Armored cruiser Pothuau

The armored cruiser Pothuau was part of the French armament of the navy and should strengthen both the armored cruiser Dupuy de Lôme and the ships of the Amiral Charner class.


Launch and design:

After the lost Franco-Prussian War, the navy was rebuilt, structured and aligned alongside the French army. Part of the new strategy included the use of fast armoured cruisers against the merchant ships of an enemy nation in order to disrupt or bring to a standstill its economy and supplies.

Especially for this purpose, the French naval architect Henri Dupuy de Lôme began in the early 1980s with the planning and the concept of a suitable armoured cruiser, which should not only meet the tasks set by a strong armoring and armament, but also be at least equal to other armoured cruisers of Great Britain and the German Empire. The result was the armoured cruiser Dupuy de Lôme.

On the basis of this ship the planning of an entire class of armoured cruisers was started at the end of the 1980s. Although they were based on the Dupuy de Lôme, they were to be smaller and, above all, cheaper, since the financial means for upgrading were limited. This class, called Amiral Charner, was limited to 4 ships. While these were still under construction, work was already underway on further ships to strengthen them. For this purpose a single armoured cruiser was developed, which was based on the Dupuy de Lôme as well as the ships of the Amiral Charner class.

The result was an armoured cruiser with a length of 113,1 metres, a width of 15,3 metres and a maximum displacement of 5.460 tonnes. Thus, the ship was again larger than the ships of the Amiral Charner class and similar to the Dupuy de Lôme, although much lighter.

The main armament also consisted again of 2 x 194 mm guns, but already the more modern Modèle 1893 version, which stood in a single turret front and back on the ship. The secondary armament remained with the 138 mm guns, but the number was increased to 10 and the 1893 version was chosen. In contrast to the secondary guns of the Amiral Charner class, these were again housed in casemates and not in turrets. Further armament consisted of 12 x 47 mm, 8 x 37 mm guns and 5 x 450 mm torpedo tubes.

The armor along the belt of the ship was up to 80 mm, the deck had an armor of 55 to 105 mm. The command turret was armoured with a thickness of 240 mm, the gun turrets with 180 mm, whereby the casemates were only 84 mm thick.

Two triple expanding steam engines, driven by 18 Belleville steam boilers with an output of 10.000 hp, served as propulsion. Thus the ship had a maximum speed of up to 19 knots.

The ship was named after the French naval officer and politician Louis Pierre Alexis Pothuau (1815 - 1882).

The launch of the Pothuau then took place on 19 September 1895, the commissioning on 9 July 1897.



The French Navy officer and politician Louis Pierre Alexis Pothuau, namesake of the ship


Armored cruiser Pothuau




History of the Pothuau:

After the commissioning the Pothuau was assigned to the Escadre du Nord (Northern Squadron). With this squadron the ship represented France in June 1897 during the Diamond Jubilee Fleet Review of Queen Victoria in the British Spithead. In August, it transported French President Félix Faure from Dunkirk to visit Russia.

In 1898 the Pothuau was assigned to the Mediterranean squadron, where it served as the flagship of the Light Division. Until May 1904, it participated in the annual manoeuvres and exercises, when it was classified as the flagship of the cruiser squadron.

In mid 1905 the Pothuau was first assigned to the reserve until the ship was reactivated on April 17, 1906 to be used as a shooting practice ship. In 1910 it was finally taken over as the flagship of the shooting school and several attempts were made to test a new fire control system.



Armored cruiser Pothuau in 1904




Use in war:

At the beginning of the First World War, the Pothuau patrolled off the east coast of Spain together with the battleships Jauréguiberry and Bouvet, until the three ships were transferred to the area between Corsica and Italy at the beginning of September 1914 to prevent the transport of reservists from the German Empire.

After a short stay in Toulon, the Pothuau left the port on 24 October to support the Allied troops in their fight against the German troops in the colony of Cameroon in Africa. The mission lasted until 21 June 1915 when the Pothuau was replaced by the protected cruiser Friant to be overhauled in the shipyard in Lorient.

After completion of the work on January 2, 1916, the ship was transferred to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean to escort allied merchant ships and to search for German trade disturbers.

Since especially the German auxiliary cruiser Wolf affected the allied shipping traffic, the Pothuau was ordered together with the British seaplane tender Raven II on 10 March 1917 to search and sink this. The two ships sailed to Colombo, the Chagos Archipelago and the Maldives, but could not find the German ship.

From 17 May 1917 the Pothuau lay in the shipyard in Saigon, French Indochina for an overhaul before the ship returned to the Mediterranean. On arrival in the Mediterranean, it was overhauled again in Toulon, which lasted until 9 November 1917.

Since it was already apparent at this time that neither the ships of the Austro-Hungarian nor the Ottoman navy were expected to carry out any major operations, the Pothuau remained in the port of Toulon until the end of the war.





After the war, the Pothuau served again as a shooting practice ship, where its main guns were dismantled and experimented with anti-aircraft guns.

It was finally decommissioned on 12 June 1926, removed from the list of warships on 3 November 1927 and sold for scrapping on 25 September 1929.




Ship data:





Type of ship:  

Armored cruiser


Single ship

Building yard:  

Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, Granville

Building costs:  



September 19th, 1895


July 9th, 1897


Sold for scrapping on 25 September 1929


113,1 meters


15,3 meters


Max. 6,4 meters


Max. 5.460 tons


455 men




two triple expanding steam engines

18 Belleville steam boilers


10.000 HP (7.500 kW)

Maximum speed:  

19 knots (35 kilometers per hour)




2 × 194 mm guns

10 × 138 mm guns

12 × 47 mm guns

8 × 37 mm guns

5 × 450 mm Torpedo tubes


Belt: 52 - 80 mm
Deck: 55 - 105 mm
Gun turrets: 180 mm
Command bridge: 240 mm
Casemates: 84 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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