Military Wiki
French cruiser Émile Bertin
Career (France)
Name: Émile Bertin
Namesake: Louis-Émile Bertin
Builder: Chantiers de Penhoët
Laid down: 18 August 1931
Launched: 9 May 1933
Commissioned: 28 January 1935
Decommissioned: October 1951
Struck: 27 October 1959
Fate: scrapped in 1961
General characteristics
Type: light cruiser
Tonnage: 5,886 tonnes (standard)
6,530 tonnes (max load)
8,480 tonnes (max overload)
Length: 177 m (overall)
Beam: 15.84 metres
Draught: 5.44 metres
Installed power: 102,000 shp
137,908 shp on trials
Propulsion: Parsons SR geared steam turbines
6 Penhoët boilers
Speed: 34 knots (40 during trials)
Range: 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km) @ 15 knots
2,800 nautical miles (5,190 km) @ 20 knots
1,100 nautical miles (2,040 km) @ 33 knots (61 km/h)
Crew: 711
Armament: (modified December 1943): 9x155/50 millimetre (6 inch) guns (3x3);
4x90/50 millimetre (3.5 inch) anti-aircraft guns (1x2 and 2x1; later 2x2);
8x37 millimetre (4x2) anti-aircraft guns, later 16x40 millimetre (4x4)
8x13.2 millimetre [4x2], later 20 x 20 millimetre [20x1) anti-aircraft guns;
6x550 millimetre torpedo tubes (2x3), later removed;
200 mines
Armour: decks: 25 mm
ammunition boxes: 30 mm
tower: 20 mm
Aircraft carried: 2 seaplanes (removed in 1943)
Aviation facilities: 1 catapult (removed in 1943)

The Émile Bertin was a French fast light cruiser named after Louis-Émile Bertin, a 19th century naval architect. She was designed to operate both as a minelayer and as a destroyer flotilla leader. The design was the basis for later light and heavy French cruisers, particularly the slightly larger La Galissonnière class of cruisers. This was the first French warship to use triple mountings.

Operational career

Before World War II, Émile Bertin served as flagship for a flotilla of twelve large destroyers of the Malin and Maillé Brézé classes in the Atlantic. At the start of 1939, she was transferred to Toulon.

In secrecy, she arrived in Lebanon on 23 September 1939, loaded with 57 tons of gold - the Polish state gold reserves - and returned to Toulon. At the start of 1940, after a refit at Toulon, she carried out surveillance around the Canary Islands to ensure that there were no German forces there.

After further dockyard work at Brest, in early April 1940, she became the flagship of Group Z, the French squadron supporting the Allied Norwegian campaign, with Admiral Derrien in command. As well as Émile Bertin, Group Z comprised the 2400-tonne contre-torpilleurs (large destroyers) Tartu, Chevalier Paul, Maillé Brézé, Milan, Bison and Épervier, as well as the 1500-tonne Brestois, Boulonnais and Foudroyant. Off Namsos, she was attacked by the Luftwaffe and damaged by bombs on 19 April. She returned to Brest for repair and remained there until 21 May, and was replaced off Norway, by the cruiser Montcalm.

She made two trips from Brest to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the first with Jeanne d'Arc and aircraft-carrier Bearn, carrying gold from the Bank of France.[1] The French armistice was signed shortly after Émile Bertin had docked for the second time, and when Captain Battet signalled the French Admiralty for advice,[2] the cruiser was ordered to Fort-de-France, Martinique with the gold. No effort by Royal Navy units present succeeded to prevent this, but the ocean liner Pasteur, which had to follow Emile Bertin, did not succeed to leave Halifax, was seized, used as troopship operated under British colours.

Once at Martinique and the gold safely unloaded, she made ready to defend the island against an expected British attack - which was abandoned through United States pressure. For the next two years or so the ship was inactive at anchor off Fort de France, until, on 16 May 1942 she was ordered by the Vichy authorities to be immobilised, after pressure from the United States.

She joined the Allied Forces in June 1943, under French colours, and was modernised in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Émile Bertin later operated in the Mediterranean, took part in the Allied invasion of southern France (Operation Dragoon) in 1944 and later bombarded Axis positions along the Italian Riviera.

After various Mediterranean duties, she entered Toulon for a refit until October 1945. She then deployed as flagship to Indochina until 2 July 1946 when she sailed for home with the Tourville. Émile Bertin then served as a gunnery training ship until the navy finally scrapped her in October 1959.


  1. Draper 1979, p. 174
  2. Draper 1979, pp. 190–191


  • Draper, Alfred (1979). Fish the Race to Save Europe's Wealth 1939-1945. Cassel. ISBN 0-304-30068-3. 

Further reading

  • David Miller (2001) The Illustrated Directory of Warships: From 1860 to the Present, Salamander Books, pp 214–215
  • Jean Lassaque (2004) Le croiseur Emile Bertin 1933-1959, Marines éditions, ISBN 2-915379-05-X

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