Military Wiki
D'Assas-class cruiser
File:French cruiser D'Assas NH 64389.jpg
Class overview
Name: D'Assas class
Operators:  French Navy
Preceded by: Descartes class
Succeeded by: Catinat class
Built: 1894–1898
In service: 1898–1924
Completed: 3
Retired: 3
General characteristics
Type: Protected cruiser
Displacement: 3,890 to 3,962 long tons (3,952 to 4,026 t)
Length: 96.14 m (315 ft 5 in) pp
Beam: 13.67 m (44 ft 10 in)
Draft: 6.25 m (20 ft 6 in)
Installed power:
  • 20 × water-tube boilers
  • 10,000 ihp (7,500 kW)
  • 2 × triple-expansion steam engines
  • 2 × screw propellers
  • Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
    Range: 6,000 nmi (11,000 km; 6,900 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
    Complement: 370–392
  • Deck: 70 to 100 mm (2.8 to 3.9 in)
  • Conning tower: 100 mm
  • The D'Assas class comprised three protected cruisers of the French Navy built in the early 1890s; the ships were D'Assas,Cassard, and Du Chayla. They were ordered as part of a naval construction program directed at France's rivals, Italy and Germany, particularly after Italy made progress in modernizing its own fleet. The plan was also intended to remedy a deficiency in cruisers that had been revealed during training exercises in the 1880s. As such, the D'Assas-class cruisers were intended to operate as fleet scouts and in the French colonial empire. The ships were armed with a main battery of six 164 mm (6.5 in) guns supported by four 100 mm (3.9 in) guns and they had a top speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph).

    All three ships began service in the Mediterranean Squadron in the late 1890s, though D'Assas was later transferred to the Northern Squadron in 1901 and then to French Indochina in 1904. Du Chayla supported an amphibious landing in French Morocco in 1907 and Cassard joined her there the following year. D'Assas was discarded in 1914, but the other two members of the class saw service during World War I, primarily patrolling the Atlantic for German commerce raiders. Both ships were partially disarmed late in the conflict and Cassard became a gunnery training ship while Du Chayla remained in active service. She took part in the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War in 1919 before being sold to ship breakers in 1920, while Cassard lingered on in service until 1924, when she, too, was sold for scrap.


    File:French cruiser Friant NH 74864.jpg

    The earlier cruiser Friant, which provided the basis for the D'Assas design

    In the late 1880s, the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) accelerated construction of ships for its fleet and reorganized the most modern ironclad battleships—the Caio Duilio and Italia classes—into a fast squadron suitable for offensive operations. These developments provoked a strong response in the French press. The Budget Committee in the French Chamber of Deputies began to press for a "two-power standard" in 1888, which would see the French fleet enlarged to equal the combined Italian and German fleets, then France's two main rivals on the continent. This initially came to nothing, as the supporters of the Jeune École doctrine called for a fleet largely based on squadrons of torpedo boats to defend the French coasts rather than an expensive fleet of ironclads. This view had significant support in the Chamber of Deputies.[1]

    The next year, a war scare with Italy led to further outcry to strengthen the fleet. To compound matters, the visit of a German squadron of four ironclads to Italy confirmed French concerns of a combined Italo-German fleet that would dramatically outnumber their own. Training exercises held in France that year demonstrated that the slower French fleet would be unable to prevent the faster Italian squadron from bombarding the French coast at will, in part because it lacked enough cruisers (and doctrine to use them) to scout for the enemy ships.[2]

    To correct the weaknesses of the French fleet, on 22 November 1890, the Superior Council authorized a new construction program directed not at simple parity with the Italian and German fleets, but numerical superiority. In addition to twenty-four new battleships, a total of seventy cruisers were to be built for use in home waters and overseas in the French colonial empire. The D'Assas class were ordered to as part of the program, and were very similar to the earlier Friant-class cruisers.[2][3]

    General characteristics and machinery

    File:French cruiser D'Assas NH 64388.jpg

    D'Assas steaming at high speed

    The D'Assas-class cruisers were 96.14 m (315 ft 5 in) long between perpendiculars and 325 ft 6 in (99.21 m) long overall, with a beam of 13.67 m (44 ft 10 in) and a draft of 6.25 m (20 ft 6 in). D'Assas displaced 3,962 long tons (4,026 t), while the other two vessels displaced 3,890 long tons (3,950 t). D'Assas suffered from stability problems and reportedly sat lower in the water than her sister ships.[3][4]

    The ships' hulls featured a pronounced ram bow and a tumblehome shape, which were common characteristics of major French warships of the period. They had a flush deck with a sloped stern. Their superstructure consisted of a main conning tower with a bridge forward and a smaller, secondary conning tower aft. The ships were fitted with a pair of pole masts with spotting tops for observation and signaling purposes. Their crew varied over the course of their careers and ranged from 370 to 392 officers and enlisted men.[3]

    The ships' propulsion system consisted of a pair of vertical triple-expansion steam engines driving two screw propellers. Steam was provided by twenty coal-burning Lagrafel d'Allest water-tube boilers that were ducted into three funnels on the centerline amidships. Their machinery was rated to produce 10,000 indicated horsepower (7,500 kW) for a top speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). Coal storage amounted to 600 long tons (610 t),[3] which permitted a cruising radius of 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km; 6,900 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) and 1,000 nmi (1,900 km; 1,200 mi) at 20 knots.[5]

    Armament and armor

    The ships were armed with a main battery of six 164 mm (6.5 in) Modèle 1893 45-caliber guns. They were placed in individual pivot mounts; one was on the forecastle, two were in sponsons abreast the forward conning tower, another pair was in sponsons further aft, and the last was on the stern. The guns fired a variety of shells, including solid cast iron projectiles, and explosive armor-piercing (AP) and semi-armor-piercing shells. The muzzle velocity ranged from 770 to 880 m/s (2,500 to 2,900 ft/s).[3][6] These were supported by a secondary battery of four 100 mm (3.9 in) Modèle 1891 guns, which were carried in pivot mounts in the conning towers, one on each side per tower.[3] The guns fired 14 kg (31 lb) cast iron and 16 kg (35 lb) AP shells with a muzzle velocity of 710 to 740 m/s (2,300 to 2,400 ft/s).[7] For close-range defense against torpedo boats, they carried ten 47 mm (1.9 in) 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns and five 37 mm (1.5 in) 1-pounder guns. The ships were also armed with two 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes in their hull above the waterline. The torpedoes were the M1892 variant, which carried a 75 kg (165 lb) warhead and had a range of 800 m (2,600 ft) at a speed of 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph).[3][8]

    Armor protection consisted of a curved armor deck that was 70 mm (2.8 in) thick on the flat portion, increasing to 80 to 100 mm (3.1 to 3.9 in) on the sides that sloped down to the side of the hull. Above the deck at the sides, a cofferdam filled with cellulose was intended to contain flooding from damage below the waterline. Below the main deck, a thin splinter deck covered the propulsion machinery spaces to protect them from shell fragments. The conning tower had 100 mm thick plating on the sides.[3]


    Name Laid down[3] Launched[3] Completed[9] Shipyard[3]
    D'Assas 1894 28 March 1896 March 1898 Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire, Saint-Nazaire
    Cassard 1894 27 May 1896 February 1898 Arsenal de Cherbourg, Cherbourg
    Du Chayla March 1894 10 November 1895 February 1898 Arsenal de Cherbourg, Cherbourg

    Service history

    File:French cruiser Cassard NH 64384.jpg

    Cassard, date unknown

    D'Assas and Cassard initially served with the Mediterranean Squadron after entering service in 1898, and they were joined by Du Chayla the following year.[10] In 1901, D'Assas had been transferred to the Northern Squadron, based in the English Channel.[11] During this period, they were occupied with routine peacetime training exercises with the rest of the main French fleets in home waters.[12][13] D'Assas was deployed to the cruiser squadron based in French Indochina in East Asia, and in 1905, she assisted with the unsuccessful attempt to re-float the armored cruiser Sully after it ran aground.[14][15] By that time, Cassard had been reduced to reserve.[16]

    In August 1907, Du Chayla supported an amphibious assault in French Morocco during the Bombardment of Casablanca. Cassard was reactivated in 1908 for a deployment to French Morocco.[17] D'Assas returned home that year and was converted into a fast minelayer, along with Cassard.[18] D'Assas was struck from the naval register in 1914; she was then sold to ship breakers.[9]

    At the start of World War I in August 1914, Cassard initially operated out of Morocco, patrolling for German U-boats.[19] Du Chayla was also assigned to patrol duty in the Atlantic, but she, too, saw no action.[9] In September, Cassard bombarded local villages in Morocco to suppress challenges to French colonial rule.[19][20] The ship was later transferred to the western Mediterranean and Red Seas, along with a deployment to the Indian Ocean in 1917. By 1918, Du Chayla had been partially disarmed to supply weapons to the French Army. She took part in the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War in 1919 but was recalled to France in 1920, where she was struck from the naval register in 1921 and sold to ship breakers. In the meantime, Cassard was partially disarmed after World War I and was converted into a gunnery training ship, though she was struck from the register in 1924 and sold for scrap.[21]


    1. Ropp, p. 195.
    2. 2.0 2.1 Ropp, pp. 195–197.
    3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Gardiner, p. 311.
    4. Glennon, p. 835.
    5. France, p. 32.
    6. Friedman, p. 221.
    7. Friedman, p. 225.
    8. Friedman, p. 345.
    9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Gardiner & Gray, p. 193.
    10. Brassey, p. 71.
    11. Jordan & Caresse 2017, p. 218.
    12. Leyland 1899, pp. 210–212.
    13. Leyland 1902, pp. 119–125.
    14. Garbett 1904, pp. 708–709.
    15. Jordan & Caresse 2019, pp. 132–133.
    16. Alger, p. 705.
    17. Garbett 1908, p. 257.
    18. Burgoyne, p. 58.
    19. 19.0 19.1 Jordan & Caresse 2019, pp. 219, 227.
    20. Corbett, p. 276.
    21. Gardiner & Gray, pp. 193–194.


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