French Armoured Cruisers, 1887 – 1932 — Review

John Jordan, well recognised for his many books on ships over the years, has penned with Philippe Caresse, a volume on French Armoured Cruisers from the late 19th Century to early 20th Century (1887 – 1932).

The armoured cruiser was like other cruisers, with long range and designed to project naval power to the colonies and elsewhere but it was designed with heavier belt armour, so able to stand up to any ships except battleships.

The role of the armoured cruiser was taken by the development of the battlecruiser, and as a result the armoured cruisers dropped in importance, but lasted until 1922 when the Washington Treaty effectively scuppered them and set a 10,000 ton limit for cruisers and a maximum 8″ guns for main weapons.

Jules Michelet at Tanjung Priok, Dutch East Indies

Who doesn’t love the shape, form and style of the French ships around the turn of the last century? Funnels fore and aft, tumblehomes and really, a transition to the steel warships of the 29th Century.

The Jules Michelet to the right here was one of the French armoured cruisers of the time, with her sister ship, Ernest Renan, built for speed. It is also one of the vessels covered in the book. As with all the ships covered by this book the section commences with a general discussion of the vessel and how it came to be. There as a profile and plan drawing of the vessel, drawings of the bridge deck, layout of the magazines, main guns with detail, the Barr & Stroud 2-metre rangefinder, the torpedo tubes, secondary armament and so on. The authors then go on to describe her sister ship, the Ernest Renan and cover the differences between the two vessels. Further drawings of the Ernest Renan follow.

The authors also cover the specifications of the ship including size of main guns (194mm or 7.6″), medium guns, ATB guns and torpedo tubes. Displacement (in this case, 12,600 tonnes), protection, crew and so on. Each the the vessels is also illustrated with many contemporary photographs of the times from the collection of Philippe Caresse.

Vessels covered are:

  • Dupuy de Lôme
  • Amiral Charner class
  • Pothuah
  • D’Entrecasteaux
  • Jeanne d’Arc
  • Dupleix class
  • Gueydon class
  • Gloire class
  • Léon Gambetta class
  • Jules Michelet and Ernest Renan
  • Edgar Quinet and Waldeck-Rousseau
Armoured Cruiser (le croiseur cuirassé) Dupuy de Lôme

There is also a section in the book on organisation and the Great War 1914-1918 and it aftermath.

French Armoured Cruisers — 1887 – 1932 by By Philippe Caresse, John Jordan and published by Seaforth Naval on 4 September 2019, is a large format book of 272 pages with 240 illustrations, ISBN: 9781526741189.

If you have any interest in the development of modern steel warships and their history, or indeed the French Navy of the 19th and 20th centuries, this book is a must. I have never been disappointed with John Jordan’s works and this book is so well illustrated by contemporary photographs from Philippe Caresse, the book is, quite simply, almost impossible to put down.

Well recommended!