|La Galissonnière-class cruiser|
|Preceded by:||Emile Bertin (one unit)|
|Succeeded by:||De Grasse (planned)|
7,600 tons (standard)|
9120 tons (full load)
|Length:||179 m (587 ft)|
|Beam:||17.5 m (57 ft)|
|Draught:||5.35 m (17.6 ft)|
2-shaft geared turbines (Parsons or Rateau-Bretagne)|
4 Indret boilers
84,000 shp (63 MW)
|Speed:||31 kn (57 km/h)|
7,000 nmi (13,000 km)|
at 12 kn (22 km/h)
6,800 nmi (12,600 km)
at 14 kn (26 km/h)
5,500 nmi (10,200 km) at 18 kn (33 km/h)
1,650 nmi (3,060 km)
at 34 kn (63 km/h)
9x152 mm / 54.3 calibre (3x3)|
8x90 mm anti-aircraft (4x2)
24x40 mm (6x4)
4x550 mm torpedo tubes (2x2)
main belt: 105 mm|
end bulkheads: 30 mm
sides: 120 mm
deck: 38 mm
turrets: 100 mm
tower: 95 mm
up to 4 GL-832, later 2 Loire 130 flying boats|
|Notes:||Ships in class include: La Galissonnière, Montcalm, Georges Leygues, Jean de Vienne, Marseillaise, Gloire|
The La Galissonnière cruiser class was a group of six warships admitted in active service in the French Navy in the 1930s. They were the last French cruisers completed after 1935, until the completion of De Grasse in 1956. They are considered as fast, reliable and successful ships. Two cruisers of this class, Georges Leygues and Montcalm, took part, on late September, 1940, to the defence of Dakar against a vain attempt of British and Free French Forces to occupy this important naval base of French West Africa, under the Vichy control. With the cruiser Gloire, they joined the Allied forces, after the successful Allied landings in North Africa, on November 1942. The three other cruisers of La Galissoniere class, staying under Vichy control in Toulon, have been scuttled on November 27, 1942.
After refit with American help, Georges Leygues, Montcalm and Gloire took part to various Allied operations, as covering the D-Day Normandy landings in 1944. Postwar they were flagship of the French Mediterranean Squadron, and carried out several operations off Indo China coasts, till 1954, and afterwards off Algeria coasts, or off Egypt, during the Suez crisis.
They were scrapped between 1958 and 1970.
The French Navy, emerged from W W I with light cruisers, in very small number, aged (built at the turn of the 20th Century), and exhausted by war service. One Austrian (SMS Novara) and four German light cruisers (SMS Kolberg, SMS Stralsund, SMS Regensburg, SMS Königsberg), were received as reparations for war losses. They were renamed from Alsace-Lorraine towns, respectively Thionville, Colmar, Mulhouse, Strasbourg and Metz, armed with nine 100 mm guns for Thionville, and six to eight 150 mm guns for the other ones, 4,000 tons for Thionville, from 5,000 to 7,000 tons for the other ones, with a speed of 26-27 knots. They were retired from active service in the late 1920s, or the early 1930s. But after it had been considered on 1920, to build 5,200 tons light cruisers, with 5.5 in (138.6 mm) guns, capable of over 36 knots (67 km/h), funds were granted, in 1922 budget, for the three Duguay-Trouin-class cruisers, known as «8000 tons» cruisers, which were launched on 1923-24. They had four double turrets, for which was chosen the 155 mm (6.1-inch) caliber, in regular use by the French Army, and supposed to be more easy for supplying ammunitions. With nearly no armour, they had a speed of 34 knots.
It remained too, after the war losses, armoured cruisers, built between 1900 and 1910 (with four to six outmoded funnels), obsolete when they had been commissioned. With their armament arrangement in two double turrets of 194 mm caliber, and various number of single turrets and casemates of generally 167.4 mm, (only the Edgar Quinet and Waldeck-Rousseau cruisers had fourteen 194 mm guns for the main artillery ), a speed of 23 knots, an armoured belt of 90 to 170 mm, for a displacement of 12,000 to 14,000 tons, they were outgunned by their British or German contemporaries.
In the early 1910s, there had been a trend for increasing the displacement and armament of armoured cruisers, which led to the British HMS Minotaur class cruisers, the SMS Scharnhorst class cruisers and SMS Blucher, with eight to twelve 210 mm guns, on the German "large cruisers", or four 9.2 in (234 mm) and ten 7.5 in (190.5 mm) guns for the British ones. The SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau were nevertheless sunk at the battle of Falkland Islands, on December 1914, SMS Blucher, at the Battle of Dogger Bank, on January 1915, or HMS Defence, at the Battle of Jutland (May 31, 1916), when they were rashly engaged against battlecruisers (HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible at the Falkland Islands, the «Splendid Cats» at the Dogger Bank, and SMS Lutzow at Jutland).
The 1922 Naval Washington Treaty forbade the armoured cruiser type, with clauses limiting the cruiser tonnage to 10,000 tons, and the caliber of their guns to 203 mm (8"). As the war experience had clearly shown the importance of the safety of commercial maritime roads against corsairs, all the signatories of the Washington Treaty have built, till 1930, nearly only Washington heavy cruisers, (fifteen each for the United Kingdom and the United States, twelve for Japan, seven each for France and Italy). These cruisers bore eight 203 mm guns in four double turrets, in the British, French and Italian Navies, but nine to ten guns in the U.S. Navy, or the Imperial Japanese Navy, with a speed from 30 knots (56 km/h), to 35 knots (65 km/h), and a very light armour, for the earliest ships built, and a better protection, with a slightly reduced speed, for the next classes. On the first Washington heavy cruiser built, in the French Navy, Duquesne, the weight of amour was 430 tons, and the maximum speed on trials reached 35.30 knots (65.38 km/h), with 126,919 shp (94,643 kW), and, for the last one, Algérie, the weight of armour was 2,657 tons, and the maximum speed 33.20 knots (61.49 km/h), with 93,230 shp (69,520 kW).
Germany was not subject to the restrictions in warship building resulting from the Washington Treaty, and the German Reichsmarine laid down, between 1926 and 1928, three cruisers with a displacement of 6,650 tons, armed with three triple turrets of 150 mm (5.9 in) calibre, with a speed of 30-32 knots, the Karlsruhe cruiser class, and, in 1929, a improved unit, the Leipzig, with a more powerful cruising diesel installation, and a more extended armoured belt, with nearly the same displacement (6,710 tons).
The British Navy was considering that the Washington cruiser type was too large for its needs, and, in 1927, a slightly smaller 8-inch guns cruiser was laid down, the HMS York , with only six 8-inch guns. As the 1930 London Naval Conference has just opened, the United Kingdom announced the cancellation of the next projected 8-in guns cruisers, while the first unit of a new class was to be built, with a displacement of 6,500 tons and armed with eight 6-in guns, able to counter the Leipzig. It was the HMS Leander.
The 1930 London Naval Treaty introduced a distinction between Type A cruisers (commonly called "heavy cruisers"), with guns over 6.1-inch (155 mm) calibre (the main artillery on the Duguay-Trouin-class cruisers) and up to 8-inch (203 mm) calibre, and Type B cruisers (commonly called "light cruisers"), with guns of 6.1-inch (155 mm) or under. It fixed the limit for the number of Type A units of each signatory to the number of existing cruisers, and authorized their replacement only twenty years after her completion.
In 1926, as France had started to produce classes of destroyers (Chacal, Guépard, and Aigle classes) which were superior in displacement and firepower to the destroyers of that period, in order to counter this menace, Italy decided to produce a new class of cruiser that would be of intermediate size between the new French destroyer classes and the cruisers built in that period. The four units of the Da Giussano class (first sub-class of the Condottieri cruisers group) were laid down in 1928, and completed in 1931-32, respecting the newly signed London Naval Treaty. On a displacement of about 5,200 tons, they were armed with eight 152 mm in four double turrets, and could attain the remarkably high speed of 37 knots (69 km/h), but with negligible armour and short radius.
A new French cruiser had been ordered in 1926 and launched in 1930, specially designed as a school ship for midshipmen. The cruiser Jeanne d'Arc had the same 6.1-in guns, in double turrets, than Duguay-Trouin-class cruisers. But when, after the London Naval Treaty, a new cruiser Émile Bertin was designed to operate both as a minelayer and as a destroyer flotilla leader, she was armed with a completely new artillery, in calibre as in arrangement, nine 6-in (152 mm) guns in three triple turrets, for the first time in the French Navy. She had two double and two single mounts of 90 mm for secondary AA artillery. Reaching 39.66 knots (73.45 km/h) on speed trials, with 137,908 hp (102,838 kW), she was the fastest of the French cruisers ever built.
The triple turret was unusual in the French Navy, which had preferred the double turret on its battleships, and on its previous cruisers, or the quadruple turret. In 1910, the Chief Naval Constructor, French Navy, had designed Normandie-class battleships with three quadruple turrets, and the quadruple turret was broadly used, on the Dunkerque-class battleships, for the main artillery, as for the dual-purpose secondary artillery. Triple turrets have been common in the Italian Navy battleships (uninterruptedly since the first Italian dreadnought built, Dante Alighieri) as in the Russian, W W I Austro-Hungarian, U.S. Navies (since the Nevada to the Tennessee battleship classes), and even in the British Royal Navy, with the Nelson-class battleships. On cruisers, the triple turret was used in all the U.S. Navy Washington heavy cruiser classes, on the Reichsmarine light cruisers, and on Deutschland-class "pocket battleships".
Apparition of the large light cruiser
But the Imperial Japanese Navy, and its great Pacific Ocean rival, the U.S. Navy were both interested by large cruisers, no matter they were classed "heavy" or "light". So, in the 1931 Program, Japan ordered the first units of a new light cruiser class, the Mogami class, with fifteen 150 mm, in five triple turrets, and a speed of 37 knots (69 km/h), announcing, falsely a displacement of 8,500 tons. The U.S. Navy answered with the Brooklyn class class, with fifteen 152 mm guns, a speed of 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h), but a more exact displacement of 9,700 tons. The first units of this class were launched in 1937-38. The Royal Navy had laid down a class of four light cruisers, HMS Arethusa class, smaller than the HMS Leander with only six 6-in (152 mm) guns. They were launched between 1934 and 1936. To react to the building of the Japanese and U.S. large light cruisers, the United Kingdom had to cancel some projected units of the Leander and Arethusa classes. The two first British large light cruisers, after drawing drafts for a so-called Minotaur class, which became the Town cruiser class, were launched in 1936. They were fitted with twelve 6-in (152 mm) guns, in four triple turrets, and aircraft installations at the center of the ship, had a speed of 32 knots (59 km/h), and were nearly respecting the 10,000 tons displacement.
Three vessels, De Grasse, Guichen and Chateaurenault, were authorized shortly before the war as improved La Galissonniere class, with a displacement of 8,000 tons, the same armament and arrangement of three triple 152 mm turrets, two fore and one aft, and three twin AA 90 mm aft, one axial and two lateral . Aircraft installations, two catapults, crane and hangar, accommodating three/four seaplanes, would have been fitted in the ship's center, aft a single large funnel. They were intended to have a more powerful propulsion machinery, 110,000 hp (82,000 kW), to reach 35 knots (65 km/h). The silhouette, with a massive fore tower, would have been inspired by the Algerie's one. But only the name ship was actually laid down in the Lorient Navy Yard, and as work was suspended during the war, she was launched in 1946, and completed only in 1956, on an integral anti-aircraft cruiser design.
La Galissonière -class cruisers were very different, in displacement, armament, and protection from the London Naval Treaty Type B cruisers, such as the British Dido class, American Atlanta class or Italian Da Giussano-class cruisers, with a displacement of 6,000 tons or less, armed with numerous guns of caliber sometimes inferior to 152 mm, to the large light cruisers (Duca degli Abruzzi), the Brooklyn or Town class cruisers, (about 10,000 tons, and from ten to fifteen 152 mm guns).
With a displacement of 7,500 tons, and nine 152 mm guns, the La Galissonière-class cruisers belong to a middle category, comparable with the last Kriegsmarine light cruiser Nürnberg (an improved version of the Leipzig), the Italian Montecuccoli cruiser (from the intermediate version of the Condottieri), or the nine gun units of the Crown Colony-class cruisers, reduced version of the Town class cruisers.
The displacement of French cruisers was around 7-9,000 tons, yet it was enough to accommodate both heavy armour and heavy armament, while maintaining good maximum speed.
Their main artillery, in three triple mountings, was concentrating a lot of firepower in a relatively short hull. Their displacement was of the 7,000 ton class, just like Italian Condottieri 's III Group (Attendolo and Montecuccoli). While Condottieri's had four turrets with eight 152 mm guns, French cruisers had only three turrets with nine guns. As we saw it above, the generalized use of triple turrets allowed, on the U.S. Navy cruisers, for example, to have nine 203 mm guns, and even fifteen 152 mm guns, on hulls of 10,000 tons, or on the German light cruisers, to have nine 5.9-in (150 mm) guns, with less than 7,000 tons displacement.
The armament comprised the powerful 152 mm gun (152 mm/55 Model 1930), the only French-built of this caliber. Despite the inferior caliber, this gun was more powerful than the previous 155 mm gun, and capable of reaching 26,300 m with a 57.17 kg shell (2,854 ft/s (870 m/s) muzzle velocity). These weapons were even able to send the US 58.8 kg SAP shell 26,960 m, while a typical UK 152 mm gun was considerably inferior (50.8 kg at 23 km). With this US ammunition, it was possible to pierce 122 mm steel plate at 9,970 m, an extremely powerful shot when compared to that of a usual 152 mm gun. The DP version of this mount was employed on Richelieu class battleships, but without great success since it was a bit slow for anti-aircraft purpose. The cruiser mount was the Model 1930, that displaced 169.3 tons (172 mt). The rate of fire was one shell every 12 seconds (5 rounds per mn). Since the race against Italians, this weapon was appreciably better to the 152 mm/55 cal. that Condottieri's last group and Littorio's had with only 25,700 m range, despite the heavier shell (57.17 kg vs 50 kg). Against the previous Condottieri 's cruisers, the advantage was more marked, since the 152 mm/35 cal. had around 22–24 km maximal range and a considerable dispersal. Nawveapons.com states that 152 mm Model 1930 was overall a quite successful design, at least in the single purpose installation (on cruisers), so there were not only theoretical data, even if the rate of fire was relatively slow.
Anti-aircraft artillery, torpedoes, aircraft facilities
The secondary armament comprised also another unusual gun, in the French Navy tradition, the 90 mm/50 cal Model 1926. This weapon was very powerful for its time, despite using a lighter projectile than later 90 mm guns. (12-15 rpm, 9,5 kg shell, range 15,440 m at 45°, AA ceiling 10,600 m AA at 80°). It was a decided improvement over the old 75 mm guns, being mounted single or twin. La Galissonnière cruisers had four twin mounts. These ships were also fitted with two twin torpedo tubes, on sides, amidship. The torpedoes were the 550 mm (21.7 in) 23 DT model, in service since 1925, capable of very high performances (weight 2,068 kg, length 8.28 m, 310 kg TNT, 9,000 m/39 knots or 13,000 m/35 knots). Their aircraft installations, with hangar and derrick on stern, and a catapult fitted on the top of the aft 152 mm turret, could accommodate four Loire 130 seaplanes.
Like most French warships completed prewar, they were originally weak in light anti-aircraft artillery, with four twin 37 mm guns, and six 13.2 mm twin mount machine guns. Four more were added in 1941, with one 37 mm and one double 25 mm guns, and two Hotschkiss 13.2 mm twin mount machine guns. The three ex-Vichy units received a refit, with American help, in 1943. Georges Leygues, Montcalm, and Gloire, had their aircraft installations and all their original anti-aircraft artillery removed, and were fitted with six quadruple Bofors 40 mm guns, and twenty single Oerlikon 20 mm guns.
The armour was thicker than that of many other cruisers of the time (such as the Italian Condottieri, for example) heavy enough to withstand cruiser ammunition. The belt and deck armour was substantially thicker than usual. Condottieri 's Group III had only 60 mm belt and 30 mm deck, while La Galissonnière had 75–105 mm (unclear where it was 120 mm) armoured belt, and 37–50 mm deck armor thickness. This was enough to withstand a 152 mm round at combat range (navweapons.com gives 76 mm at 11,000 m, when fired from a British gun), while Italian counterparts cannot have done the same with their light armour, sacrificed for the best speed. Only the last group of Condottieri was superior, with a heavier displacement of 9,100 tons (20% more than French cruisers), 10 guns, and up to 130 mm armour (thought to withstand 152 mm as well), but they were only two ships. In any event, these powerful ships never fought one another. The La Galissonière-class cruisers 105 mm armored belt was also thicker than the Nürnberg's (50 mm), the HMS Dido's (76.2 mm), or the Fiji's (3.5-inch or 88 mm), and equivalent to the Leander's. The turret protection, with 100 mm (4-in.) on faces, and 50 mm (2-in.) on sides, back, and roofs was also better than on other cruisers with similar displacement (1.25-inch on German cruisers, 1-in, on the British ones, 2-in on Town or Fiji classes, and 3 to 5-in on Brooklyn class).
The propulsion was provided by four Indret boilers, and four Parsons turbines on La Galissonnière, Georges Leygues, Montcalm, or Rateau Bretagne turbines on the other ones, and two shafts, for a speed of 31 knots (57 km/h), with 84,000 hp (63,000 kW). They easily maintained 31/32 knots and all exceeded by far the expected trial speed of 33 knots (61 km/h). Thus, the Marseillaise steamed an average of 34.98 knots (64.78 km/h) during an 8-hour trial and 35.39 knots (65.54 km/h) during a ninth hour. At the end of the war, they could still easily make 32 knots (59 km/h), on a full load displacement then increased to 10,850 tons. The endurance (5,500 nmi (10,200 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h)), was considerably better than Italian equivalents (Condottieris: around 3,800 nmi (7,000 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h)), but similar to the comparable light British or German cruisers, for the speed and radius, except the HMS Leander and HMS Arethusa class cruisers, which had an exceptional radius of 12,000 nmi.
The ships were:
- La Galissonnière: scuttled at Toulon
- Montcalm: scrapped 1970.
- Georges Leygues: scrapped November 1959
- Jean de Vienne: scuttled at Toulon
- Marseillaise: scuttled at Toulon
- Gloire: sold for scrap January 1958.
When completed, La Galissonnière, Jean de Vienne, and Marseillaise formed the 3rd Cruisers Division, flagship Marseillaise, attached to the Mediterranean Squadron, and based in Bizerte, Georges Leygues, Montcalm, and Gloire formed the 4th Cruisers Division, flagship Georges Leygues, attached to the Atlantic Fleet, and based in Brest. The 4th Cruisers Division carried out an endurance cruise to Indochina, from December 1937 to April 1938, and represented France at the New York World's Fair, in July 1939.
Phoney war, and under Vichy's orders
During the Phoney War, the 4th Cruisers Division was attached to the Force de Raid, a fast warships squadron, under Admiral Gensoul, with Dunkerque and Strasbourg fast battleships, heavy cruisers and large destroyers, first based in Brest. This squadron took part to the safety of Atlantic convoys, and tried unsuccessfully to give chase to the German surface raiders. As Italy remains neutral, in Mediterranean, the Marseillaise and Jean de Vienne took part to the shipping to Canada of a part of the Banque de France's reserve gold, in December 1939, and shipped troops in Mediterranean in March 1940.
In April 1940, as Émile Bertin was damaged by the Luftwaffe, off Norway, Montcalm replaced her, and take part to the evacuation of Namsos. In front of the more and more dubious attitude of Italy, on April 1940, the Force de Raid was sent in Mediterranean Sea, and the 3rd and 4th Cruisers Divisions were then based in Algiers. After Italy entered war in June, they carried out two sorties, and chased vainly the Italian cruisers.
On the July 3, 1940, Admiral Sommerville's Force H was sent to Mers-el-Kebir. As the French Admiralty signalled in a radio message in clear, that the Algiers cruisers had been ordered to rejoin the battleship squadron off Mers-el-Kebir, the British Admiralty warned Admiral Somerville and hurried him to put an end to the negotiations with Admiral Gensoul and to open fire. So the six cruisers had only one thing to do, to steer for Toulon, where they arrived the day after. Two months after, the Vichy authorities obtained permission from the German Armistice Commission to send the 4th Cruisers Division (George Leygues, Montcalm and Gloire), and three large destroyers, to Libreville, to counter the Free French Forces which had taken control of French Equatorial Africa territories, except Gabon. As the oiler Tarn, escorted by the French cruiser Primauguet has been intercepted in the Bight of Benin by British warships, and bound to Casablanca, refueling was no longer possible in Libreville, and the French cruiser squadron had to turn back to Dakar. Slowed by machinery problems, the Gloire was intercepted by British cruisers, and was only allowed to proceed too to Casablanca, as the Georges Leygues and Montcalm reached Dakar at full speed, and so took part to its defence against Operation Menace. Until 1943, they stayed there, where the Gloire joined them in March 1941: from September 15 to 25, 1942, she was sent to rescue the victims of the sinking of the British trooper Laconia, torpedoed by the German submarine U 156.
In Toulon, two of the three cruisers from the 3rd Cruisers Division (Marseillaise and La Galissonnière, the latter being replaced on March 15, 1941 by Jean de Vienne), were incorporated in a so-called High Seas Force, which nearly never went to high sea, due to the lack of fuel, but only in November 1940, to cover the return to Toulon of the battleship Provence, severely damaged by British gunfire, in July, 1940. In January 1942, the Jean de Vienne was sent to rescue the liner Lamoriciere, whose sinking in a winter tempest, off the Balearic Islands, caused more than 300 deaths.
After the successful Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria, on November 1942, the Germans occupied the Zone libre, and tried to seize the French warships staying in Toulon (Operation Lila). But the three La Galissonière -class cruisers, La Galissonnière, Jean de Vienne, Marseillaise, as most of the ships based at Toulon, were scuttled, on November 27, 1942. In 1943, the Italian Navy tried to salve Jean de Vienne and La Galissonnière, and registered them as FR11 and FR12. In 1944, after the Italian surrender, the Germans rendered the wrecks to the Vichy authorities, but they were sunk, following to Allied aircraft bombings, Jean de Vienne, on November 24, 1943 and La Galissonnière, on April 18, 1944 . They were both scrapped post war.
On the Allies' side
As all the French warships staying in Africa and French Antilles, Georges Leygues, Montcalm and Gloire joined the Allied Forces. Since February 1943, Georges Leygues carried out, from Dakar, patrols in the Central Atlantic, and on 13 April, she intercepted the German blockade runner Portland, as the Flag Officer, French Navy West Africa, was Admiral Collinet, formerly Commanding Officer on Strasbourg, at Mers-el-Kebir. In February 1943, the Montcalm was sent to Philadelphia, to be refitted with American help, till August 1943. The Gloire was sent to Brooklyn, from July to November 1943, and the Georges Leygues, to Philadelphia, from July to October 1943. Their aircraft installations were removed, they received a new anti-aircraft quick firing short range artillery. Sent in Mediterranean, the Montcalm supported the Liberation of Corsica, in September 1943, and Gloire carried out bombing missions against land, in the Gulf of Gaeta, in early 1944.
The Georges Leygues and Montcalm supported Allied June 6, 1944 landings in Normandy, and, together with Gloire, the August 15, 1944 Provence landing. Georges Leygues victoriously returned to Toulon, on September 13, 1944, bearing the flag of the Chef d'état-major de la Marine, Vice Admiral Lemonnier, her Commanding Officer when she had left Toulon, and at Dakar, in 1940. As far as April 1945, the three cruisers were part of the so-called Flank Force, operating off the Mediterranean cost of the western Italian Riviera.
Since 1945, they carried out various missions to Indochina, and after 1954, off Algeria coasts. The Gloire was flagship of the French Mediterranean Squadron, in 1951-52, Montcalm from October 1952 to June 1954, and Georges Leygues afterwards, and she take part as flagship of the Intervention Force to the operations off Egypt, during the Suez Crisis, carrying out a bombing mission against Rafah on November 1, 1956, and supporting the landing at Port-Saïd.
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