Suffren class heavy cruisers (1927)

France – Suffren, Colbert, Foch, Dupleix

The four musketeers: The Suffren were thought out as 10,000 tons Washington heavy cruisers, follows-up of the previous Duquesne class. The latter were not even completed when plans for the Suffren were laid out. Indeed by 1925, France financed the construction of Suffren, followed the next year by the Colbert, in 1927 Foch and 1929, Dupleix. In 1930, at last this was Algeria, the last before the London conference banned 8-in cruisers. The four cruisers were loosely based on the same hull, and they are classed by most historians in the same Suffren class. The last, and Foch in particular, differed however greatly in numerous details.

Colored picture of the Dupleix – Irootoko Jr.

French heavy cruiser Suffren in Hampton Roads on 15 October 1931

Their active career was active until the armistice of 22 june 1940. From there, their fate diverged depending of their situation at that date. Unfortunately, the last three, Colbert, Foch and Dupleix happened to be in north Africa and were repatriated in Toulon, held as a negotiation lever with the axis by the Vichy government, until scuttled in November 1942 like the rest of the fleet. Suffren was in Alexandria and thus was disarmed under British control.
She escaped the bloodbath of Mers El kebir mostly thank to the two good will admirals that solved the matter. Rearmed and modernised in the USA she resumed her career with the FNFL in the far east and had a long postwar career as well.

Suffren original blueprint, hull lines and general overview

Genesis of the Suffren

The Suffren and others were on paper called “croiseurs légers” or light cruisers however. The reason was there were still in the 1920s older armoured cruisers in service. After the London conference and the latter sent in reserve and demolition, these A-type cruisers (8000-10000 tonnes versus 1850-8000 tonnes) were reclassed either “croiseurs lourds” (heavy cruisers) or “croiseurs de première classe” (first class cruisers).
One thing was transparent in the first design discussions in 1924: After the Duquesne which were still “light cruisers” upgraded with 8-in guns compared to the earlier Primauguet class, the Suffren needed to lean more towards true heavy cruisers and protection was better worked out, even to the cost of some speed.

Before even the construction of the Duquesne started, the Technical Service of Naval Constructions (STCN) and naval staff discussed the follow-up class in the heavy cruiser program. There was some hesitation, and one one ship was financed for the 1925 tranche. At the same time, French intelligence passed information about the Italian cruisers Trento and Trieste, notably their armour.

It was therefore decided logically to step up for this third French heavy cruiser the passive protection level. That was not without resistance as for many, speed was seen as an active protection and did not accept any compromise.
The Suffren design process was started by a a note from STCN (11 February 1924), three months before even the official order for the Duquesne class. It listed requirement for the third cruiser, in the future 1925 tranche:

  • Maximum displacement 10,160 tonnes
  • 4×2 203mm guns in four twin turrets & 120 rounds per cannon*.
  • AA included eight 75mm guns (500 rds each), eight 40 mm guns (1000 rds), twelve 8mm MGs
  • 2×3 550mm TTs, six reserve torpedoes
  • Range of 5000 nautical miles at 15 knot, top speed 33 knots
  • ASW protection against a 550mm torpedo hit/100kg bomb
  • Protection of sensitive areas vs. 140 mm shells, 100kg bomb damage.

*This round reduction was dictated by Washington treaty clauses peacetime allocation. In wartime, it would have been back to 150.


Various discussions and modifications over these specs led to replace the 40mm guns with 37mm cannons of the new 1925 model and reduce the torpedo allocation, by having no reserves. The 1925 tranche cruiser was called ‘Suffren’ and ordered on the first of November. The yard chosen was Arsenal de Brest, which will also build her three sister-ships. Therefore these were “cruisers of the north”. The arsenal was located in Britanny, NW France, close to Normandy.

The second of the class was initially known ‘C-1’. It was financed by the 1926 tranche. Later it was named Colbert, followed by C-2 ordered on March 1, 1927 at first called “Louvois” after the great minister of war of Louis XIV. However in between, the death of Marshal Foch in in March 20, 1929 was followed by a government request to rename the cruiser, which thus became the first to bear the name of the allied generalissimo.
C-3 had to be financed with the 1928 tranche but Brest having limited capacities, it was postponed to 1929. Soon, to be named Dupleix. The plans were finalised and gradual modifications were made for each tranche.

Reconstruction of the Suffren, the blueprints.


Suffren was named after Pierre André de Suffren (1729-1788), massive noble from Provence, an successful admiral under Louis XV. His battle records included the Battle of Toulon, Cape Finisterre, Minorca, Lagos, Porto Praya, Grenada, Sadras, Providien, Negapatam, Trincomalee, and Cuddalore. He was the “plague of the British” in India during the seven years war.
Colbert was named after Jean-Baptiste Colbert, France’s able minister of the Navy under Richelieu and later Louis XIV, the driving force behind the French Navy.
Foch (Ferdinand) the French Generalissimo of allied forced during WW1 just passed out in 1929.
Dupleix or Joseph François Dupleix (1697-1762) was a French admiral under Louis XIV, great rival of Robert Clive during the seven years war, also instrumental in India and the far east.
After the war, the name Colbert was given to a 1950s AA cruiser, and Suffren to a guided missile destroyer, Foch to an aircraft carrier.

All the plans of Foch and Suffren class cruisers >

Design of the Suffren class

Suffren in Alexandria, 1940, IWM.

Hull and general characteristics

Launch of Colbert in Brest, prow.

The three ships were rated having 10,000 tonnes (standard) in displacement, 12,780 tonnes fully loaded. Suffren was 194 m (636.48 ft) in overall length, with a beam of 20 m (65.62 ft) and a draught of 7.3 m (23.95 ft), so a nearly 1/10 ratio. The tall hull was basically the same as the Duquesne class, derived from the 1922 Primauguet class, with a forcastle, clipper bow and rounded poop. The French would wait until the Algérie to test a flush-deck hull, to save weight.
The silhouette was about the same, minus the differences stated below (see later), with two equally spaced funnel, a tripod mast supporting the main director, a forward conning tower with the bridge around (not the suffren, which bridge as placed higher up on the tripod), a single or thin tripod aft mast and two catapults.

Propulsion & performances

The Suffren class heavy cruisers were propelled by three Rateau-Bretagne SR geared turbines, fed by nine Guyot boilers, rated for a total of 90,000 shp (67 MW). These were all oil-burning units, apart the Foch which retained two mixed-burning boilers. The turbines all had a separated room in case of ASW flood.
Top speed as stated in the contact specs was 32 knots (36.82 mph; 59.26 km/h), far less than the Italian Trento-class, but after modifications due to a lack of strength, they were about the same. On trials, the Suffren class ships passed 33 knots with ease. Range was stated as 4,500 nautical miles (5,178.51 mi; 8,334.00 km) at 15 knots (17.26 mph; 27.78 km/h).

Scan of the Colbert (cc)


It was slightly better than the Duquesne, with a multi-layered internal arrangement. The belt was 50 mm (2.0 in) thick to 54 mm (2.1 in) depending on the ships (see later), and the armored deck: 25 mm (0.98 in). The turrets and conning tower were protected by 30 mm (1.2 in). This was still quite thin, making these ships another serie of ‘tin-clad cruiser’. behind it was a school of though share by many officers that speed was a kind of active protection. The theory was still popular in the 1950s about tanks. The problem was of course the not anticipated rapid progresses in ballistic computing and telemetric precision, and the introduction of the radar-assisted precision fire during WW2.



All four cruisers has the same main and secondary armament, with some minor differences.
The four twin turret arrangement, in superfiring pairs was inherited from the Duquesne, themselves derived from the Primauguet class. The last cruiser with this arrangement was Algérie. In the late 1930s, a triple turret arrangement was designed for the new (unbuilt) Saint Louis class.
These turrets were the standard type also used in the Duquesne, carrying 8-in guns/50 (203 mm) model 1924.

These guns used two bags with 23.5 kilograms (52 lb) of smokeless powder each, and fired a 123-kilogram (271 lb) HE shell at 45 degrees maximal elevation and 850 metres per second (2,800 ft/s). Rate for fire was about 4-5 rpm, range 31.4 kilometres (34,300 yd).
Range was less with the heavier, 134 kg (295 lb) M1936 armour-piercing shell.


It comprised eight 90 mm (3.5 in)/55 calibre anti-aircraft guns in single mounts, except Dupleix which had four twin mounts. The Canon de 90 mm Modèle 1926 was a decent DP gun, weighting 1.60 metric tons for a barrel length of 4.5 m (15 ft), 50 caliber. The gun manufactured by Schneider had a semi-automatic breech mechanism. Its mount could elevate -10° to +80° and traverse 360°.
It fired a Fixed QF ammunition, 90 x 674mm R weighting 9.51 kg (21.0 lb) at 850 m/s (2,800 ft/s). Rate of fire was 10-12 rpm. Max range was 16,885 m (18,466 yd) at 45° and against aerial target it had a 10,600 m (11,600 yd) ceiling at 80°. These guns were not shielded and placed on the forward casemate and aft.

Top view of the Colbert

AA artillery

It varied between ships but the norm was height 37 mm (1.5 in) anti-aircraft guns in four twin mounts, placed on the aft deck and abaft the boom cranes.
Also were carried four triple 13.2 mm (0.52 in) AA Hotchkiss heavy machine guns, twelve total. This arlmament was modernized in 1941 for Colbert and Dupleix, and Suffren from 1943.

Torpedo tubes & Onboard aviation

It comprised six 550 mm (22 in) torpedo tubes in two triple banks, placed on the deck abaft the funnels, with around 150° of traverse. At first 12 torpedoes were carried, but reloaded were eliminated.
Onboard aviation evolved over time. In 1930, two or three Gourdou Lesseure GL-810HY Monoplanes, replaced from 1936 by two Loire-Nieuport 130. The latter were comparable in size to the Supermarine Walrus but slower. They were used for artillery spotting, liaison and transport, and reconnaissance. Catapults positions were changed (see modifications). They were eliminated when the Suffren was modernized and equipped with a radar.

Heavy Cruiser Foch, front view (src) – This source is a true bible (FR), containing many more information on the cruisers;

Design differences

Cruiser Foch. Notice the tripod mast, with the legs further apart to support a larger platform. Apart Colbert and Dupleix which were very close, Suffren and Foch were easily identifiable

– Colbert for a start has completely redesigned superstructures to improve the use of seaplanes and limit the interference between the use of her on-board aviation and service boats. They were installed at first either side of the aft funnel on Colbert, but amidships between the two funnels for Suffren.
-Suffren’s bridge superstructure was taller, placed higher up on the tripod.
-Another change was the secondary artillery seeing 75mm guns replaced by more modern 90mm guns, imposing some weight saving measures as to respect the Washington’s treaty limits.
-Foch and Dupleix own superstructures were the same as Colbert, but displayed a some differences:
-The Foch had widely spaced tripod mast and thinner aft funnel than the fore funnel. Added protection on the Foch had a different scheme and two boilers mixed heating boilers were removed.
-The Dupleix had superstructures closer to the Colbert in detail, her aft funnel size was the same as the fore funnel, and she missed the tripod mast.
Dupleix’s protection was reinforced to withstand the 6-in shells (152 mm), notably the hybrid SAP of the new Italian cruisers of the Condotieri class, with a new box system introduced on the Foch.
-In the late 1930s it was question to replace 90mm guns by new standard 100mm guns but the latter was still in development and only the crusier Algérie used it, in twin mounts instead of the single mounts planned for Foch.

Blueprint of the Foch

Blueprint of the Suffren

Specifications (Suffren, Colbert)

Displacement: 9,980 t. standard -12,780 t. Full Load
Dimensions: 194 m long (196 Foch), 19.3 m wide, 7.2 m draft.
Propulsion: 3 propellers, 3 Turbine turbines, 9 Guyot boilers of the Temple, 90,000 hp. Maximum speed 31 knots.
Armour: 65 mm belt, 25 mm anti-torpedo partitions, 25 bridge, 25 mm turrets, 28 mm bunker.
Armament: 8 pieces of 203 mm cal.55 (Model 1925), 8×88 mm DP, 8×37 mm AA (4×2), 12 ML of 13.2 mm AA (2×4), 2 Loire 130 seaplanes.
Crew: 750

The Colbert in 1939. The four Suffren took over the defects of the previous ships in terms of protection with only minor improvements.

HD Photo
This HD photo has uncertain origin, probably copyrighted, so in doubt it’s only linked, not displayed.

The Suffren class cruisers in action:

Counting the ten years of the interwar, the career of these four “musketeers” was well filled. Multiplying exercises in the 1930s, after the war broke out, these cruisers became very active, including hunting the Graf Spee in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. Basically, after the armistice, their fate was sealed, but diverged. The Foch, Dupleix and Colbert were stationed in Toulon from June 1940 to November 1942, showing little activity due to fuel rationing. They were scuttled in the harbour, and written off until the end of the war.

Only Suffren managed to survive the course of events. She was trapped in Alexandria in June 1940. Interned and partially disarmed under British supervision, she had to wait for Darlan’s swap for the allies to the authorized service with the FNFL. Fully modernized in the US she saw action in the Far East alongside the Richelieu and Indochina after the war, in service until 1962.


Suffren was known as hull No. 54, laid down at the Arsenal in Brest on April 17, 1926. She was launched on May 3, 1927, completed, trialled and accepted for service on March 8, 1930. She was the sixth ship in “La Royale” (The French Navy) honoring the pre-revolutionary admiral. Before, three sailing ships has been built, two 74-guns and a 90-guns first-rate (1831), an armoured frigate by famous engineer Dupuy de lôme (1875), and a pre-dreadnought battleship (1901); After the heavy cruiser, the name was given to a guided missile destroyer, and then the current French attack submarine, first of the Barracuda class (2020).

Suffren started her initial yard sea trials on August 20, 1928. She carried out her official trials for commission in December 20, 1928 and until May 1, 1929 and she was considered completed on January 1, 1930, put into service in March. Although built in the Atlantic coast, she was sent like her sisters in the Mediterranean, to counter the Regia Marina new cruisers.

Service in the Mediterranean
She integrated the “Levant Squadron” (1920) stationed in Toulon, renamed successively the Mediterranean squadron, 1st Wing and then Mediterranean Wing on October 30, 1936 and Mediterranean Fleet in 1939. Suffren was part of the 3rd Wing of this fleet when the war broke out. Before the wing was created, Suffren teamed up with Duquesne and Tourville.

On October 6, 1930 they set sail from Brest, carrying the 1928 class cadets on board. They stopped in Dakar, Rio de Janeiro, the French west indies, and back to Casablanca and Toulon on January 10, 1931. Another cruiser started in the eastern Mediterranean April 22-July 10, 1931. In october 1931, Duquesne and Suffren were Norfolk taking part in a diplomatic and celebration review. They carried Marshal Pétain, then the representative of the French government and five descendants of La Fayette, De Grasse and Rochambeau for the opening of the monument dedicated to the victory of Yorktown (1781). They also visited Chesapeake Bay, New York and Newport.

On October 19, 1934 the cruiser Algérie arrived in Toulon and became the 1st Wing flagship, leading a reorganization into two light divisions. Algeria teamed with Dupleix and Colbert in the 2nd DL, while the 3rd DL comprised Foch, Tourville and Duquesne. Suffren was in maintenance and semi-reserve due to staffing problems common at that time in the French Navy.

On May 1, 1936, Suffren replaced Foch in the 3rd LD. In August, she sailed to Tangier, an international city of Spanish Morocco., protecting all nationals from insurgents and protect French assets there. In 1937, La Galissonnière Jean de Vienne and La Marseillaise arrived in Toulon, and the light divisions became Cruiser Divisions (DC). From November 2, 1937 therefore, the 1st DC was now composed of Algeria, Dupleix, Foch, and Colbert while the 2nd DC comprised the Duquesne, Tourville and Suffren, the 3rd DC the three La Galissonière cruisers.

Service in Indochina
In January 1939, Suffren evacuated nationals from trapped Barcelona. In July 1939, the Mediterranean Wing became the Mediterranean Fleet, and the 2nd DC separated from the Suffren, sent into Indochina. She arrived on July 23, 1939 in Saigon, relieved the light cruiser Primauguet as part of the Far East Squadron. She was still present in Indochina when the war broke out and formed the 5th DC with Lamotte-Picquet. The force also was composed of Rigault de Genouilly, Amiral Charner, Savorgnan de Brazza and Tahure.
From Saigon, the FNEO squadron patrolled Indochina waters until 20 November 1939 and 5-13 April 1940. Suffren also escort a troop transport to Colombo (30 January 1940) and Singapore (February 1940).

In Alexandria, Egypt


In April first, 1940 Suffren sailed out for Alexandria, as part of the newly Force X mounted to act agains Italian forces in the eastern Mediterranean. Activated on May 3, tis powerful force also comprised the dreadnoughts Provence, Bretagne and Lorraine, the large destroyer Tigre and Lynx, and fleet TB Forbin. On May 4 they were joined by the 2nd CD, heavy cruisers Duquesne and Tourville. Suffren was included on May 18. Two days after Provence and Bretagne rallied Mers-El-Kébir via Bizerte, a fateful decision.
On May 24, Duguay-Trouin joined Force X but before that this force has sailed for Beirut, only first the Tourville, Suffren and Forbin and later other ships including the TBs Fortuné and Basque.
They covered a troop convoy, leaving on 11 May for a raid in the Aegean Sea. They failed to spot Italian ships and were back to Alexandria on June 13, 1940.
On June 21, Lorraine shelled Bardia while Suffren was back to Tobrouk to attack three Italian cruisers there, but this turned out to be a misinformation and she was back to Alexandria.
An operation on Sicilian coast was planned in late June when news of the armistice came out. The Suffren and Force X stayed put, waiting for instructions.

On July 3, 1940 British Forces launched Operation CATAPULT. At Mers-El-Kébir things went out badly, but in Alexandria, Admiral Godfroy (photo) commanded Force X, and soon discussed openly and without reservation with Admiral Cunningham. Both men knew and appreciated each other. But this was facilitated by Philippe Auboyneau, back then a liaison officer on board HMS Warspite, which played an important role in the negotiations. Auboyneau became later a prominent FNFL admiral.
They soon signed a gentleman’s agreement to neutralize Force X, by disarming it. It came not long after news from Mers-El-Kebir came out. Many lives were spared that day. But doing this both admirals took the risk to disregard their respective orders. Churchill wanted the French ships sank and Darlan ordered them to set sail immediately, under enemy fire and replicating if necessary.

Force X will’s ships were disarmed by simple means. Critical parts from the guns were dismounted and landed, guarded under lock and key by the British. The ships remain immobilized for almost three years, with part of the sailors deserting to join the Free French, including Estienne d’Orves (later a prominent figure of the resistance), under British cool laissez-faire. Others choose be repatriated home, including most officers.

On November 8, 1942 the situation changed dramatically. Allies landed in North Africa (Operation Torch). In Toulon, the remaining three cruisers of the Suffren class scuttled as free zone was invaded on 27 November. The decision was and is still controversial to this day. Faling to join the allies was a formidable waste, while it allowed the Axis to try to refloat and repair some of these valuable naval assets they lacked at that time, particularly the Italians.

Back in Free French Hands

FRENCH FLEET DEPARTURE FROM ALEXANDRIA. 23 JUNE 1943, SUEZ CANAL. (A 18286) The French cruiser SUFFREN passing through the Suez Canal towards Suez Bay. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Force X was idle and maintained in uncertainty until May 17, 1943. Nearly six months has passed since Darlan in North Africa swapped sides and thes populations and forces joined the allies. Force X at last was authorized to resume the fight, but the ships were in bad condition due to the alck of maintenance and now too old to be authorized by the Americans a modernization. The French therefore limited themselves to the more urgent maintenance work, and later on overhaul and modernization with old radars but modern AA, with stocks in North Africa or UK depots. This was carried but in Casablanca and later Dakar, not in New York as frequently believed, like for the Richelieu.
The allies considered their age and lack of protection, and Suffren was barred from frontline missions and diverted to perform interceptions in the Atlantic of German blockade runners coming back from Asia.

Dakar Atlantic patrols
Suffren Dakar became the Allied cruisers operation base for the south Atlantic, French but also notably free Italian ships. American cruisers were deployed in Recife, Brazil. Relations between the French and Italians were however tense, so the Italians would be redeployed to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Suffren carried out eleven patrols, covering the best of 1943 and early 1944. In April 17, 1944, Suffren returned to Casablanca for maintenance work and only returned in April 21, 1945 to Oran, stopped at Toulon and back to Oran.

Cruiser Suffren at Toulon 21 Sept. 1945 – Personal archive by André Marton (cc)

Suffren’s far east and Indochina campaigns (1945-47)
In June 29, 1945, Suffren was in Diego Suarez, land equipmentments to be installed on the battleship Richelieu. Both ships were ordered to be redeployed in the British Eastern Fleet. However Suffren never had the opportunity to cross fire with Japanese ships, but coverred the Light Intervention Corps in Colombo in August and returned to France, Toulon on August 26. She was back again in the far east, sailing on september 21, as a transport with a reduced crew of 130 but 440 soldiers and their equipments on board. She arrived on October 19, 1945 and returned to Toulon on November 21, 1945.

She was back in February 1946 in Saigon now as a proper cruiser, and participated in a naval review in Halong Bay on 24 march. She repatriate troops and stopped in Hong Kong, Chinwangtao and Shanghai. In october she escorted more convoys to Saigon and Tonkin, but following the Haiphong incidents, she carried 500 soldiers and fired sixty 8-in shells against Appowan battery in the hands of insurgents. The Indochina campaign started for Suffren.
In December 1946, she carried more troops to Tourane where a landing took place, covering also landings at Hue and Qang-Tri, firing 92 shells. She left Saigon in Februaryand arrived in Toulon in March 24, but remained idle and was placed in reserve in October 1947, moored at the Robert jetty, together with other WW2 veterans, used as fixed training ship for the shooting school and from 1961 sonar operators school. For the 1927 ship, this was the end of the road. On January 1963 the cruiser she was renamed Ocean to free the name fo a missile frigate and in 1971 did not played any significant role. She was stricken on March 24, 1972, anchored in Bregaillon, and eventually sold on November 5, 1975, BU in 1976 in Valence.

Overview of the Suffren and Duquesne at Port 15 October 1934, photo from USN reconnaissance (cc)


G.Garitan photo – Exposition “Le siècle de Colbert Reims au XVIIe siècle”.

While not yet officially in service, Colbert was participating in a naval review in Algiers for the 100th anniversary of the Algiers expedition, together with Lamotte-Picquet and Primauguet, Duquesne and Suffren. On May 1, 1931 in Toulon she integrated the 1st DL also comprising the Tourville and Suffren, and awaiting Foch. In October 19, 1934, Algeria joined Toulon and the 2nd DL noew comprised also Dupleix and Colbert.

On May 27, 1937 she participated in another review in Brest combining both Atlantic and Mediterranean fleets, quite a rare sight with almost the entire French Navy on the coast of Britanny. As part of the Mediterranean Wing Colbert cruised the eastern Mediterranean until July 1938, display the flag in a context of international tensions, and in between exercises. In July 1939, she was part of the 2nd DC with Duquesne and Tourville, Suffren departing for Indochina.

Wartime service
On september 1939, Colbert stayed in the Mediterranean. In December 1939, she left Bizerte with Tourville to monitor the eastern Mediterranean an Beirut waters. In January 1940, force X was replaced in Dakar by force Y (Provence, Duquesne, Tourville) and Colbert was detached to force X (Algérie, Bretagne) escorting a gold transport to Canada and back two planes transprts for the Armée de l’air, purchased in the US. On June 10, with Italy decalring war to France a bombardment of Genoa and northern Ligurian coast was envisioned. It was scheduled for June 11, but first cancelled and revived by Vice-Admiral Duplat after an Italian bombarding of Bizerte.

Thus, Colbert took part in Operation Vado, shelling Genoa with Dupleix on June 14, 1940. It was largely symbolic as the ships mostly fired into the sea in front of the jetties. The Force came back unmolested. The cruiser then covered a convoy of 17 ships between Marseille and Oran.

Yard Model of the Colbert

When the armistice came, Colbert was in Toulon with Foch, Dupleix and Algérie. On 25 september 1940 the “Forces de Haute Mer” (FHM) were created by Vichy. In January 1941, Colbert underwrnt a limited modernization (modern AA and Electromagnetic Detectors) but staed moored like the rest of the fleet, maintained just in case but because of the lack of fuel, not making any sortie. On November 8, 1942 Operation TORCH was followed on the 11 by operation ATTILA, the invasion of the free zone. At dawn, Operation LILAS began, the assault of Toulon, and the capture of its precious fleet.

Unable to set sail, the fleet was a mic of disarmed and operational vessels almost deprived of fuel. The Luftwaffe laid mines in the Grande Rade and eventually five submarines would slip through and join North Africa. Colbert was moored at post 5, Milhaud wharves, left to the battleship Strasbourg and right to Algérie. The crew already prepared the detonation of 35kg loads to destroy the cannons while water intakes were open and gears sabotaged. She sank and was partially dismantled until the end of the war, what remaining being extracted in 1948.


Scanned photo of Foch – ONI203 booklet for identification of ships of the French Navy, published by the Division of Naval Inteligence of the Navy Department of the United States (9 November 1942). (cc)

Foch was first assigned to the 1st Light Division as flagship until replaced by Algérie in October 1934. She later joined the 3rd DL with Duquesne and Tourville, again as flagship. In June 1935, she took part in the fleet’s naval review at Douarnenez bay in Britanny. In May 1936 she was replaced by Suffren, and in May 1937, participated in a combined new naval review off Brest. In November she became part of the newly formed 1st DC with Algerie, Dupleix and Colbert. After maintenance she was back to normal dury in July 1938.

from September 1939, and with italy out of it, Foch was dispatched to track down German raiders, and protect Allied merchant traffic, in an hunting group onn the south Atlantic, at Dakar. She arrived there on November 13, 1939, joining Force X, dispatched in December to find Captain Langsdorff’s Admiral Graf Spee. Foch teamed up with Dupleix, light cruiser HMS Neptune, long-range destroyers Milan, Cassard and the British light aircraft carrier Hermes.

However in this large scale hunt, French cruisers showeved their limited range, fit for the Mediterranean. Unable to refuel at sea, their sorties were quite short. None spotted the Graf Speed, which ended scuttled off Montevideo. French cruisers prior to that refuelled quickly in order to set sail again to meet the Geraman pocket battleship of repaired after the battle of Rio de la Plata. Force X made a new sortie in December-January 1940 and the cruisers Foch and Dupleix left Dakar to escort a convoy bound for Morocco, then joined Toulon.

From June 10, Italy was at war and the cruiser was mobilized for a shelling sortie on the Genoes coast. First cancelled it was revived again (Operation Vado), where Foch shelled installations with Algérie, and DDs Vauban, Lion, Aigle, Tartu, Chevalier Paul, Cassard, on June 14. Se fired around 250 8-in shells, but also 90 mm rounds on ground objectives and the sea.
She suffered a helm damage on return, making her difficult to steer but returned to Toulon on manual backup. She later covered a convoy between Marseille and Oran and after the armisice was stranded in Toulon.

French Heavy Cruiser Foch, Official U.S. Navy photo NH 55716 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command (cc)

Pretty nothing happened during this period as the fleet never ventured out, fault of very limited oil supplies and finicky controls of the Armistice commission. Foch was part of the 1st DC (Algeria, Foch, Dupleix). She only made a sortie on November 6-8 to cover the badly damaged Provence limping back to Toulon after Operation Catapult.
In June 29, 1941, Foch, Cassard and Tartu made a sweep to Algiers, embarking a light Africa, battalion (Bat d’Af’) to Marseille, to be dispatched on the Lebanese-Syrian front. On november 27, 1942 her crew opened condensers and water intakes while guns were destroyed with explosives, fire control sabotaged. She sanks straight and seemed recoverable though. The Italians studyed her recovery, towing her to Genoa to convert her into an aircraft carrier. This never materialized and she was dismantled under German supervision at La Seyne sur Mer in 1944.


Dupleix at sea, ONI recoignition book (cc)

Dupleix was the last French cruiser of the infamous “tin-clad serie” (the next was Algérie). Laid down in Brest on 4 november 1929, she was launched on 9 october 1930 and, making in between her sea trials in octobre 1931 by the yard and in december for official trials and commissioned on 1st may 1932, with official full completion and fittings on 20 july 1932. She entered service by 15 november 1933, rallying the Mediterranean wing.

She entered the 1st Light Division which lated included Algeria and her sister-ship Colbert. In June 1935 she participated in a naval review in Douarnenez Bay (fifty-eight ships). From May 1938, she toured the eastern Mediterranean and in 1939 was part of the 1st DC (Algeria, Dupleix, Foch and Colbert) when the war broke out. From there her career was similar to Colbert.
She first Force X in Dakar and departed for a mission on December 7, 1939, in search of the Graf Spee, returning to refuel and wait for the German battleship to make a sortie and escape the English blockade.

Dupleix and Foch left Dakar and returned to Toulon and after Italy entered war, participated in Operation Vado, shelling the Genoese coast. Back home, she was prepared for a special mission in
19-20 june by order of the president with DDs of the 5th DCT (Tartu, Chevalier-Paul, Cassard) at Sète to carry the government in case of failed armistice negociations, of the government decided to leave for North Africa and continue the fight. This of course never materialized. Dupleix was interned in Toulon, mostly inactive for the remainder of 1940-42.

Dupleix in exercises before the war (ONI) (cc)

In the High Seas Forces as part of the 1st DC, her flagship was the battleship Strasbourg. She made just two sorties in October and November 1940 and was replaced by the Colbert, placed on guard with a reduced maintenance team until reactivated in October 1941. On November 27, 1942, Dupleix was anchored in the Missiessy area, near the submarine barracks. The cre sabotaged the gears, blown the guns but failed to open flooding valves as Germans troops managed to climb onboard sooner than other ships due to her location. Nevertheless, the explosives let Dupleix burn and sink straight. Two sections were refloacted on July 3, 1943 by the Italians. They failed to do more before an Allied bombing in March bombed and sank the two sections, scrapped on the spot in 1951.

The model kits corner:

Suffren 1/700 by Modellbau
1/2400 model on shapeways
Shapeways 1/1800 Foch, Colbert, dupleix
Neptun 1432 French Heavy Cruiser Dupleix 1/1250
Museum model by Chenivesse

Note: The 1/700 “colbert” AA cruiser of the 1950s by Heller is the one most often shown in the results. As the Suffren missile cruiser, Foch aircraft carrier.
Heller did not undertook many WW2 ships sadly, especially French ones.
I own the De Grasse kit (left uncompleted), i will do a review of it. Heller as a brand is now history since a while. This kit was a stock one.
So in short, the offer is very poor. If you are interested by a model kit of these ships contact me.

Read More/Src:

Pierre Vincent-Bréchignac, Flottes de combat 1940-1942, Paris, 1942
Gerard Garier: Les Croiseurs Français de 10 000tW – T1, SUFFREN & COLBERT Lela Presse
R. Gardiner, R. Chesneau, Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships (1922-1946)
Les croiseurs De Grasse et Colbert (Google book)

Author: naval encyclopedia

Naval Encyclopedia webmaster. Find more on the "about" page.

2 thoughts on “Suffren class heavy cruisers (1927)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *