Submarine Plongeur

The submarine Plongeur was the first submarine developed in France and at the same time the first submarine that was not powered by muscle power.



Launching and design:

The development of Plongeur goes back to the French captain Siméon Bourgeois, who wanted to destroy the English supremacy on the sea with the construction and use of submarines. Since, in contrast to other European countries, the naval leadership welcomed and support this new weapons technology, the construction of the boat began in 1859. The launch of the Plongeur took place in 1863.





Like the CSS Hunley, the Plongeur emphasized streamlined appearance to minimize underwater resistance.

The special thing about this boat was the drive that did not exist as before by muscle power, but for the first time in the form of compressed air. For this purpose, a total of 23 containers were installed in the boat in which stored 153 cubic meters of compressed air, which was the reason for the enormous size. The power of the compressed air engine corresponded to 80 hp.

The armament of the Plongeur consisted of a spear torpedo, which was nothing but a lance on the bow, which was equipped with an explosive device. The offensive tactic consisted of ramming the enemy ship, placing the explosive charge, and resetting the ignition.




History of Plongeur:

Their first voyage took place on 6 October 1863, subsequent tests were carried out in the river Charente under the command of Marie-Joseph-Camille Doré.

In November, diving tests were initially scheduled to take place in Barques, but this was made up for in La Rochelle due to the bad weather conditions. On February 14, 1864, the boat ran during a test drive on a mole, as compressed air supply could not be controlled. During the dive trips, the maximum depth of which was nine meters, the weak point of the ship was revealed, as the dive was barely controllable and the bow rammed regularly into the ground. Only with the second French submarine, the Q 1 Gymnote, could this problem be solved.


1863 die Plongeur im Schlepptau der La Vigie

1863, the Plongeur in tow of La Vigie


During the Franco-German War, Commander Doré urged the naval leadership to take action against the German navy. However, since the leadership was aware of the superiority of the surface ships, they refused the risky use of the new weapon.

The decommissioning of the ship took place in 1872, after no more applications showed. After the conversion to a water tanker the Plongeur was put back on January 1, 1873 already in the service. For the conversion, she was equipped with a steam engine that delivered 120 hp.


Plongeur als Wassertanker

Plongeur as a water tanker




The end of the plongeur:

1898 was the last modernization of Plongeur when her steam engine against the torpedo boat Torpilleur no. 74 was replaced. After their base was closed in Rochefourt 1927, the ship was relocated to Toulon, where it was finally put out of service on 25 December 1935. On May 26, 1937, it was sold and scrapped.




Ship data:

Ship type Submarine
Country France
Launching 1863
Whereabouts Sold on 26 May 1937 for scrapping
Length 43 meters
Displacement 426 metric tons
Arming A Spier torpedo
Crew 12 men






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