First light cruisers since twenty years
The three light cruisers of this class, including the Duguay-Trouin, Lamotte-Picquet and Primauguet, were the first French cruisers built since 1906. The war had sold the resources of the French naval industry, but in 1920, They had recovered their potential, partly in part because of the war damage imposed on the Germans, and uninterrupted and consequent efforts. The design of Omaha class ships, as well as those of other navies, was carefully studied, with Italy as a rival. The definitive design C was stopped in 1922.
Lamotte-Picquet in Shanghai, circa 1939. Left is the British light cruiser Birmingham’s tern and bow of the U.S. Navy troop transport USS Chaumont, right. Also spotted in the frame are the Danish steamer Promise British steamer Yingchow (right background), British steamer Shantung (right foreground) Src Official U.S. Navy photo NH 81987 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.
The hulls of these ships have been carefully studied to take full advantage of the available power of modern triple expansion boilers associated with turbines. The speed of 33 knots had been considered as soon as the plans were drawn. Their 155 mm guns of the 1920 model, a weapon from army stocks, (the standard was 152 mm), which amounted to 26,100 meters for 4 bursts per minute, which was relatively slow at the time , and was even more so in 1939.
A protection against combat gases had been envisaged, the turrets were thus conceived as hermetic. The protection was the poor child of this design, with however a very strong subdivision around the engine room, and a sufficient protection of the roof of the turrets. The trials were successful, with these ships easily exceeding 34 knots, and able to maintain 30 knots with half of their boilers for more than 24 hours, which at the time was a good performance. However, their DCA was sufficient for the time, but totally inadequate in 1939, and their range was low (6000 km at 14 knots) which was barely enough for fast sorties in the Mediterranean.
The Primauguets in operation
All received seaplanes and associated catapults. It was first or LGL32 (loire Gourdou Lesseure) then the Loire 130.
The Primauguet was rearmed in 1942 with a superior AA, as well as the Duguay-Trouin, passed to the allies in May 1943, then rearmed in an American arsenal. Radars, equipment and DCA were at the American standard. The latter, under the command of Admiral Godfroy, was interned in Alexandria in 1940. Donated to the FNFL (Free French Navy), the building participated in the campaigns of the allies, including the operation Anvil Dragoon. It was demolished only after the war, after serving in Indochina.
Lamotte-Picquet was sent in 1935 to Indochina. He was part of Cam Ranh’s squadron, the “occasional group” near Saigon under Capt. Bérenger, and will participate, with two colonial avisos (sloops) and two corvettes, at the battle of Koh Chang, destroying the Thai navy in January 1941. In December 1941, the Japanese demanded his disarmament and his intention to saigon. It was finally sunk in January 1945 by Task Force 38 aircraft…
The Primauguet as soon as he entered the service made long cruises of several months. In 1932, he was sent to Indochina, then he was replaced by the Suffren, and then escorted the French convoys to the Atlantic from 1939. In May 1940, he was at Fort de France, raising the Jeanne d’Arc; Then he went to protect the Dutch Indies. In June 1940, he was back in Dakar. He helped transport some of the Bank of France gold stocks to Africa. While escorting a tanker departing to supply the 4th squadron of cruisers in Libreville, he was intercepted by HMS Cornwall and Delhi.
After negotiations, she was forced to turn around. In November 1942 he was in Casablanca, undergoing a major overhaul, and during Operation Torch he fired on the USS Massachusetts who had hired him. The range of his guns could not do wonders, and his protection being almost nonexistent, the blows of the American battleship left 45 dead and more than 200 wounded before the ship, burning and adrift, was declared the next day as definitive loss. It will be demolished later in situ.
Displacement: 7,250 t. standard -9350 t. Full Load
Dimensions: 181.3 m long, 17.50 m wide, 6.15 m draft.
Propulsion: 4 propellers, 4 Parsons turbines, 8 Guyot boilers, 120,000 hp. Maximum speed 34 knots.
Armour: 20 mm belt, 15 mm anti-torpedo partitions, bridge 20, 30 mm turrets, 30 mm bunker.
Armament: 8 pieces of 155 mm (Model 1920), 4×75 mm AA, 4×3 TLT 550 mm, (later) 1 Loire 130 seaplane.
Lamotte-Picquet in 1941, before the battle of Koh Chang.