Armored cruiser Ernest Renan

The armoured cruiser Ernest Renan was originally planned as the 4th ship of the Leon Gambetta class, but by changes and revisions of the construction plans it became a separate armoured cruiser.


Launch and design:

The class of the Leon Gambetta armoured cruiser was originally designed for 4 ships. However, after the construction of the first ship began, the French naval architect Emile Bertin began to revise the construction plans, as he planned a faster ship.

For this he extended the total length to 159 meters in order to make room for a larger number of boilers for the propulsion system. This was to consist of 42 Niclausse boilers with an output of 37.000 hp and a maximum speed of 23 knots. In order to accommodate the high number of boilers, two boiler rooms were installed which were separated from each other by the midship gun turrets and their magazines and divided into six funnels. During later test runs, a maximum speed of 24,4 knots could even be achieved.

The armament remained with 4 x 194 mm guns in twin turrets in front and behind on the deck of the ship, but the designer already used the guns of the model 1902, which were clearly superior to those of the model 1893 and 1896. The secondary armament consisted of 12 x 164 mm guns, 8 of which were housed in turrets and 4 in casemates. In addition there were 16 x 65 mm and 8 x 47 mm cannons.

The armour of the ship's belt remained at up to 152 mm and extended from 1,35 metres below the waterline to 2,31 metres above the waterline. The deck had an armour thickness of 46 mm along its centreline, 66 mm at the outer edges and 71 mm above the ship's rudder.

The French scholar for languages and history Joseph Ernest Renan (1823 - 1892) gave the ship its name.

The Ernest Renan was launched on April 9, 1906 and put into service in February 1909.



Joseph Ernest Renan, namesake of the ship


Drawing of the armoured cruiser Ernest Renan


Armored cruiser Ernest Renan




History of Ernest Renan:

After the test runs and the commissioning the Ernest Renan was assigned to the cruiser squadron in the Mediterranean Sea.

In the following years the ship took part in the annual exercises and manoeuvres.

In April 1912 the ship was transferred to the 1st Light Division together with the two armoured cruisers of the Edgar Quinet class.



Armored cruiser Ernest Renan


Armored cruiser Ernest Renan




Use in war:

After the outbreak of the First World War the armoured cruisers of the 1st Light Division were used to find and sink the German ships Goeben and Breslau in the Mediterranean Sea. With further 12 destroyers the harbour in Philippeville should serve for this, this was bombarded however one day before the arrival of the ships by the German ships and was partly destroyed.

Since a breakout of the German ships into the Atlantic was feared, the French ships were transferred afterwards into the western Mediterranean to block the way. When it became apparent that the German ships would not sail into the Atlantic, but into the Ottoman Constantinople, the ships were transferred to the coast of Austria-Hungary.

During the blockade of the ports only the Austrian ship Zenta could be sunk, the rest of the fleet remained in the ports. At the end of 1914, as the threat from submarines increased, the ships were withdrawn to the southern Mediterranean.

On 8 January 1916 Ernest Renan, together with the ships Edgar Quinet, Waldeck-Rousseau and Jules Ferry, took part in the occupation of the Greek island of Corfu. For this purpose, French mountain troops were brought ashore in the night from 10 to 11 January. Although the Greek officials protested against the occupation, they did not offer any resistance. At the end of the year, on 22 December, Ernest Renan collided with an Italian steamer, and several passengers of the steamer fell overboard and drowned.

Until the end of the war, Ernest Renan only provided security.




Post-war deployment:

Shortly after the end of the war Ernest Renan was moved to the Black Sea to support the allied intervention in the Russian civil war. On 23 November 1918 the ship arrived in the area together with the light British cruiser HMS Liverpool and 2 torpedo boats. It was not until 18 March 1921, when the escaped government of the Democratic Republic of Georgia was brought on board, that the ship returned to France.

After the arrival in France the ship was overhauled in the shipyard and some reconstruction measures were carried out. The main mast of the ship was removed so that it could carry a balloon. On the turrets of the 164 mm guns several anti-aircraft guns were mounted.

From 1927 to 1929 the Ernest Renan was used as a training ship for gun crews. The ship was then taken out of service.





From 1931 the Ernest Renan was used as a target ship for aircraft and gunships. After some heavy hits during an exercise, the ship was so badly damaged that it sank.




Ship data:


Ernest Renan



Type of ship:  

Armored cruiser


Single ship

Building yard:  

Chantiers de Penhoët, Saint-Nazaire

Building costs:  



April 9th, 1906


February 1909


Sunk as a target ship during 1931


159 meters


21,5 meters


Maximum 8,4 meters


Maximum 13.644 tons


750 - 824 men




three vertical triple expansion steam engines

42 Niclausse water tube boilers


37.000 HP (28.000 kW)

Maximum speed:  

23 knots (43 kilometres per hour)




4 × 194 mm guns

12 × 164 mm guns

16 × 65 mm guns

8 × 47 mm guns

2 × 450 mm torpedo tubes


Belt: 58 - 152 mm
Gun turrets: 203 mm
Command tower: 203 mm
Deck: 46 - 71 mm






You can find the right literature here:


French Battleships 1914–45 (New Vanguard)

French Battleships 1914–45 (New Vanguard) Paperback – January 22, 2019

This authoritative study examines the French Navy's last battleships, using detailed color plates and historical photographs, taking them from their inception before World War I, through their service in World War II including the scuttling of the French fleet at Toulon in 1943, and the service of Richelieu in the war against Japan.

On September 1, 1910, France became the last great naval power to lay down a dreadnought battleship, the Courbet. The ensuing Courbet and Bretagne-class dreadnoughts had a relatively quiet World War I, spending most of it at anchor off the entrance to the Adriatic, keeping watch over the Austro-Hungarian fleet. The constraints of the Washington Naval Treaty prevented new battleships being built until the 1930s, with the innovative Dunkerque-class and excellent Richelieu-class of battleships designed to counter new German designs.

After the fall of France in 1940, the dreadnoughts and fast battleships of the Marine Nationale had the unique experience of firing against German, Italian, British, and American targets during the war.

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French Battleships of World War One

French Battleships of World War One Hardcover – June 15, 2017

When war broke out in August 1914 France had only two dreadnoughts in service, with a second pair running trials. The main body of the elite Armée Navale was made up of the eleven battleships of the Patrie and Danton classes, both of which were intermediate designs with two main gun calibers. Older ships included survivors of the notorious Flotte d'echantillons ('fleet of samples') of the 1890 program and their successors designed during the 1890s.

This book traces the development of French battleships from 1890 to 1922, and also covers the extensive modifications made to the survivors during the interwar period. It is liberally illustrated throughout with line drawings and labelled schematics, plus photographs from the extensive Caresse collection, many of which are previously unpublished.

This is the most comprehensive account of these ships published in English or French, and is destined be the standard reference for many years to come.

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French Armoured Cruisers 1887–1932

French Armoured Cruisers 1887–1932 Hardcover – November 1, 2019

Of all the threats faced by the Royal Navy during the first years of the twentieth century, the one which stood out was the risk to Britain's sea lines of communication posed by France's armored cruisers. Fast, well-armed, and well-protected, these ships could have evaded any attempted blockade of the French ports and, supported by a worldwide network of overseas bases, could potentially have caused havoc on the trade routes.

The primary focus of the book is on the technical characteristics of the ships. Detailed and labeled drawings based on the official plans are provided by John Jordan, and each individual class of ship is illustrated by photographs from the extensive personal collection of Philippe Caresse. The technical section is followed by a history in two parts, covering the Great War (1914-18) and the postwar years, during which the surviving ships saw extensive deployment as "station" cruisers overseas and as training ships. This is the most comprehensive account published in English or in French and is destined to be the standard reference for many years to come.

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To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War

To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War Hardcover – July 15, 2013

The only comparative analysis available of the great navies of World War I--each chapter is written by a recognzed expert fluent in the subject language. The work studies the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom (John Roberts), the German Kaiserliche Marine (Dr. Peter Schenk with Axel Niestlé and Dieter Thomaier) the United States Navy (Trent Hone), the French Marine Nationale (Jean Moulin), the Italian Regia Marina (Enrico Cernuschi and Vincent P. O'Hara) the Austro-Hungarian Kaiserliche und Königliche Kriegsmarine (Zvonimir Freivogel), and the Imperial Russian Navy (Stephen McLaughlin) to demonstrate why the war was won, not in the trenches, but upon the waves. It explains why these seven fleets fought the way they did and why the war at sea did not develop as the admiralties and politicians of 1914 expected.

After discussing each navy's goals and circumstances and how their individual characteristics impacted the way they fought, the authors deliver a side-by-side analysis of the conflict's fleets, with each chapter covering a single navy. Parallel chapter structures assure consistent coverage of each fleet--history, training, organization, doctrine, materiel, and operations--and allow readers to easily compare information among the various navies. The book clearly demonstrates how the naval war was a collision of 19th century concepts with 20th century weapons that fostered unprecedented development within each navy and sparked the evolution of the submarine and aircraft carrier. The work is free from the national bias that infects so many other books on World War I navies. As they pioneer new ways of viewing the conflict, the authors provide insights and material that would otherwise require a massive library and mastery of multiple languages. Such a study has special relevance today as 20th-century navies struggle to adapt to 21st-century technologies.

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