France’s last armoured cruisers
The last French cruiser-battleships, and by far the most imposing, were the two Edgar Quinets, which constituted at the same time a synthesis of all the acquired experience in design for this particular type of ship and at the same time an additional milestone in the genre. Laid down in 1905 and 1906 they were launched in 1907-08, completed in 1911, and had an active career lasting until the 1930s.
Edgar Quinet class Armoured cruisers
Jeune École (Young School)’s own Admiral Ernest François Fournier strongly advocated for a fleet of armored cruisers based on the Dupuy de Lôme type back in the 1890s, for long-range commerce raiding, dealing with older battleships, and reconnaissance. Twenty-four armored cruisers followed, the Edgar-Quinet being the last, and like the previous Ernest Renan, their design was revised during construction, causing a delay in delivery. Although they had been the most powerful armored cruisers built by France, they entered service two years after the launch of the first battlecruiser, Britain's HMS Invincible, and therefore were obsolescent when
accepted in service.
Indeed, because of its “semi-experimental” shipbuilding practices, France lacked many dreadnoughts and any battlecruisers, although the latter had been planned by the 1912 Durand-Viel program. This was however not that crucial as most of the French fleet had to operate in the Mediterranean against less advanced fleets, like the Austro-Hungarian Navy.
Brassey’s diagram of the previous Renan class (not one available of the Quinet)
Moving 14,000 tons and 160 meters long, they were among the largest French warships in 1914. They had been largely inspired by the MN Ernest Renan (1906) but were taller and better armed, and also included a uniform artillery distribution of the monocaliber type. One of their particular features was the adoption of refrigerated ammunition holds, now a standard for French ships since the Battleship Iena explosion in 1907.
Their artillery was simplified (this was less a nightmare for supply) with the suppression of 162 mm (6.3 in) guns for a complete fourteen 193 mm (7.5 in) battery (rate of fire, up to four rpm) with only 65 mm (2.5 in) QF guns to deal with TBs. The larger guns were divided into two double turrets, six single, and four in barbettes. The 65 mm (9-pounder guns) were distributed with some in casemates and others on the superstructure. However, in 1918 the threat of aviation made for the removal of 12 guns, which were replaced by two 65 mm anti-aircraft guns and 75 mm (3.0 in) AA guns. As customary, the two armoured cruisers were given also two 450 mm (17.7 in) TTs submerged on each side of their hull.
Their armored belt was 150 mm (5.9 in), reduced to 70 mm (2.8 in) forward and 40 mm (1.6 in) aft. The lower main deck was 65 mm (2.6 in) thick while the upper deck was 30 mm (1.2 in) in thickness. Armor on the gun turrets was 200 mm (7.9 in) thick, with the barbettes at 200 mm, and casemates 194 mm, however they were linked by transverse armored bulkheads ranging from 194 mm to 120 mm (4.7 in) internally. The ship’s conning tower was 200 mm. Rousseau survived two torpedo hits thanks to an efficient cofferdam built into the lower hull, which was doubled by a longitudinal watertight bulkhead.
Unable to sail past 23 knots, these ships arrived when the battlecruisers introduced turbines. They had three propellers, powered by three 4-cylinder VTE (triple expansion) engines, which in turn were fed by 40 Belleville coal-fired boilers, for a total output of 36 000 hp. The boilers were truncated into six funnels in two groups of three, a common characteristic of French cruisers at that time. All of these engines were separated in watertight compartments to ensure at least partial propulsion in case of a hit to an engine room. In addition, the electrical systems aboard were fed by six electric generators. Coal capacity amounted to 2,300 t, which made for a range of 5,100 nautical miles (9,400 km; 5,900 land miles) at a moderate crusing speed (10 knots).
The Quinet class in action
Their career was very active: Together with the Renan and the Michelet, they formed the 1st light division of the Mediterranean. They patrolled in the Straits of Otranto and ensured the Austro-Hungarian blockade. Both ships covered the seizure of Corfu in January 1916.
Waldeck Rousseau off Constantinople
In August 1914 quinet took part in the pursuit of the German squadron of Admiral Souchon (SMS Goeben). She was present at the Battle of Antivari.
Quinet also carried out a rescue mission after the war of the population of Smyrna (Great Fire of Smyrna, Greek-Turkish War), embarking 1,200 civilians in 1922. In 1925-27, the Quinet underwent a complete overhaul, which made her a training ship, with a new weaponry, a new appearance, including seaplanes under shed. She hit a reef off Cape Blanc, Algeria and sank in 1930.
She served in the Adriatic and in 1914 survived two torpedo hits from Austrian U-Boats. After repairs, in October 1915 she duelled with several Austro-Hungarian destroyers. She served in the Ionian and Aegean Sea until 1918. After the war, she went to the Black Sea to support the “White” Russians under General Wrangel. On her arrival, however, she had to withstand a short-lived mutiny over poor conditions by her crew. At first, she was assigned as flagship of the Far East fleet in 1929, though she later returned to France to be disarmed in 1932. Despite this, she survived until 1941-44 when she was broken up to be sold for scrap.
Edgar Quinet being launched
Danton class specifications
|Dimensions||159 x 21,5 x 8,4 m|
|Displacement||13 847 t. FL|
|Propulsion||3 screws, 4 VTE engines, 40 Belleville boilers, 36,000 hp.|
|Speed||23 knots. max. (40 km/h; 25 mph)|
|Range||5,100 NM (9,400 km; 5,900 miles) @10 knots|
|Armament||14 x 193 mm, 20 x 65 mm, 2 TT sides 457 mm|
|Armor||Belt 150, turrets 200, blockhaus 200, barbettes 200 mm, Decks 65 mm|
Illustration of the Edgar Quinet in 1914