Armored cruiser Léon Gambetta

The armoured cruiser Léon Gambetta was the type ship of the class of the same name of altogether 3 armoured cruisers, which originated from the development of the Gloire class, however more strongly armed and more powerfully were.


Launch and design:

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, France began to build a larger fleet of Amiral Charner, Gueydon and Gloire class armoured cruisers and to focus maritime warfare on disrupting and preventing trade routes over water to the enemy.

In order to be able to carry out this new strategy of warfare, new and revised concepts flowed into each new ship class, whereby also the development of the naval forces of Great Britain and the German Empire served as comparison and thus the own ships had to be adapted accordingly. Since the development also continued in the area of the armoured cruisers and also the fire power increased further and further, the French Naval Ministry decided to increase the armament also clearly with the development of a successor class of the Gloire armoured ships.

Thus the main armament was doubled from 2 x 194 mm guns in single turrets to 4 x 194 mm in two twin turrets. Secondary armament also increased from 8 x 164 mm to 16 x 164 mm, with 12 guns housed in 6 twin turrets and 4 guns in casemates. In return, the installation of 100 mm guns was dispensed with and the number of 47 mm guns increased to 24.

The armor of the waistline, on the other hand, was slightly reduced and was to be up to 150 mm instead of 170 mm, but the use of a new steel increased the resistance and compensated for the reduced thickness. Unfortunately, the turrets of the 194 mm main armament were reinforced to 200 mm.

As drive served again three vertical triple expansion steam engines which were driven by 28 Niclausse water tube boilers and produced an output of 27.500 HP. The speed could thus be increased to 22,5 knots.

The length of the Léon Gambetta class ships also increased by 10 metres to 149,1 metres, the width increased to 22,5 metres and the displacement to 12.400 tonnes.

The Ministry of the Navy chose representatives of the French Republic's politics as namesakes. The 37th Prime Minister Léon Gambetta was selected for the class and type ship.

The launch of the Léon Gambetta then took place on 26 October 1901, the commissioning in the course of 1903.



Léon Gambetta, namesake of the ship


Drawing of the Léon Gambetta ship class


Armored cruiser Léon Gambetta




History of the Léon Gambetta:

After commissioning, further test runs were carried out in December 1903 to test the performance of the drive system. The ship ran on a rock near Brest in front of the Black Rock Islands. The damage was so severe that the repair of the ship lasted until the middle of 1904.

In addition to the Amiral Aube, the Léon Gambetta also took part in the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Canadian city of Quebec in 1908, which was also attended by royal guests and dignitaries from countries of the British Empire and the United States of America.

After the festivities, the ship also visited several ports in the USA.



The armoured cruiser Léon Gambetta during the celebrations in Quebec 1908


Armored cruiser Léon Gambetta




Use in war:

With the outbreak of the First World War, the ships of the Léon Gambetta were assigned to the 2nd light squadron in the Mediterranean Sea for security tasks. The ships also took part in patrols along the coasts of Austria-Hungary to intercept and sink ships of the Austrian Navy.





Despite the growing danger of German and Austrian submarines, Léon Gambetta patrolled the Ionian Sea 24 kilometres south of Santa Maria di Leuca in the night of 27 April 1915. The ship was found by the Austrian submarine U-5, which fired 2 torpedoes at the ship.

After the impacts the Léon Gambetta sank within 10 minutes. Of the 821 men on board, only 137 could survive.



A German postcard showing the sinking of Léon Gambetta




Ship data:


Léon Gambetta



Type of ship:  

Armored cruiser


Léon Gambetta-Classe

Building yard:  

Arsenal de Brest

Building costs:  



October 26th, 1901


In the course of 1903


Sunk by the austrian submarine U-5 on 27 April 1915


149,1 meters


22,5 meters


Maximum 8,2 meters


Maximum 12.400 tons


728 men




three vertical triple expansion steam engines

28 Niclausse water tube boilers


27.500 HP (20.500 kW)

Maximum speed:  

22,5 knots (41.7 kilometers per hour)




4 × 194 mm guns

16 × 164 mm guns

24 × 47 mm guns

2 × 450 mm torpedo tubes


Belt: 71 - 152 mm
Gun turrets: 200 mm
Command tower: 200 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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