923 guns. Their obsolete 75 mm anti-aircraft guns were removed to make way for new 37 mm quick-firing guns. The reinforced armament required larger dimensions and displacement, which grew to 2,400 tons as a result. To maintain the defined speed, the power plant’s output was increased from 50,000 hp to 64,000 hp. The first series of two destroyers was laid down in March 1927 in Lorient; the second series of four ships—between 1927 and 1929 in Saint-Nazaire and Dunkirk. All six destroyers were commissioned between 1929 and 1931, and all of them sank during World War II. Of them, only Bison was lost in battle and the remaining five ships were scuttled in Toulon in November 1942.

Guépard was ordered as part of the naval program of 1925; she was laid down on March 14, 1927, at the “Arsenal de Lorient” shipyard; launched on April 19, 1928; and commissioned on August 16, 1929. At the beginning of World War II, she was the flagship of the 3rd Large Destroyers Division based at Toulon. Guépard participated in operations against Italy, in particular, she shelled Genoa’s port. After France capitulated, the ship remained loyal to the Vichy government. In June 1941, while based in Beirut, the destroyer participated in the defense of the Levant against an Allied invasion, and was damaged when breaking through to Toulon. In November 1942, when the Germans attempted to capture the French naval fleet, Guépard was scuttled by her crew. The Italians managed to salvage the destroyer, but never tried to restore and recommission her. The ship was finally sunk by U.S. aviation on March 11, 1944.


Tier VII Vauquelin

After the Guépard-class leaders, the French constructed three more classes comprising 12 ships in total. The last series—six leaders of Vauquelin class—became the most modern among the 2,400-ton destroyers. When building these ships, the French Navy widely used welding for the first time; 138.6 mm guns were replaced with an upgraded 1927 version; and the layout and number of torpedo launchers were changed. According to the shipbuilding program of 1929, six ships were laid down at shipyards in Dunkirk, Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, and La Seyne between 1930–1931. They were named after famous French sailors of the past. The ships were commissioned between 1933–1934, and none of them survived World War II: Maillé-Brézé was hit by a torpedo in 1940; Chevalier Paul was sunk by British bombers in the waters near the Levant in the summer of 1941; the rest were scuttled at Toulon.

Vauquelin was ordered according to the program of 1929; laid down on March 13, 1930, at the “Ateliers et Chantiers de France” Dunkirk shipyard; and launched on September 29, 1932. She was commissioned on March 28, 1934. At the beginning of World War II, the destroyer was based at Oran and served in the Southern Mediterranean until the summer of 1940. When France capitulated, the ship remained loyal to the Vichy government and took part in the defense of French Levant in the summer of 1941. In November 1942, Vauquelin was scuttled by her crew in Toulon to avoid capture by the Germans.


Tier VIII Le Fantasque

In 1928, the Italian Navy began the construction of Condottieri-class cruiser scouts, which were designed to combat French destroyer leaders and had a high speed as well as 152 mm guns. The French Navy believed that a division of leaders would be able to successfully oppose one such cruiser, but to increase their chances of victory it would be good to improve the range and firing rate of the main guns on new ships. The new 50-caliber 138.6 mm guns of model 1929 were designed with these requirements in mind, and became the main differentiated factor of Le Fantasque-class in relation to its predecessor. It also had an improved power plant that was successfully tested on Milan- and Épervier-class leaders; an increased cruising range; and other modifications that led to a larger displacement compared to the 2,400-ton ships. In 1931 and 1932, six ships were laid down according to the program of 1930. They were all commissioned in 1935 and 1936. In World War II, four of them fought for Free France and survived the war. The remaining two were lost: L`Indomptable was scuttled in Toulon and L`Audacieux—captured by the Germans—was sunk by Allied aviation at Bizerte in 1943.

Le Fantasque was ordered in accordance with the program of 1930, laid down in Lorient on November 16, 1931, and commissioned on May 1, 1936. With the outbreak of World War II, the ship joined the “Force de Raid”—a formation of the most modern ships in the French Navy, created to oppose German raiders and blockade runners. At the end of 1939, the destroyer was transferred to Dakar, where she remained until the African colonies sided with Free France. After a refit in the U.S.A., Le Fantasque fought in the Mediterranean, taking part in the landing operations on Corsica and in the south of France. Between 1945-1946, the ship served in Indochina, then she was transferred to the Metropolitan fleet, and in 1953 she was sent to the reserve. In 1958, the destroyer was sold for scrap.


Tier IX Mogador

Work on a new generation of destroyer leaders first began in 1931: engineers had been working on an improved version of Le Fantasque, armed with three 138.6mm coaxial twin mounts, to replace the old Amiral Sénès destroyer. The ship was to be named Mogador. However, due to ongoing talks between France and Italy regarding the reduction of naval armament, the construction of new ships was put on hold until 1934. At that time, French naval engineers developed a larger ship variant with four twin mounts, but with a caliber of 130 mm—universal for destroyers and leaders. In 1933, the role of the ships being designed was changed: now, they were to escort Dunkerque-class battlecruisers in their hunt for German “pocket battleships.” The 130 mm caliber was obviously not enough to oppose any Kriegsmarine raiders, which is why the final variant received four 138.6 mm twin mounts at the cost of slightly larger dimensions. Two destroyer leaders—Mogador and Volta—were built according to this project at the Lorient and Nantes shipyards: one for each battlecruiser. They were commissioned in the spring of 1939, becoming the newest ships of this type in the French Navy when World War II began. Neither of the leaders survived the war—they were scuttled in Toulon in November 1942.

Mogador was laid down according to the program of 1932 at the Lorient shipyards on December 28, 1934. She was launched on June 9, 1937, and commissioned on April 6, 1939, as a flagship of the 2nd Light Squadron. With the outbreak of World War II, the ship joined the “Force de Raid” at Brest, and participated in convoy and search operations as part of it. When France capitulated, the destroyer was at Mers-el-Kébir. On July 1940, during Operation Catapult, Mogador was hit by a 381 mm British shell and sustained severe damage. Later, the ship was towed to Toulon, where she remained until November 1942, when she was scuttled by her crew. The Italians managed to refloat the destroyer, but never restored it.


Tier X Kléber

After the two Mogador-class leaders had been ordered between 1932 and 1934, no new ships of this type were laid down for several years. Due to the deteriorating international situation, in the spring of 1939, a decision was made to resume the construction of leaders, increasing the number of Mogador-class ships to six (two divisions). Type 1939 carried reinforced anti-aircraft armament compared to its predecessor. The ships were to be built in Lorient, Nantes, and Dunkirk. However, the beginning of hostilities interfered with these plans and they were eventually canceled. From February through June 1940, the project was updated taking the experience of the war into consideration. The French capitulation put an end to the project.

The 1938bis program provided for the construction of Kléber at the “Ateliers et Chantiers de France” shipyards in Dunkirk, with its completion planned for July 15, 1942. However, the ship wasn’t laid down.

LINK TO SOURCE (WARGAMING WEBSITE)

Author: OfficialNews Staff Beloved bot

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