Jump to content
You need to play a total of 5 battles to post in this section.
Phoenix_jz

Le Terrible - The Story of a Superdestroyer

23 comments in this topic

Recommended Posts

2,742
[HINON]
Privateers, In AlfaTesters
7,640 posts
2,112 battles

Le Terrible - A History

 

FsxxePl.png

 

The Le Fantasque-class (Fantasque meaning whimsical/capricious), now represented in World of Warships by the Le Terrible, is perhaps one of the most interesting classes of destroyers ever built, and Le Terrible is undoubtedly their most famous member. So what caused the French to build such massive destroyers? And how well did their design concepts translate into service? Here, we’re going to examine the design origins and service of one of World of Warship’s most recent additions, the Tier VIII French Destroyer Le Terrible. As a design, the ship represented the culmination of the evolution of much of France's interwar naval technology, and her naval arms race with Italy in regards to light ships. Her design is fascinating, as is her history, tumultuous as it is, and it gives a look into the complicated fates that befell so many French ships during the Second World War - in fact, in many ways her life offers a microcosm as to the struggles the Marine Nationale faced during the war. Be warned now, this post is focused almost entirely on historical considerations, so while I still encourage you to read it - if you're only here for WoWs gameplay, you might find this a bit dry!

 

Design

 

One of the last, and probably the best, of the contre-torpilleur lineage, the Le Fantasque–class was one of the largest evolutions of this ship type. Originally, the contre-torpilleurs had been conceived to act as scouts for the fleet, and counter those of the enemy. However, with the introduction of the esploratori by the Italian Navy (scout ships, essentially large, very powerful destroyers), this line of unique French warship escalated to becoming powerful large destroyers with exceptionally large guns (138.6mm), who’s main purpose was to take down esploratori, and act as the eyes of the French fleet.

The subsequent classes of Contre-Torpilleurs had changed little since their inception, only incorporating minor improvements. However, this was soon to change. The Marine Nationale’s Italian rivals, the Regia Marina, were not letting this challenge go unanswered, and replied with the 'esploratori grandi' - the Giussano-class. Eventually re-rated as light cruisers, these ships, the first 'Condottieri' class, were based on enlarged hulls of the last class of esploratori, the Navigatori-class esploratori leggeri. Essentially small cruisers, they were designed to hunt down and kill the French large destroyers, and appeared well equipped for the job – they mounted eight (4xII) 152mm guns in power-operated turrets with director control, and the ships were absurdly fast for their size. On machinery power trials, one of them (Alberico da Barbiano) even managed to exceed 42 knots, although service speed was much lower, 36.5-37 knots when brand-new.

This sent the French scrambling for a response. While they still theorized that one of the their three-ship contre-torpilleur divisions could take down one of these Italian light cruisers… well, they wanted to actually be able to win the fight, and Italian cruisers tended to operate in pairs…

One of the first issues the French wished to address was the range of their guns. The 138.6mm/40 Mle 1927 fired its heavy 40 kg shells at only 700mps, typical for French destroyer-caliber guns. However, the maximum ballistic range of its SAP rounds was 16.6 km at the maximum elevation of 28º. In contrast, the maximum range of the 44.57 kg HE used by the Italian light cruisers was about 24.6 km at its maximum elevation of 45º. That being said, the maximum effective range of the Mle 1927 (due to fire control) was only about 14.0 km, while the Italians considered 15 to 17 km to be the sweet spot for the guns, and engagement ranges could easily stretch out to 20 km. Thus, the French opted for a much more powerful main gun, a 50-caliber length weapon with a propellant charge almost 35% more powerful – resulting in a muzzle velocity of 800 mps for the SAP rounds, and 840 mps for the HE. The mounts were also able to elevate to 30º, and these factors combined gave the new gun – the 138.6mm/50 Mle 1929 – a maximum ballistic range of 20.0 km. That being said, due to spotting problems, the maximum effective range was not much greater than it was before.  However, that did not mean the upgrade was in vain – the guns now hit with greater power, and the increase in velocity solved the dispersion issue that had dogged the earlier low-velocity guns – an issue so dire, it had made gunnery beyond 13 km ineffective. Instead, the new weapons were noted to have quite tight dispersion.

To further improve firepower, the No.3 gun was moved from the usual position to one facing forward, close to the aft turrets – an arrangement similar to that found on the later American Fletcher-class destroyers. The twin torpedo tubes forward were replaced by triples, at the expense of ASW equipment.

Another massive improvement to the design was the introduction of fire control directors. Whereas prior French destroyers only had a rangefinder platform, and relied on a 3-meter coincidence rangefinder using a Follow-the-Pointer system, the Le Fantasque-class sought to change this. Fire control had been an area where French destroyers had been at considerable disadvantage to their Italian counterparts, who had used director control in almost all their destroyer classes following WWI (with 3 to 3.5-meter stereoscopic rangefinders). While French destroyers would struggle to fire beyond 14 km due to fire control issues (and 13 km due to dispersion), the British would note during WWII the surprising ability of Italian destroyers to accurately fire on their ships from ranges they did not consider reasonably possible – whereas they might open fire at 12000 yards (11 km), in the sinking of the Espero, the titular Italian destroyer (120mm/45) was engaged by five British light cruisers (152mm/50) and at a range of 14000 yards (12.8 km), hit first. Nine days later at the Battle of Calabria, the much more modern Vittorio Alfieri (120mm/50) was able to accurately engage British cruisers at a range of 17,000 yards (15.5 km). While the viability of long-range destroyer fire can be considered questionable at best in hindsight, at the time it was highly valued by the Mediterranean rivals, and the French sought to take a lead in this capability. Thus, the Le Fantasque-class became the first French destroyers to equip full director control, with a 5-meter stereoscopic rangefinder. This fed an Mle 1929 fire control computer, which would then feed the guns elevation and bearing via a follow-the pointer system.

However, the largest improvement, and responsible for the fame of the class, was the upgrade to the ship’s propulsion system.

Up to this point, while the French large destroyers had been decently fast, they really weren’t exceptionally fast, and the new Italian cruisers were even faster (on paper - reality, as we will explore later, was a bit different). The French chose to move to new superheated steam machinery, and also lengthen the hull by three meters. Power increased from 64,000 CV to 74,000 CV for a design speed increase from 36 to 37 knots (CV is a French horsepower unit, equal to 0.98632 shp. Thus, the increase above is from 63,124 shp to 72,988 shp). In this respect, these ships excelled. On their ‘normal’ power trials, all six ships of the class were able to make over 41 knots over their eight-hour run, and in the ninth hour all were able to exceed 42 knots, many making over 43 knots. About a week later, on much lighter tonnage, Le Terrible cemented herself in fame by exceeding 45 knots on one of her runs down the Glenans-Penmarch Range. Although impressive, this performance was unrealistic. In service, all the ships were capable of reaching just over 40 knots, and the top formation speed for the ships using Rateau turbines was 40 knots, and 38-39 knots for those with Parsons turbines.

On paper, the new super-destroyers were fantastic, fast and well armed, with capable fire control. Faster and better armed than Italian destroyers, and now equipped with at least as good fire control, it seemed clear nothing less than the Italian light cruisers could counter them, and even then it might not go well for the Regia Marina’s CT-killers.

However, for all their strengths on paper, the ships had considerable difficulties in teething issues. Starting trials in 1934, their machinery became a major point of issue, Le Terrible and two of her sisters stripping their turbines, leading to a long delay for repairs, while another was unable to change over to her main turbines from her cruise turbines on her very first voyage. Another, L’Audacieux, had to have the brickwork of her Penhoët boilers completely rebuilt. Even after completion, although many early machinery issues were solved, they remained rather sensitive powerplants that could not sustain repeated heavy operations, and Le Terrible's Yarrow Loire boilers would be particularly problematic (all other ships used Penhoët boilers). Due to the fact that many of the components of the ships were built in civilian yards due to both the inability of French yards to cope with the Marine Nationale’s orders and the wish t spread work to fight the damaging affects of the Great Depression, qualitative issues dogged the construction of French ships. In particular, it was found the platforms seating the main guns was totally unable to handle the recoil forces of the guns, and had to be replaced, causing another half-year delay for the delivery of the ships. Ultimately, it took longer for the ships to be completed than it did for contemporary cruisers!

Steel quality would form a major issue for the class, partly due to the to the yards used, and partly due to the fact that France lagged behind most other naval powers in metallurgy during the interwar period, although this shortcoming was rectified in the early 1930s. Particularly concerning was the fact that after only four years of service, it was discovered that the Le Fantasque’s had pitting of up to 8mm depth on their hulls – hulls that were only 6 to 14mm thick to begin with!

Issues also dogged their gunnery. In spite of the introduction of improved hoists based on those used by the light cruiser Émile Bertin, the hoists were far to slow to feed the main guns at the same rate as their firing cycle. Two hoists existed (One for the fore guns, one for the aft guns), each able to supply 20 rounds per minute total. This limited the theoretical peak replenishment (and thus firing cycle) of the fore guns to 10 rpm, and the aft guns to 6.7 rpm. On top of the slow delivery (considering the guns were meant to reach 12 rpm), the system also suffered from frequent jams, and it was also possible – and not necessarily rare – for shells to fall all the way down the hoists! One can imagine the shock an ammunition handler might have from a 40 kg shell dropping on top of them out of the blue. While the system overall was lighter than what came before it, and also took up less space… its performance left much to be desired. Because of these issues, French crews took to adopting large ready-racks, able to fit 24 rounds, in order to combat this. These measures allowed the destroyers to engage in 2-4 minutes of combat before retiring in order to replenish their ready racks – although because of this limitation, many crews opted to over-load the racks, often to dangerous levels. Generally speaking, however, operating conditions limited the rate of fire to about 7 rpm.

Although the issue of their ammunition replenishment was partially solved by the crews themselves, what was never able to be countered was the vibration issues suffered by the class when operating at high speed. These vibrations made rangefinding effectively impossible at any speeds over 30 knots, and thus the Marine Nationale limited the gunnery speed of the destroyers to 28 knots – well below their top speeds, which reached 40 knots.

Another advancement the French attempted to apply to the gunnery of the Le Fantasque-class was the addition of RPC (Remote Power Control). RPC was the ‘holy grail’ (to borrow the extremely fitting words of John Jordan) for the Marine Nationale and Regia Marina, who both sought to obtain greater and greater freedom of fire while maneuvering, allowing ships to confound enemy firing solutions while maintaining their own. While both navies were able to place it on their cruisers (Training for French cruisers, Train and Elevation for Italian cruisers), only the French attempted to place it in a destroyer, which typically don’t have the space and power capacity for the necessary servomotors. What RPC did was, rather than have gun crews follow the inputs from the directors (Follow-the-Pointer, or FTP), was to do so directly, greatly increasing automation and reaction speed. It also helped counter the rough conditions created by poorer weather conditions. The ability to fit such a system to the Contre-Torpilleurs would provide a major edge in combat, especially if it came to fighting Italian cruisers – so it’s little wonder the French took a crack at it. All except Le Terrible and L’Indomptable were fitted with it, but in service it failed to deliver. The systems for compensating movement did not work, insufficiently sensitive resulting to overcompensation. And even greater failure was the inability to operate in rough seas, at all. If activated when the ship experienced violent motions, the circuit breakers would trigger and disable the entire system. In service, in could only be operated in calm sea conditions. Likewise, sufficient power could not be supplied to the system, as the electrical generators – two 80 kW turbo-generators – were not enough for the demands of RPC for five guns. It was thus disembarked from the ships it had been tested on, and the 138.6mm mounts were hand elevated and traversed.

 

Service

 

Pre-War

Laid down on the 8th of December 1931 at Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire, Saint-Nazaire, the fourth member of the Type 1929 Contre-Torpilleur class, program number 145, project Da 19, was named Le Terrible, after a Ship-of-the-Line from France’s revolutionary period. Although dismasted by the HMS Royal Sovereign in the battle, Le Terrible played an important role in securing French strategic victory, allowing the well over 100-ship strong grain convoy to reach France unmolested. The name, meaning 'The Terrible One', is analogous to the classical definition of the word - 'Fearsome'. Launched on the 30th of November 1933, she was finally taken for trials in December of 1934. 

PVaoGpA.png

Le Terrible in Caen Canal, while still fitting out. As can be seen, here armament as yet to be fitted

 

Her normal trials took place on 22 January 1935, which tested her machinery power at ‘normal’ displacement (2840 tons, which was her minimal amount of fuel, reserve water, ammunition, and other consumables for operations). Her actual displacement was 2853 tons, or 83.5% of her full load displacement. Over the first eight hours of her trial, her rated 74,000 CV propulsion made 86,343 CV, giving her 329 shaft rotations per minute and propelling her at 42.92 knots. Over her ninth hour, she established the top speed of her class, working up to 90,868 CV and 403 shaft rpm, and reaching a top speed of 43.78 knots. What followed was even more impressive, as on the 30th she ran three lengths of the Glenans-Penmarch range, and during her second run worked up to 94,353 CV for 419.78 shaft rpm and a top speed of 45.42 knots. Correcting her displacement to Washington standard (2615.99 tons, or 76.56% of full displacement) resulted in this value being lowered to 45.02 knots, but either way, Le Terrible had established a new world speed record for destroyers (and large warships in general), which remains unbroken to this day.

TjWKMWY.png

Although not one of her famous high-speed runs, here Le Terrible steams on her verification sortie, 10 May 1935

 

On April 15th, the Le Terrible was commissioned into the Marine Nationale, although she wasn’t competed until October, and only entered service on the 5th of February 1936. She was grouped with her other sisters that used Rateau turbines in the 10th DCT (division de contre-torpilleurs). In May, she and three of her sisters were present for a naval review conducted to inaugurate the opening of a new building for the Naval School at Brest. As of October, the 10th DCT was reorganized as the 10th Light Division, which together with their other sisters (8th Light Division) made up the 2nd Light Squadron, lead by the light cruiser Émile Bertin, which acted as their flagship. Late that year, Le Terrible and her sisters received a fire control upgrade, and automatic graph being added to their computers, which were then redesigned Mle 1929M36. In early 1937 1.5-meter stereoscopic rangefinders replaced their 1-meter AA models.

pdyAWsu.png

Le Terrible at the Naval School of Brest review

 

On the 27th of May 1937, she participated in another naval review for the Navy Minister, on board the brand-new battleship Dunkerque. However, for the most part her life was very quiet before WWII, avoiding the drama of the Spanish Civil War, and the unfortunate accidents that seemed to plague French destroyers before the war – beaching and collisions, or even spontaneous detonations! 

 

Wartime Service (Pre-Amistice)

Life finally picked up, however, as France entered WWII on 3 September 1939. She and 10th DCT (yes – the designation did change again) were part of Force de Raid, centered around the 1st Line Division, made up of the two Dunkerque-class battleships. With them was 8th DCT, and the new 6th DCT, made of the two Mogador-class destroyers. Together the destroyers made up the 2nd Light Squadron, Force de Raid’s escort force (Force de Raid proper being made up of 1st DL and the 4th cruiser division, made up of three La Galissonniére-class light cruisers). 

Force de Raid was based out of Brest, their first sortie actually sortied on the 2nd of September to hunt for German ships that were reported to have left port (none, in fact, had). Failing to find anything in four days of searching, Force de Raid returned to port after its first and only full-strength sortie. The destroyers helped escort some convoys from Britain to France, but in October the 10th DCT was sent south to Dakar in order to hunt for German raiders as part of Force X (made of the carrier HMS Hermes, the battleship Dunkerque, heavy cruisers Algérie and Dupleix, and the 10th DCT minus L’Audacieux). Starting missions on the 10th, Le Terrible would have her first success of her career on the 25th when she and her sister Le Fantasque stopped and seized the German freighter Santa Fe. The two destroyers were relieved on the 12th of November, escorting Strasbourg and Algérie back to France on the 21st, and then went to reform a now-understrength Force de Raid. 

Based in the Atlantic, Le Terrible was in relatively calm waters, but her situation did not reflect that of the rest of France’s destroyers. In a situation paralleling France’s struggles on land, French destroyers found themselves increasingly unable to counter the Axis threat, their lackluster-at-best anti-aircraft firepower leading them to suffer heavily at the hands of the Luftwaffe. As the situation deteriorated on land, and French destroyers were being pummeled off Dunkirk, Force de Raid was sent to Mers-el-Kébir on the 5th of April in anticipation of Italian entry into the war, but on the 9th was sent back to Brest in anticipation of combat in Norway. However, on the 27th they were sent back, minus two other destroyers. However, as April wore into May, they were steadily reinforced by more French destroyers, and two of the Bretagne-class battleships. Although early June was spent by most of the ships evacuating personnel from France, Le Terrible remained in Mers-el-Kébir, and was largely inactive throughout June 1940.

9VbrOYN.png

Le Terrible at anchor in Mers-el-Kébir in the Spring of 1940. Beyond her are the light cruisers Gloire and Georges Leygues

 

The Armistice, and Vichy Service

On the 25th of June, 1940, at the early hour of 0035, the French Armistice went into affect. France had surrendered, and French naval forces as per the treaty were frozen in place. Nine days later, the British launched Operation Catapult – the capture or immobilization of French naval assets across the planet to prevent their use against Great Britain. French ships in British ports everywhere were seized just before dawn, and in one of the more tragic moments of WWII, the Battle of Mers-el-Kébir would occur, the largest action of Le Terrible’s career.     

On the morning of July 3rd, Force H from Gibraltar would appear off the French base, consisting of the battleships Valiant and Resolution, battlecruiser Hood, two light cruisers, eleven destroyers, and the carrier Ark Royal in support.

The British offered the French these options;

  1. Sail with the British and continue the fight against Germany and Italy.
  2. Sail to a British port with reduced crews where the ships would be safeguarded until hostilities were over.
  3. Sail with reduced crews to a French West Indies port where the ships could be demilitarized, or entrusted to the safekeeping of the United States.
  4. Sink all ships within six hours
  5. Face the “use of whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German or Italian hands.”

7LtkhmN.png

The calm before the storm - Le Terrible is in the foreground, the time of the picture is about 1400. Mogador can be seen moving towards the harbor entrance. French battleships can be seen at roughly Le Terrible's 11-o'clock

 

Negotiations wore on (I won't go into detail - the point of this thread is not to debate the choices made by either admiral & government at Mers-el-Kébir), and eventually the British informed the French that if no agreements were reached by 1730, they would settle matters for them. At 1730, the French destroyers cast off, while the British battleships and battlecruiser, all with 15” guns, took up position, and Ark Royal flew off a strike force. At 1754 and a range of 17500 yards (16 km), the 15” guns of the British battle-line roared into action. The French admiral, upon visually observing the salvoes being fired, ordered the French ships into action. The destroyers were already forming up, but the battleships were still attempting to cast off. Provence was the first to return fire at 1758, her gunnery officer the best-scoring officer in fleet gunnery exercises. The 340mm shells roared right over Dunkerque’s superstructure to land nearby the Hood. The range being as close as it was, aim was easy and it was not long before she straddled the massive battlecruiser, causing splinter damage. French shore batteries also engaged.

Unfortunately for the French, it as just as Dunkerque was casting off that the British started hitting, with their third salvo. The first rounds glancing off her B turret, in what shouldn’t have been a major hit... but due to the French use of Face-Hardened armor on the turret roof of the small battleship, the impact threw splinters out on both ends of the armor plate, disabling the guns in the turret and also destroying Provence’s main rangefinders, ending her ability to effectively control her fire. Other rounds in salvo over-penetrated Dunkerque's aircraft hangar, and further rounds punched into the battleship Bretagne, sparking a devastating magazine explosion that blew the aft part of the ship apart. As if that wasn’t enough, Mogador, who had been leading the line of French destroyers (Le Terrible being fourth in line), took a hit aft from a 15” shell that triggered her depth charges, blowing the stern of the ship apart. She veered off and anchored in the harbor, rendered combat ineffective. 

wF73dU0.png

The remains of Mogador's stern, blown apart by the explosion of her depth charges 

 

Two minutes later, further rounds struck Dunkerque, two punching through the thin 229mm armor belt. The first round landed in the handling room of one of the 130mm turrets, but fortunately failed to explode. The other shell detonated in a boiler room, and cut off electrical power, disabling the battleship. She had fought briefly but furiously, expending 40 rounds attempting to hit the Hood, but failed to due to the smoke hampering her rangefinders.

At 1803, the destroyer Volta burst from the smoke of the harbor into the open sea, Le Terrible hot on her heels, both ships making 40 knots. They fired sporadically at the British destroyers, 15 km away, who were totally surprised by the appearance of the French warships and opted to flee instead. However, this was the only good news to be had. As Dunkerque drifted clear, Provence took several hits and burst into flame, flooding heavily to boot. Not long after Bretagne capsized with heavy loss of life (almost 90% of her crew), and the crippled Dunkerque beached herself, having lost 15% of her crew. All the French battleships had been accounted for – all but one.

The lone Strasbourg had made her way across the harbor at 15 knots, salvoes dropping in her wake, and then broke out of the harbor at 1809, increasing speed to 28 knots. By the time the British realized she was escaping, it was too late. The British admiral brought Hood around in a sprint at 1820 with the cruisers and destroyers, quickly losing the other two battleships, and ordered Swordfish to attack the French battleship. Volta and Le Terrible, screening to the rear of the fleeing French battleship, uncorked a spread of torpedoes at 1840, set to run 22,000 yards (20.1 km), and two more destroyers copied their move at 1900. Neither spread had a hope of hitting, but they were only intended to dissuade pursuers, not score hits. The French had escaped the British surface units, Le Terrible having fired six torpedoes and ninety-nine 138.6mm shells. Airstrikes would follow, but none were successful, and the French fleet was able to make Toulon without further damage, joined by other scattered elements of the French fleet. The events of Operation Catapult had cost the French two battleships destroyed, one captured, one crippled, plus three more heavy cruisers captured, with scattered losses or capturing of destroyers and light cruisers. 

While elements of the French forces, including 10th DCT, were sent to Dakar to protect to incomplete battleship Richelieu, Le Terrible did not join them, and missed the events of Operation Menace and the Battle of Dakar on the 23rd of September, where the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia disabled and forced the grounding of Le Terrible’s sister L’Audacieux. On the 26th of February 1941 she was sent to Dakar to replace the loss of her sister, and thus rejoined the 10th DCT.  Her life was then blissfully quiet for the remaining 10 months of the year. She would leave again for Toulon for a maintenance cycle on the 31st of December until the 14th of June 1942.

4I9AyaA.png

18 May 1942. Le Terrible is on post-refit trials out of Toulon

 

Being so far removed from the rest of the French fleet at Dakar actually worked in Le Terrible’s favor. The two other major concentrations of French warships were Casablanca and Toulon. With Operation Torch (the Allied invasion of Vichy French North Africa), the French forces at Casablanca was destroyed in action against American warships in the Naval Battle of Casablanca, while the German incursion of Vichy territory in France led to the mass-scuttling of the French fleet at Toulon. With the end of the Vichy Regime, the remaining French ships went in for the Allies, forming the FNFL (Free French Naval Forces), and ships captured by the British during Operation Catapult or interned by the American were returned to the French.

 

Back on the Allied Side & Charleston Refit

On the 3rd of January 1943, Le Terrible and Le Fantasque were inspected by a USN Admiral so that a list of repairs and modernizations could be drafted. They left Dakar for Casablanca on the 24th, arriving four days alter and dropping off the entirety of their anti-aircraft armament. On the 1st of February they joined a convoy going to the USA, and went across the Atlantic to arrive in New York City on the 13th. On the 20th they left for Boston, arriving the next day. Sent to the Charleston Navy Yard, the two sisters would receive substantial modification. Le Terrible was in refit until the 22nd of May, and had her machinery overhauled. Numerous pieces of equipment was replaced, including the high-pressure condensers, which were swapped for low-pressure versions. Her diesel generators were also replaced by American models. On top of the light AA already shed, Le Terrible also lost her amidships torpedo mount, reducing her torpedo broadside to just three torpedoes. A quadruple Bofors 40mm mount would be placed between the No.3 & No.4 138.6mm gun mounts, with two twin 40mm mounts in tubs abreast the second funnel. Eight single 20mm Oerlikons were also included, four abreast the superstructure fore, two abreast the aft guns, and two on the platform aft of the second funnel.

SznoErU.png

Le Terrible arrives in Boston, 21 February 1943

 

Each 40mm mount was given an American Mk.51 AA director, and the bridge was rebuilt to accommodate a radar plot for the fitted SF surface search and SA air search radar. An Alpha 128 ASDIC sonar system was installed, usable below 25 knots, as well as a degaussing cable to counter magnetic mines. In exchange, not only did her centerline torpedo tubes have to be landed, but so did her torpedo rangefinder (atop her main gun director), the reserve 5-meter Stereoscopic rangefinder, and boats and associated cranes were landed in exchange for rafts. Despite these losses, she still came out of refit some 410 tons heavier, giving her a new ‘normal’ displacement of 3250 tons. Although the Americans recommended she land her No.3 gun, the French refused.

She ran trials starting on the 13th of May, and Le Terrible proved herself still able to make 37 knots despite her heavier state – truly an impressive performance!

az8zi85.png

Le Terrible's sister, Le Fantasque, running trials from Boston to Cape Cod after her Charleston refit, still able to make up to 37 knots. 13 June 1943

 

 

FNFL Service

Le Terrible’s first missions after modernization sent her to the Caribbean in July, as French islands there began to rally to the Free French cause. She stopped in Martinique on the 14th of July, and Guadeloupe the day after. She went back to Martinique, and finally on the 30th left to cross the Atlantic once again, arriving in Dakar on the 5th of August. She left for Algiers on the 9th and arrived on the 15th, joining her sister Le Fantasque once more, and 10th DCT was re-formed.

On the evening of the 20th, the two French destroyers embarked on their first combat operation, sent to raid Scalea, on the northwest coast of Calabria. Their mission was to bombard German headquarters in the town, but was interrupted by the attack of Italian MAS boats (fast attack craft) – however, neither side suffered any damage, and the French destroyers returned on the morning of the 21st. 

The two sisters were subsequently attached to the screen British Force H, and were assigned to the covering of the Salerno landings. Force H’s mission that day was to guard against intervention of the Italian battlefleet, and consisted of the carriers Illustrious and Formidable, and the battleships Nelson, Rodney, Valiant, and Warspite. Including the French destroyers, fourteen destroyers acted as their screen. On the early morning of the 9th of September, 1943, the Italian battlefleet was raising steam in the their main base of La Spezia, preparing for a final ‘do-or-die’ attack on the landings. The mission called for the commitment of the battleships Italia, Vittorio Veneto, and Roma accompanied by six light cruisers, ten destroyers, and five torpedo boats. At the cost of air defense in the Northern Tyrrhenian, the fleet was to have full air cover from Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe fighters. Such a clash would have been the largest naval action fought in Europe since the Battle of Jutland, larger even than the Battle of Calabria three years earlier.

However, this attack never came due to the Armistice of Cassibile, and instead numerous battles would be fought between Italian and German forces across the peninsula. For the destroyers of 10th DCT, their only action would come from defending against air attacks. Released back into French control after returning to Algiers, they departed again on the 13th to conduct raids on Ajaccio in Corsica, attacking twice before Le Terrible had to be taken out of action due to turbine failure. The fragile turbines of the class, now that they were finally seeing regular service, became a major issue for the French destroyers. On the 28th, they were re-designated as light cruisers, which gave them higher priority for maintenance and replenishment than other allied destroyers. Their division was thus re-designated as the 10th DCL. However, due to the fragile nature of their propulsion, the ships spent significant time out of action while repairs were conducted, finally finished on the 17th of October. Their first mission was to escort the now-completed battleship Richelieu from the Azores to Mers-el-Kébir, which was completed successfully. They were then reassigned to accompany the British light cruiser Phoebe on raids into the Aegean in late November, but aside from downing an aircraft were unable to make contact with any Axis ships.

In February 1944, the 10th DCL was transferred to a port north of Manfredonia in Puglia and reinforced by the Le Malin, in order to launch raids into the Adriatic. Being fast but still well armed, the Le Fantasque’s were perfect for launching night attacks on German coastal shipping. On the night of the 27th, Le Terrible ventured north with Le Fantasque, but found nothing. The next night she stayed in port while her sisters hunted fruitlessly. However, on the night of the 29th she ventured out again, this time with Le Malin, at 1345, after hearing that a German convoy had left Pola at 1245, bound for Piraeus in Attica (north-west Greece). It centered around a freighter escorted by two torpedo boats, two corvettes, and three minesweepers. What followed was Le Terrible’s second surface action of her career, known as the Battle off Ist.

XR7StHd.png

Le Terrible in Manfredonia, March 1944

 

The two French destroyers, with Le Terrible being the flagship under command of Commander Pierre Lancelot, had just passed Ist some nine hours after leaving Manfredonia, when Le Terrible’s radar picked up contacts bearing due north at 18,600 yards (17 km). Lancelot immediately increased speed to 30 knots, the maximum possible gunnery speed of his ships, and made contact about ten minutes later. At 2144 and at range of 8,750 yards (8 km) both destroyers unleashed their 200-kilogram broadsides on the German ships, Le Terrible targeting the freighter while Le Malin engaged the escorts. The German ships immediately returned fire and began to make smoke. Le Malin’s shooting was much better than her sister’s, hitting the torpedo boat TA37 on her second salvo, while Le Terrible only finally hit her target at 2148, after closing the range to 4500 yards (4.1 km). However, both ships quickly left their targets blazing, and Le Terrible let lose a spread of torpedoes, scoring a hit on the freighter at 2157. Le Malin moved northwest, and encountering the corvette UJ201, tore her up with shells and uncorked her own torpedoes. Like Le Terrible, one ran right into her target, causing a magazine detonation that utterly annihilated the 670-ton corvette. TA37 suffered another hit into her engine room, cutting her speed to 10 knots, and TA36 also suffered damage. However, as the minesweepers moved to rescue survivors from UJ201, Lancelot mistook them for MTB’s, and disengaged, unwilling to fight fast attack craft in a melee. The two destroyers made good their escape totally undamaged, leaving the freighter ground to a halt and ablaze, TA37 burning heavily, and a corvette sunk. The 6,311 GRT freighter would later sink.

Le Terrible and Le Fantasque would sortie again on the 2nd of March to hunt for targets in the gulf of Venice, but due to a lack of targets the operation was cancelled. Another operation near Trieste was conducted on the night of the 4th, but was likewise unsuccessful.  With the Adriatic empty of targets for the time being, the efforts of 10th DCL was re-directed towards Greece and the Aegean, and the two ‘cruisers’ sortied on the 7th to bombard German positions on the Greek island of Zakynthos. They carried out a final patrol on the 15th into the Adriatic but encountered nothing, but on the 19th were sent to Navarino, encountering four German ‘Seibel Ferries’ (essentially catamarans with 8.8cm and 20mm cannons stuck onto it, used as AA barges, landing craft, or transports) and an MFP landing craft. The action was far from even, two of the Seibel Ferries being sunk and the other two being crippled, although 20mm fire damaged both French ships, wounding one man on Le Terrible and eight on Le Fantasque.

After dropping off their wounded at Malta and undergoing a brief refit, 10th DCL transferred to Alexandria in Egypt, and through May, launched a series of fruitless raids into the Aegean. After further maintenance in Alexandria, 10th DCL minus Le Malin transferred back to the Adriatic, and finally encountered the enemy again on the night of June 16th, where they sank the oil tanker Giuliana (350 GRT). Another raid was launched on the 25th, but nothing happened except for their fragile propulsion systems catching up to them. Le Malin had to be left behind in the first place because her port shaft had to be removed. On the June 25th mission Le Fantasque’s own port shaft suffered severe vibration issues limiting her top speed to 25 knots. Le Terrible also began developing issues, and all three ships of 10th DCL had to be sent to Bizerte for repairs.

In August, the 10th DCL (minus Le Malin’s port shaft) would join a force comprising of virtually all of France’s surviving cruisers and destroyers in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France. The landings took place on the 15th, and Le Terrible bombarded Saint-Aygulf, expending 158 HE rounds. Later that night she provided fire support for allied troops advancing towards Cannes, but soon Allied troops advanced beyond the range of available naval guns. On the 1st of October Le Fantasque and Le Terrible escorted Richelieu into Toulon, the first time a Free French battleship entered the port since the Fall of France. Le Terrible and Le Malin then underwent refit in Toulon followed by maintenance in Bizerte. However, soon after departing for Toulon, disaster struck. On a night exercise, Le Malin’s bows slammed into the side of Le Terrible at 26 knots, killing 62 men in the bow of the destroyer, which broke off and sank. Eight other men would die, and Le Terrible’s hull was badly damaged for a length of 27 meters (a fifth of the entire ship’s length) and breeched in four separate areas. With the engine rooms and aft boiler room flooded, the damage to Le Terrible was heavy, and took her out of the war. She would be repaired at Bizerte, her badly damaged port-side 40mm twin mount replaced by two singles, and she also gained the addition of a British Type 285P4 affixed to the top of her main battery director for anti-aircraft gunnery.

KJt1xk6.png

After her 1945 refit. Her new AA fire control radar can be seen atop her director

 

 

Post-War Service

She was finally re-commissioned on 1 January 1946, well after the end of the war. On the 26th, she returned to Toulon, and in May she and Le Malin embarked on a ‘show-the-flag’ mission to Northern Europe. In January of 1947 all surviving members of the class were grouped into the 10th DCL, typically with two of the four ships being active at any given time. Le Terrible and Le Malin participated in fleet exercises from April to May, and then in January of 1948 the 10th was re-designated into the 1st DCL. Le Terrible would participate in exercises again that year with Le Triomphant, but would be deactivated in July, and officially went into reserve on the 15th of March 1950. The ships would finally drop the ‘light cruiser’ designation in July of 1951, and instead became ‘Escort Destroyers 1st Class’. 

In May of 1952 she underwent a major refit in Toulon, and also replaced her two single 40mm mounts for a new twin mount, and returned to Toulon in 1953, now re-designated as a ‘Fast Escort’ (escorteur rapide). She spent the latter part of May and early June on a cruise in the eastern Mediterranean, and later that June joined the escort force of the carrier La Fayette (Originally the American Independence-class light carrier Langley) until February 1954. She then operated with Belleau, also an Independence, until August, and rejoined La Fayette the next month until February 1955.

7lWnTqG.png

Le Terrible pictured not long after her 1952/53 refit

 

From there she transferred to the screen of Arromanches, an ex-British Colossus-class light carrier, and in August was transferred to Brest. She made port on the 28th, and was decommissioned on the 1st of September. She then served as a training ship, put into special reserve in December of 1956, and was finally stricken on June 29th, 1962. Le Terrible was broken up for scrap in 1963 at Brest, ending a 30-year life.

 

Reflections

 

So just how successful was the Le Fantasque-class?

Like so many ships in WWII, these ships operated in very different roles than they were intended to. As they were designed, they still reflected the ideas of the linage of previous contre-torpilleurs – fast and well armed in order to fight Italian esploratori and smaller destroyers – but were made faster and fitted with even more powerful guns in order to fight the larger esploratori of the Giussano-class. As the naval war with Italy never developed, we never got to see such intended combat roles displayed. However, some of her wartime career does illustrate her strengths and weaknesses.

For one, her speed and firepower did translate into a fearsome weapon. The class was not shy at all in regards to demonstrating their speed, able to make up to 40 knots after completed, and still hit 37 knots after their American refits! Their speed meant they were able to get relatively heavy firepower (for a destroyer) into combat in areas other destroyers would not be expected to appear, which lead to instances of great surprise. For example, at Mers-el-Kébir, where the sudden appearance of French contre-torpilleurs firing wildly put the British destroyers screening the harbor entrance to flight, which allowed Strasbourg to slip out initially undetected. The Battle off Ist was another good example – the Germans did not expect the Allies to be able to send destroyers up the Adriatic so far, and the appearance of Le Terrible and Le Malin caught the Germans totally by surprise. Their heavy firepower allowed them to dominate in the brief engagement, and then flee so as to maintain the cover of night on their return.

However, against cruisers this was a very different story – at the Battle of Dakar, the heavy cruiser Australia wrecked the L’Audacieux with a single salvo (this salvo being the third salvo), forcing her to beach heavily aflame – the destroyer was never recovered. This was reflected by other classes of Contre-Torpilleurs, such as the Engagement off Sidon, where two Guépard-class destroyers engaged a force of four British destroyers, their superior firepower crippling one and leaving another slight damaged in exchange for a single hit, and then breaking off the action before the two non-engaged British destroyers could join the action. However, in the following two actions (1st & 2nd Encounter off Beirut) the British had light cruisers on their side, and the French could not repeat their prior results. In the two battles of Oran during Operation Torch, the British light cruiser Aurora demolished a force of several French destroyers, albeit these were ‘regular’ destroyers, not the contre-torpilleur ‘super-destroyers’.

As excellent as their speed and firepower was, their reliability proved to be considerably less attractive. The turbines of the ships never quite behaved, but the severity of this issue was disguised for their early career simply by the fact these ships weren’t very active. However, after the fall of the Vichy Regime and the entry of many of those ships into FNFL service, they started seeing regular service… and then their true colors started to shine through. Time between refits was brief, and the propulsion system took them out of action repeatedly. Were it not for the great resources of the Allied Powers, this would have been a far more severe concern.

 

So, all that aside, one obvious question nags - how would things have gone down if they went… well, as intended? Contre-Torpilleur versus Esploratori?

We'll break down the three scenario's below;

 

Contre Torpilleur versus Esploratore Leggere (Le Fantasque versus Navigatori)

Spoiler

The Contender - the Navigatori-class

KFzATWY.png

Nicoloso da Recco near La Spezia in the summer of 1942

 

The Navigatori-class was the last evolution of the Regia Marina’s original esploratori.  Originally laid down in 1927-1928, almost had been rebuilt in 1939-1940 (due to stability issues), which is the form in which we will be comparing them. They had a standard displacement of 2125 tons, and a maximum displacement of 2888 tons, about 84.5% of the Le Fantasque’s displacement. The maximum speed of the Navigatori in this form was 34 knots at 55,000shp, and their armament consisted of six Ansaldo M1926 120mm/50 in three twin turrets, which fired a 23.25 kg SAP shell at a velocity of 920 mps, which could reach a maximum range of 19.6 km at 45º elevation (HE performance was practically identical, being only 5 grams lighter). The rate of fire was 6-7 rpm, and was controlled by a Director with two 3-meter stereoscopic rangefinders that fed a RM Type 1 Version 1 Fire Control Computer (RM-11). The guns used a FTP system, but were electrically elevated and traversed. They were also equipped with two 533mm triple torpedo banks, which utilized the 533mm Si 270.

Only one Navigatori survived the war, the Nicoloso da Recco. For the most part, these ships, having been de-rated to destroyers in 1938, served on the convoy routes to North Africa, thanks in part both to their great endurance, and the ability to hold so much anti-aircraft weaponry for a ship their size – most of these ships by mid 1941 had 7 to 9 20mm cannons, and in 1942 many of the surviving ships traded their aft torpedo mounts for two of the excellent single 37mm/54 M1939 autocannons. Like many of the Italian destroyers that served on the North African convoy routes, their gunnery crews, despite lacking any anti-aircraft fire control equipment for their main batteries, became increasingly adept at taking down Allied aircraft with their main guns – the aforementioned Nicoloso da Recco having the most famous incident, where she downed three Beaufort bombers in a single engagement. And, despite their constant missions, their machinery proved remarkably reliable, although totally worn out by the end of the war.

So, in the event of contact between these two ships being made in a hostile setting, who comes out on top?

In a 1-on-1 setting, it should be of little surprise that Le Fantasque appears to have a significant leg up. Her displacement is some 18.3% greater than a Navigatori, and this shows in how much punishment one can deal out versus the other – Le Fantasque’s broadside is some 43% heavier (199.5 kg vs 139.5 kg), and the Italian 120mm gun does not have any advantage in rate of fire, so this disparity will be the same over the course of a minute or two. In regards to fire control, at least on a paper the French ship has an advantage due to the greater base-length of her rangefinders (5m vs 3m – assuming 25x magnification, this would result in a 56.1m range error vs. a 93.8m error at 12 km). Also, Le Fantasque far outstrips the Italian destroyer in raw speed, able to reach 40 knots versus 34 knots.

A number of factors, however, do reduce some of these advantages. The rate of fire of the French destroyer will begin to drop off once the ready ammunition is depleted, diminishing the gap in broadside weight. The Italian system, although using lesser base lengths, used two rangefinders in the directors versus the one of the French director, reducing potential for errors to throw off aim. Likewise, whereas the Italian destroyer can engage in gunnery at top speed in good conditions (obviously this would degrade as weather degraded, especially for a system like the RM-11), the vibration issues faced by the Le Fantasque-class would prevent if from being able to accurately engage at speeds greater than 30 knots.

However, the difference made by these advantages to the Italian destroyer isn’t necessarily as great as one might expect. Destroyer fights tend to be quick affairs – they don’t drag out as cruiser or battleship fights might. Especially in a 1-on-1 scenario, it is unlikely the fight will drag out enough for the French destroyer to exhaust its ready racks. Likewise, while the Italian Fire Control system (at least by what was demonstrated in service if not theoretical discussion) may have been superior overall, long-range fights are rarely decisive, and in any case would favor the greater hitting power of the French shells (and lesser dispersion, as the Italian 120mm win mounts use a common cradle) – and more likely than not the destroyers would close rapidly enough that the range would be close enough for it not to matter. In any case, given the disparity in firepower and the greater size of the French vessel (able to take more hits), the fight clearly favors the French ship – a Le Fantasque will beat a Navigatori more often than not.

That being said – while DCT’s tended to operate in groups of three, Italian destroyer squadrons tended to operate in groups of four. This would even things out in regards to the extra destroyer helping to make up the disparity in broadside eight (not totally, however – 598.5 kg vs 558 kg), and it is now twenty-four versus fifteen guns firing – but the French practice of concentration firing pairs with dye shells would allow them to distinguish their fire far more easily then the Italians. Then again, concentration fire would require them to leave enemy ships un-engaged, which would be a disadvantage. Of course – if your opponent has to bring more ships to the fight than you in order to call things equal, than you’ve already sort of won that one.

 

Contre Torpilleur versus Esploratore Grande (Le Fantasque versus Giussano)

Spoiler

The Contender - the Giussano-class

zI6MmjF.png

The Giovanni delle Bande Nere just prior to the Second Battle of Sirte. She was the longest-lived and most successful of the Giussano-class light cruisers. 

 

So how does Le Fantasque compare to the ships she was meant to counter? These ships, of course, were the first Condottieri group, the Giussano-class (eventual) light cruisers. The Giussano-class light cruisers, built to kill contre-torpilleurs, were designed first and foremost to be fast and well armed. They were, as commissioned, capable of up to 37 knots (having made anywhere from 38.18 to 42.05 knots in trials on displacements only about 500 tons greater than standard). At 6844 tons, they were twice the tonnage of a Le Fantasque. They were armed with eight 152mm/53 M1926 in four twin power-operated turrets, and fired a 44.57 kg HE projectile at a velocity of 950mps to a maximum range of 24600 meters at 45º elevation. The rate of fire was 4 rpm, and the guns were controlled via a director with 5-meter rangefinders, which fed a RM-11 Fire Control computer, which was then fed to the turrets (which, as mentioned, were power-operated). The ships were armored, too, featuring a 24mm main belt with a 18mm internal bulkhead, and a 20mm armor deck. The design intent was to defeat or trigger HE shells on the main belt, with the internal bulkhead catching any splinters.

As good as that sounds on paper, these ships were somewhat of a disaster in service, having poor stability, unreliable guns with poor dispersion, and numerous other issues. The armor proved to be virtually worthless due to the fact any navy (the RM included) would use APC or SAP on a cruiser of any description, and it was overall far too thin to defeat even SAP shells from destroyer guns. The guns themselves were also rather poor, prone to frequent jamming – almost 10% of rounds would fail to fire for one reason or another. The use of a common cradle also caused dispersion issues for the main guns, further reducing accuracy, and the light construction of the turrets meant they could not properly handle recoil forces, and this also increased dispersion. As if that wasn’t enough, the great speed of these ships was not usable in combat – due to the limitations of the Gimetros of the RM-11 and the instability of the Giussano's as a platform, in anything other than placid waters, it was largely impossible to maintain accurate gunnery at speed greater than 32 knots.

Le Fantasque once again has a higher top speed (although by a lesser margin), but still a lower (albeit also by a lesser margin) gunnery speed. The Italian cruiser is better able to take hits due to its greater displacement, but overall the armor protection is worthless against anything but splinters. Her gunpower is greater, with 80% greater broadside weight (356.56 kg), but also able to hit at far greater range, easily able to engage accurately (as far as fire control is concerned, at least) out to 20 km. However, due to the low rate of fire of the guns and the failure rate of the guns, the total kg put downrange in a given minute is actually about the same as a Le Fantasque.

In a 1-on-1 engagement, I think despite all the serious flaws the Giussano still holds the edge due to the great range advantage, and, in spite of its shortcomings in regards to stability, a very capable fire control system. Le Fantasque is going to struggle to close the range, and near misses against her opponent won’t help her – while near misses against her by the Italian 152mm HE shells will be a significant issue. This again becomes a question of displacement making the outcome obviously – Giussano is naturally more powerful being twice the displacement of the French ‘superdestroyer’. That being said, in the 3-on-1 scenario envisioned by the French as ideal, I think that it would almost be assuredly a French victory. A Giussano can only split its fire between two ships, so one destroyer will always be unengaged. Likewise, the French practiced divisional concentration fire and used dyed shells – so even with three ships shooting at the same target, their fire should still be effective. The cruiser cannot run from the destroyers, if the destroyers are willing to cease fire, and its ability to control range is likewise limited should the French be willing to have their guns go silent (or just be ineffective). And, of course, the armor of the Italian ship may as well not exist. In a 3-on-2 scenario, which is more likely (as Italian cruisers operated in pairs), I think it would still be a toss-up due to the deficiencies of the Giussano-class.

That being said, the improved successors, the Cadorna-class, would change things significantly. Reaching 7113-7194 tons fully loaded, they were of greater displacement, but spent this on increasing stability and hull strength. Protection was unchanged and maximum speed dropped to 36.5 knots, but numerous upgrades to weapon systems were included. The main battery were replaced with the 152/53 M1929, which had the reduced AP ballistics, and some of the same issues (use of a common cradle, and dispersion made greater because of recoil forces and a light turret), but the new guns fixed the reliability issues and also doubled rate of fire. Furthermore, the fire control system was replaced with the far superior RM-12, which was capable of engaging with own-ship speeds of up to 40 knots, targets making up to 40 knots, with a range of 30 km and able to compensate for heeling/listing of ±10º. Although foolish to call it a foregone conclusion, in a 1-on-1 a Cadorna would be far more effective than a Giussano (although combat speed is still limited – despite the RM’s efforts, the Cadorna’s were still not particularly stable platforms), and holds far too many cards against a destroyer. 3-on-1 would likely still favor the French division, as many of the same problems for a Giussano persist (only able to engage two targets, no real armor, French fire control practice and speed advantage), but the more realistic 3-on-2 I feel would favor the Italians far more.

The succeeding class, the Montecuccoli, would remove stability issues, and also due to stronger turrets remove dispersion issues related to recoil (but the use of common cradle remained, and continued to contributed to dispersion). As they incorporated real armor (60mm + 25mm), they would be far more capable of ‘bullying’ the destroyers as conventional cruisers could, and would likely triumph in any given fight except perhaps a 3-on-1. However, these are far outside of the scope of what the French hoped to deal with with their superdestroyers

 

Contre Torpilleur versus Esploratore Oceanico (Le Fantasque versus Capitani Romani)

Spoiler

The Contender - the Capitani Romani-class

j57293f.jpg

Scipione Africano, the most famous 'Capitani', during trials

 

 

The final ships of the Franco-Italian rivalry were the Capitani Romani-class ‘light cruisers’, which were smaller than the Giussano-class but larger than the Mogador-class, clocking in at 5420 tons fully loaded (58.6% greater than le Fantasque). Fitted with propulsion capable of 110,000 shp, they could make up to 41 knots in service, and were armed with eight OTO 135mm/45 in four twin turrets, firing 33 kg shells at a velocity of 825 mps to a maximum range of 19600 meters at 45º. They fired at a rate of up to 7.5 rpm for a 264 kg broadside and a 1980 kg output per minute. They utilized an RM-12 Fire control system fed by a director with 4-meter rangefinders, and were fitted with a full remote power control & stabilization system, enabling them to engage at top speed – in fact, one of their members, the Scipione Africano, fought the highest-speed engagement of WWII in the Straits of Messina, engaging British MTBs in a night action while making 37 to 40 knots. Designed specifically to kill Le Fantasque and Mogador-class destroyers, there is little doubt in my mind as to their ability to achieve this, as not only were they simply faster than either French destroyer, but also able to engage at high speed and under maneuvers – something neither French super-destroyer was capable of.

Not only did this give them much greater tactical freedom, but compared to the Le Fantasque’s they also hit much harder, with a heavier broadside (32.3%) and weight of fire over the course of a minute (41.8%). They were considerably more offensively capable, and were also more defensively capable, due to at least some splinter protection, and also a larger volume of ship to absorb fire if it was taken - but in any case the greater freedom of maneuver meant she’d be a harder target to hit. Range would also be a concern for the French superdestroyer - while theoretically the French 138.6/50 had greater range than the 135/45 by some 400 meters, it was effectively limited to 14 km. To compare, RM doctrine gave 15-17 km as good ranges to open fire with the 135mm gun, and ideal combat range being 11-13 km.

Ultimately, the Capitani Romani-class had major inherent advantages, not only being of considerably greater displacement, but also simply by coming along 10 years later, when the available technology was superior to what had been around before 1930 - and these advantages become telling when the two ships are directly compared. 

 

Assessment of the Comparisons

All in all, things settle in a decent place for the Le Terrible and her sisters. Improved versions of previous contre-torpilleurs, she was more than capable of defeating the esploratori leggeri they had been designed to counter. In regards to fighting the first generation of ‘Condottieri’ cruisers, the Giussano-class ‘esploratori grandi’, she was designed to counter, Le Terrible makes the fight surprisingly close given it’s a destroyer versus cruiser (even if it is a very large destroyer versus a very small cruiser). While 1-on-1 does not necessarily favor a Le Fantasque, by all means the envisioned 3-on-1 scenario (however unlikely it may have been) the Marine Nationale intended should have resulted in a victory for the their DCT’s… although in the face of more realistic doctrines (Italian light cruisers operating in pairs) and more improved versions (the Cadorna-class, and the later first ‘true’ light cruisers of the RM like Montecuccoli-class) this is less likely. Still, they do form an appropriate counter. Against the small cruisers designed to kill them (Capitani Romani), the Le Fantasque’s fare very poorly, but that is to be expected given the technological and displacement gap - so it’s hard to fault the French destroyers in that regard. Overall, because of that the Le Fantasque overall fares well compared to the Italian esploratori types.

 

Final Thoughts

All in all, the Le Fantasque-class can be described as partially successful. While the Marine Nationale did succeed in creating a fast platform with a powerful armament, this came at a high cost. Between the vibration issues and lack of RPC, these two attributes could not be combined in use at the same time, greatly diminishing their value. Furthermore, the relatively unreliable nature of their shell hoists and loading conditions hindered the efficiency of their main armament even in relatively good conditions. Thus offensively they had considerable limitations in spite of their domineering capabilities on paper.

Operationally they also proved rather fragile, not only in hull wear due to steel quality issues, but also the wear inflicted on their turbines, which greatly limited their availability in practice - this stood in stark contrast to the heavy abuse suffered by the turbines of Italian or British destroyers. Likewise, operational range remained poor for a ship of their size, not appreciably greater than the considerably smaller Italian destroyers, and inferior to esploratori of all types. At the core of the matter, these ships could never have sustained the high-intensity operations that typified the service lives of destroyers in the Mediterranean during the Second World War, and their useful lives would rapidly be exhausted in the type of operational tasks Italian and British destroyers conducted during the conflict.  

Much was sacrificed for the sake of high speed, and for heavy and effective firepower on a destroyer hull. As the Italians learned through the harsh lessons of the Giussano-class, this is a disastrous combination, leading the ships to be unable to effectively engage in the tasks normally demanded of their rate, and furthermore poorly suited to the task for which they were designed. In every sense of the expression the Le Terrible and her sisters embodied the Laozi quote “The flame that burns Twice as bright burns half as long” - they could briefly let their weight be known with their high speed and heavy broadsides, but that could only last so long as ready ammunition was exhausted, and their ability to operate at all limited by the fragility of their turbines. While a threat to destroyers, against proper cruisers they were at considerable disadvantage, once again proving that balanced designs always work better than ones that sacrifice one aspect heavily to feed another.

They were potent combatants, but for every one of their virtues they had considerable vices. In that way, they were very much the French equivalent to the Italian Giussano-class they were designed to counter - concepts that demanded to much of the premature technology available at the time. Had they come five years later, they perhaps would have been far more potent combatants than they were as built, or even moreso than the Mogador-class. They came just before the wave of ships utilizing higher-quality steels, that allowed stronger hulls with less materials used. The advantages of this are exemplified best by the heavy cruiser Algérie - she was the same standard displacement as the other French heavy cruisers, but her hull structure was only 75-80% the mass of her predecessors, allowing her quadruple the amount of armor carried compared to them! This was also helped by the development of lighter machinery, which the Le Fantasque-class had already benefited from.

In any case, regardless of how optimized the Le Fantasque-class was for the realities of service, if nothing else it cannot be doubted that they acquitted themselves well in action, and lead the charge for the forces of the Marine Nationale on multiple occasions. When they were needed, they were present, even if it was in spite of their moody turbines! While most of Le Terrible's career saw her in action in the Mediterranean, with some Atlantic excursions, her sisters operated everywhere, from the Caribbean to the English Channel, and from Indochina to the Adriatic. It is not for nothing that the Le Fantasque-class, and Le Terrible, remain some of the most well-known of the French superdestroyers, and for that matter are some of the best-known French warships as a whole.
 

  • Cool 27

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2,961
[DAKI]
Privateers, Members
8,634 posts
7,637 battles

This... is amazing. Excellent work!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1,894
[HYDRO]
Members
3,467 posts
4,940 battles

Excellent article, incredible effort.

If I may a question. Is there any info on how stable Mogadors were in the Atlantic? Or to rephrase the question, were they designed with the Mediterranean conditions in mind, or did they also have good ocean-going capabilities?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3,252
[90TH]
[90TH]
Alpha Tester
7,725 posts
8,930 battles
5 hours ago, Phoenix_jz said:

Being so far removed from the rest of the French fleet at Dakar actually worked in Le Terrible’s favor. The two other major concentrations of French warships were Casablanca and Toulon. With Operation Torch (the Allied invasion of Vichy French North Africa), the French forces at Casablanca was destroyed in action against American warships in the Naval Battle of Casablanca, while the German incursion of Vichy territory in France led to the mass-scuttling of the French fleet at Toulon. With the end of the Vichy Regime, the remaining French ships went in for the Allies, forming the FNFL (Free French Naval Forces), and ships captured by the British during Operation Catapult or interned by the American were returned to the French.

excellent read

Vichy didn't fall, as a regime, until 1944. But it is unclear in your narrative exactly when Terrible began fighting with the Allies. Especially as you remind us, Terrible underwent a refit with the help of the USN in 43.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
466
[UFFA]
Members
1,654 posts
72 battles

Great work.

iirc even Guépard and Valmy, older French destroyers outshot the British destroyers.

Edited by Sparviero

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7,231
[WAIFU]
Alpha Tester, In AlfaTesters, Beta Testers
13,556 posts
5,666 battles

Nice read. Thumbs up.

I'm worried for the French DDs personally. Aigle and Le Terrible haven't exactly gained glowing reviews, and their contre-torpilleur large destroyer concept means they'll probably have relatively uncompetitive concealment. It's one of those instances where real world designs don't translate well into WoWs game mechanics. Concealment means so much to DDs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3,252
[90TH]
[90TH]
Alpha Tester
7,725 posts
8,930 battles
1 minute ago, Super_Dreadnought said:

Nice read. Thumbs up.

I'm worried for the French DDs personally. Aigle and Le Terrible haven't exactly gained glowing reviews, and their contre-torpilleur large destroyer concept means they'll probably have relatively uncompetitive concealment. It's one of those instances where real world designs don't translate well into WoWs game mechanics. Concealment means so much to DDs.

Both French dds have a bad rep, and are under estimated. 

Which makes it easier, to farm dmg off unsuspecting enemies. Love them both. They translate with a je ne sais quoi, admirably.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
466
[UFFA]
Members
1,654 posts
72 battles
3 hours ago, Super_Dreadnought said:

Nice read. Thumbs up.

I'm worried for the French DDs personally. Aigle and Le Terrible haven't exactly gained glowing reviews, and their contre-torpilleur large destroyer concept means they'll probably have relatively uncompetitive concealment. It's one of those instances where real world designs don't translate well into WoWs game mechanics. Concealment means so much to DDs.

Something I read the other day is the 130mm round of the French was about the closest thing to being near as efficient, in regards to ballistics, as the blessed 130mm stalinium of the Russians. Obviously not fired near as fast. So maybe the "lighter" armed destroyers might be interesting to play. Le Hardi anyone?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2,958
[SYN]
[SYN]
Members
7,834 posts
12,043 battles

A superlative piece, lots of great stuff and an enjoyable read.

The arms-race between France-Italy and (occasional 3rd wheel Germany) was pretty interesting, though very little of it was ('sadly' from a history though not humanitarian perspective) ever really borne out in combat - the Dunkerque's never fought Deutschlands, the Littorio's never fought the Dunkerque's, the Richelieu's and the Bismarck's etc. etc. The Tribal class never really fought IJN 'Special-type' destroyers. So to with the super-destroyer arms race.

I'm not 100% convinced that trying to build such specific counters would ever have worked out anyway, it's rather niche and rather 'everything will go well' which given 'no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy' doesn't tend to work out. The idea that you'll have a neat 3-ship CT division and they'll have a neat arrangement of cruisers probably goes out the window the minute one of your ships throws a propeller blade on the way out of harbor. Or, more likely ends up in refit thanks to engine trouble. Early in WWII you can see pretty 'standardized' formations, but add attrition, disorganization and suddenly it's more hodge-podge.

You generate some very niche ships, certainly the French CT's did generally get the better of the lighter British destroyers (and German big destroyers likewise), for which we have the most examples, but cruisers had overwhelming advantages. For relatively big, costly ships that's quite a problem. I also wonder how well the CT's would have performed in day-to-day tasks such as fleet ASW escort. I remember them having poor handling, though I can't cite it.

 

There are some interesting parallels with the German heavy Zerstörer program. Examining the Type 1936A for instance they have a pretty similar displacement - ~2,600t standard for both the German -1936's and the Le Fantasque's. The German ships also had pretty severe mechanical reliability issues, the poster child probably being Z-15 Erich Steinbrinck spending about 66% of WWII in refit, predominantly for machinery malaise. The German ships also have outsize guns for a typical destroyer, but few of them, though they sacrifice the very high speed for a heavier torpedo broadside.

 

In a large number of cruiser on large destroyer clashes the cruisers almost always came off far better, I'd certainly agree with your general conclusions of LF vs. some destroyers good, LF vs. some weaker cruisers questionable, but LF vs. either a later Condotierri or a Capitani Romani being a bad deal. The problem in that scenario for the LF is that by far the best way to even the odds as a destroyer against a cruiser is with torpedoes - and a broadside of 6 on a 2,600t ship operating in a group of 3 is quite weak.

All the destroyer successes on cruisers were achieved by torpedoes - the sinking of Scylla by German Elbing class, the Haguro going down to destroyers, the IJN destroyers sinking Helena, and then Northampton and crippling Minneapolis, Pensacola and New Orleans in one night. Gunfights mean the destroyers usually come off badly - 28 Jan 45, Biscay, Epervier vs. Aurora, L'Audacieux v. Australia, Empress Augusta Bay, RN DD v. IT CA/L at 2nd Sirte etc.

I'm not really sure that a 2,600t-3,000t destroyer that can prove worthwhile against lighter 1,500-1,800t destroyers but is potentially even worse against 'proper' cruisers, battleships and possibly for ASW is that worthwhile - with the benefit of years of hindsight.

  • Cool 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1,063
[SPTR]
Members
26,718 posts
13,289 battles

Good read, alot better read than Wikipedia's page on her, its nice to see a more in-depth history of Le Terrible.

I actually enjoyed reading this to the point that I felt pretty sad at the part where she was broken up for scrap. /;_\\

Its really clear that you mention how her advantages(and disadvantages) and the way it affected the large destroyer during her service. /^_\\ b

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2,742
[HINON]
Privateers, In AlfaTesters
7,640 posts
2,112 battles
19 hours ago, thebigblue said:

Amazing article.

Thank you very much for putting that together. 

Very interesting and immersive read.

 

18 hours ago, SireneRacker said:

This... is amazing. Excellent work!

 

17 hours ago, DarfTarts421 said:

Hey, that's pretty good.

Thanks, I'm glad you guys enjoyed it! It was certainly a very interesting to do, as researching a lot of it turned up a lot of very interesting stuff I hadn't known beforehand.

 

16 hours ago, warheart1992 said:

Excellent article, incredible effort.

If I may a question. Is there any info on how stable Mogadors were in the Atlantic? Or to rephrase the question, were they designed with the Mediterranean conditions in mind, or did they also have good ocean-going capabilities?

The Mogador-class was actually specifically designed for Atlantic surface, as they were meant to accompany the Dunkerque-class battleships, who's major design consideration was dealing with the German Deutschland-class panzerschiff. As a result, they were designed to have much stronger hulls, and used a lot of 60 kg/mm2 UTS steel in key areas to increase the strength of the hull (although the vast majority of the ship was still 50 kg steel like the Le Fantasque-class). Thus, they already benefited somewhat over their predecessors in having access to higher quality steels. Their frame spacing was also reduced (from every 2.1 meters to every 1.8 meters). This made them a lot stronger platforms, although their increased top weight was somewhat of a detractor from their stability.

It's also important to note they used a more advanced propulsion system overall. Le Fantasque's propulsion weighed 1016.38 tons, with four boilers (either Yarrow-Lorie or Penhöet) operating at a pressure of 27 kg/cm2 and a temperature of 325º C (225º + 100º superheated), and two Rateau or Parsons turbines generating 74,000 CV. Mogador's machinery, in contrast, weighed slightly more (1042.4 tons), used four Indret boilers that operated at a pressure of 35 kg/cm2, and a pressure of 385º C (235º C +150º C superheating), and used two Rateau-Bretagne turbines which generated 92,000 CV - a 2.5% increase in weight for a 24.3% increase in shaft horsepower.

They proved quite capable of Atlantic service, strong enough not to sustain damage like lighter-built contre-torpilleurs did, and still able to maintain decent speed - 35 knots in sea state 4, and overall when undamaged they were considered to be stable enough. What worried the French more was how excessively widely they turned, as the turning circle was actually larger than that of the Dunkerque-class battleships.

  • Cool 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1,104
[LEGIO]
Members
3,305 posts
6,191 battles

Some sources list six 40mm guns (one quad, two singles) and ten 20mm (four near the bridge, four behind the second funnel, and two abreast the quad 40mm) versus the AA armament you give. I'm not certain what is correct.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2,742
[HINON]
Privateers, In AlfaTesters
7,640 posts
2,112 battles
16 hours ago, LoveBote said:

excellent read

Vichy didn't fall, as a regime, until 1944. But it is unclear in your narrative exactly when Terrible began fighting with the Allies. Especially as you remind us, Terrible underwent a refit with the help of the USN in 43.

That's a good point. The regime still technically outlived Case Anton, but I was considering things more from the point of view that the Vichy government lost sense of independence and no longer controlled its own military forces. It was no longer an actor in the war in a military sense, just a political organization.

Le Terrible and other ships at Dakar joined the Allied cause after Operation Torch, as a result of Case Anton - Admiral Darlan ordered all surviving warships to rally to the Allied cause.

15 hours ago, Sparviero said:

Great work.

iirc even Guépard and Valmy, older French destroyers outshot the British destroyers.

Yep, I referenced this when I referred to the Battle off Sidon. They opened fire from 16,000 yards (14.6 km), and were firing with the benefit of dye shells. The British returned fire at 15,000 yards (13.7 km), and the first hits (Guépard on Janus) came at a range of 10,000 yards (9.1 km), about 8 minutes after the British destroyers opened fire. The British did end up scoring some hits iirc, but the number of hits and damage resulting was far in favor of the French.

 

12 hours ago, Super_Dreadnought said:

Nice read. Thumbs up.

I'm worried for the French DDs personally. Aigle and Le Terrible haven't exactly gained glowing reviews, and their contre-torpilleur large destroyer concept means they'll probably have relatively uncompetitive concealment. It's one of those instances where real world designs don't translate well into WoWs game mechanics. Concealment means so much to DDs.

I think they're a concept that is hurt by just how much of their hull is made up machinery, but perhaps most significant is that their toes are severely stepped on by many Russian destroyers, who do what they do, but better, due to a variety of reasons (game mechanics, interpretation of stats). I think the overpenetration changes for destroyers will help them considerably, and at the very least they'll have the benefit of the insane French speed boost, as things appear now. The concealment, or lack thereof, hurts to a great degree... although as gunboats, that was never going to be particularly important to a contre-torpilleur. Still, it hurts.

9 hours ago, Sparviero said:

Something I read the other day is the 130mm round of the French was about the closest thing to being near as efficient, in regards to ballistics, as the blessed 130mm stalinium of the Russians. Obviously not fired near as fast. So maybe the "lighter" armed destroyers might be interesting to play. Le Hardi anyone?

Sorry I haven't gotten back to you in the other thread where you mentioned this, I still haven't had a chance to read though all the links. But, on the question of French ballistic behavior;

Coming out of WWI France was in a state of shock in regards to the capabilities of their naval artillery, as almost every power (especially Germany and Britain) had been planning on engaging at greater ranges. Thus, the French went on a bit of a ballistic craze, trying to gain superiority in long-range fire. Part of this was extreme optimization of their shells. Whereas, for example, the WWI 340mm APC was 3.15 calibers long, pretty much every new French shell in the post-war period up to WWII was designed to be 5 calibers long, giving them some of the best ballistic shapes of any nation, most foreign types not coming in over 4.5 calibers.

Most likely, that's why the 130mm gun came out with a similar ballistic profile, or at least closer to the Soviet gun than any other destroyer gun.

Looking around with GM3D, the 130mm HE rounds have a drag coefficient of 0.315, which is good although not excellent - but then again, the HE was 4.48 calibers long, not 5 calibers (that was the SAP). The Russian shells get 0.286, looking at Minsk, which is better - but we still haven't seen the French 130mm SAP, so that could be sub 0.3 drag as well for all we know.

7 hours ago, mofton said:

A superlative piece, lots of great stuff and an enjoyable read.

The arms-race between France-Italy and (occasional 3rd wheel Germany) was pretty interesting, though very little of it was ('sadly' from a history though not humanitarian perspective) ever really borne out in combat - the Dunkerque's never fought Deutschlands, the Littorio's never fought the Dunkerque's, the Richelieu's and the Bismarck's etc. etc. The Tribal class never really fought IJN 'Special-type' destroyers. So to with the super-destroyer arms race.

I'm not 100% convinced that trying to build such specific counters would ever have worked out anyway, it's rather niche and rather 'everything will go well' which given 'no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy' doesn't tend to work out. The idea that you'll have a neat 3-ship CT division and they'll have a neat arrangement of cruisers probably goes out the window the minute one of your ships throws a propeller blade on the way out of harbor. Or, more likely ends up in refit thanks to engine trouble. Early in WWII you can see pretty 'standardized' formations, but add attrition, disorganization and suddenly it's more hodge-podge.

You generate some very niche ships, certainly the French CT's did generally get the better of the lighter British destroyers (and German big destroyers likewise), for which we have the most examples, but cruisers had overwhelming advantages. For relatively big, costly ships that's quite a problem. I also wonder how well the CT's would have performed in day-to-day tasks such as fleet ASW escort. I remember them having poor handling, though I can't cite it.

 

There are some interesting parallels with the German heavy Zerstörer program. Examining the Type 1936A for instance they have a pretty similar displacement - ~2,600t standard for both the German -1936's and the Le Fantasque's. The German ships also had pretty severe mechanical reliability issues, the poster child probably being Z-15 Erich Steinbrinck spending about 66% of WWII in refit, predominantly for machinery malaise. The German ships also have outsize guns for a typical destroyer, but few of them, though they sacrifice the very high speed for a heavier torpedo broadside.

 

In a large number of cruiser on large destroyer clashes the cruisers almost always came off far better, I'd certainly agree with your general conclusions of LF vs. some destroyers good, LF vs. some weaker cruisers questionable, but LF vs. either a later Condotierri or a Capitani Romani being a bad deal. The problem in that scenario for the LF is that by far the best way to even the odds as a destroyer against a cruiser is with torpedoes - and a broadside of 6 on a 2,600t ship operating in a group of 3 is quite weak.

All the destroyer successes on cruisers were achieved by torpedoes - the sinking of Scylla by German Elbing class, the Haguro going down to destroyers, the IJN destroyers sinking Helena, and then Northampton and crippling Minneapolis, Pensacola and New Orleans in one night. Gunfights mean the destroyers usually come off badly - 28 Jan 45, Biscay, Epervier vs. Aurora, L'Audacieux v. Australia, Empress Augusta Bay, RN DD v. IT CA/L at 2nd Sirte etc.

I'm not really sure that a 2,600t-3,000t destroyer that can prove worthwhile against lighter 1,500-1,800t destroyers but is potentially even worse against 'proper' cruisers, battleships and possibly for ASW is that worthwhile - with the benefit of years of hindsight.

 

A lot of good points here. When the craphits the fan, plans tend to fail, especially those built on expecting the enemy to perform a certain way. I don't see a big issue is developing units to counter enemy units where they exist, if they pose a significant threat - so long as they don't compromise on their efficiency as a combat unit in other regards. That usually results from trying to do too much on a given hull.

That's why I tend to view the Capitani Romani as a successful design, and not the Giussano-class, for example. Although small, the Giussano-class is still cruiser-sized, but totally compromises protection for speed and armament. This backfired massively, as their armor was negligible, and the cost to stability largely cast aside their speed and firepower advantage. They sought to compromise to get firepower and speed, and lost out on everything. They weren't effective destroyer hunters, or particularly effective cruisers.

In contrast, the Capitani were much smaller units that don't eat up the same resources as a cruiser would, toeing the line between cruiser and destroyer. They were plainly unarmored, but they were actually capable of utilizing their armament and speed. They were superior to most destroyers, but without being cruiser sized and trying to compete with 'the big boys'. 

They were both attempts to combat the French CT's, but one was far less ambitious, and as a result was far more successful.

 

I also personally find the French concept of the '3-on-1' scenario a bit daft, as I just don't understand where they though they might have the opportunity to exploit such a situation. As I mentioned in the article, Italian cruisers pretty much always operated in pairs, even the early large scout types. Surely the MN must have realized this, if from nothing else just monitoring their primary rivals in the interwar period? That's before one even takes into account ships being out of action, as you mentioned.

The niche nature of the ships, and the compromising of other roles, is one of my bigger criticisms of the Le Fantasque-class, as it is with the Giussano's. The French superdestroyers come out as very good intruder units, for fast hit-and-runs... but they're not well suited to the normal 'boring' tasks most destroyers found themselves participating in throughout the war. I think, like the Navigatori, they would have been useful convoy escorts for no other reason than being able to carry large amounts of AA guns on their big hulls... but they tended to sacrifice capabilities in other areas in order to increase surface warfare capacity, and this included ASW.

To be honest, I'm not very familiar with German destroyer development, so I don't have the best base to compare to the French... although I will noted the attempt to get so much out of their machinery resulted in arguably worse reliability than the Le Fantasque-class, which is somewhat impressive.

 

As far as the question of torpedoes - I'm not sure I entirely agree. The use of torpedoes tends to revolve heavily around ambushing ability, which is hard to pull off for a surface ship (especially big ones). Long range spreads really weren't that fruitful, and usually destroyers killing cruisers relied on the cruiser being crippled beforehand, or great confusion on behalf of the cruiser so that torpedoes could be fired at close range. At that point, the number of torpedoes fired seem to matter less than simply being in the position to fire them - although volume only increases chances of hits, to be fair. That being said, a broadside of six torpedoes, in real life, at least, seems to have been more than adequate to secure a hit in those conditions. Although not very much for their size, the Le Fantasque's did at least carry that many tubes per broadside - but their size had more to do with fitting their heavy gun armament and their machinery in the first place, and at the very least they did gain a heavier broadside than pretty much any other destroyer.

 

As for weather they were worth it... in the environment for which they were planned, dealing with the numerous fast esploratori used by the Italians, I think the Le Fantasque's did make sense - but that concept started early and pre-dated widespread use of aircraft. A significant reason in the RM's reason to abolish the esploratori category was because there was little a surface scout could accomplish that an aircraft couldn't do, and at far cheaper a price. The de-rating of all of the esploratori down to destroyers and using them as such sort of pulled the rug out from under the French, as it changed the conditions the contre-torpilleurs would engage under, and somewhat removed their reason for existence.

  • Cool 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5,317
[SOUP]
Privateers, Supertester, Modder
8,426 posts

*wipes tear away*

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2,958
[SYN]
[SYN]
Members
7,834 posts
12,043 battles
20 hours ago, Phoenix_jz said:

I also personally find the French concept of the '3-on-1' scenario a bit daft, as I just don't understand where they though they might have the opportunity to exploit such a situation. As I mentioned in the article, Italian cruisers pretty much always operated in pairs, even the early large scout types. Surely the MN must have realized this, if from nothing else just monitoring their primary rivals in the interwar period? That's before one even takes into account ships being out of action, as you mentioned.

The niche nature of the ships, and the compromising of other roles, is one of my bigger criticisms of the Le Fantasque-class, as it is with the Giussano's. The French superdestroyers come out as very good intruder units, for fast hit-and-runs... but they're not well suited to the normal 'boring' tasks most destroyers found themselves participating in throughout the war. I think, like the Navigatori, they would have been useful convoy escorts for no other reason than being able to carry large amounts of AA guns on their big hulls... but they tended to sacrifice capabilities in other areas in order to increase surface warfare capacity, and this included ASW.

It's not just the 3-on-1 and everything will be fine scenario and ignoring Italian practice (just sheer boneheadedness or intelligence failures I wonder), it's more that operating in disparate groups is likely to become more and more common.

For instance - 1st Battle of Narvik in 1940, the British send the nice, neat, totally homogeneous 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of 5x 'H' class ships including their leader. Opposing them are the almost as neat group of 1x Z-1934, 4x Z-1934A and 5x Z-1936.

Come August 1942 and Operation Pedestal, the British are operating a rather eclectic group of destroyers - Tribals, L's, Q's, P's, I's F's, some old V&W's and some Hunt's. Positively for them though, the bulk of the destroyers have a fairly similar lineage and work together quite well in speed, firepower, role. In contrast the Le Fantasque's do not play well with a lot of the other French destroyers - there are 6 of them and 2 Mogador's, they have different ballistics from the earlier classes and will either roam off at their own high speed or waste it by staying with the slower ships. They're kind of a pain in the neck.

 

I think I the Romani's are superior to the Giussano's too, not just by being later but by being a better sum of their parts. The Romani's have synergy with themselves.

Exactly how much of a cost saving a Romani with 3,700t of 'stuff' vs. a Giussano with 5,200t of stuff would be is maybe debatable. Steel's relatively cheap, engines are pricey and the Romani costs you the machinery to develop 110,000 SHP vs. the 95,000 SHP of a Giussano. That's definitely cheaper in 1939 than 1928, but generally there's a 'per SHP' cost for machinery. Both ships need a FCS/DC system which year for year would cost the same, etc. For personnel you're at 500 to 400 or so, a slight saving.

 

Torpedo utility is a bit of a rabbit hole. It's not just ambushes, though you're right that long-range daytime launches were pretty unproductive. There are occasions where there were 'we didn't have enough torpedoes' conclusions drawn -

  • After the Channel Dash the British concluded that the main problem in their surface attack was not attacking with only 5 old V&W/leader types, but that in so doing they only had 3 torpedoes apiece and that was too few (my conclusion, don't attack 2 battleships, a heavy cruiser and a gaggle of destroyers/torpedo boats)
  • The attack on Bismarck by the Tribal class flotilla set one of the weaker torpedo-armed groups into a night-time torpedo attack in which volume may have been more successful
  • O'Hara mentions it in the Acton off Cape Passero with the low broadside of the torpedo boats being a downside, that said a Leander tangling with some CT's up close and at night is rather a different kettle of fish

Overall it's a plus, and it does give you utility against the heavy ships, whereas for all the firepower improvement of L'Audacieux over a normal destroyer she was still a dead duck against a cruiser.

21 hours ago, Phoenix_jz said:

A significant reason in the RM's reason to abolish the esploratori category was because there was little a surface scout could accomplish that an aircraft couldn't do, and at far cheaper a price.

Well, at least the sailors might correctly identify the ships in question, unlike the airmen who... well, had a questionable track record! After all from the air those Italian ships look rather British to the Luftwaffe, that Dido looks rather like a Nelson, and that Sheffield apparently looks like a Bismarck(?!).

Overall though, it is a good point - though given that even smaller cruisers can carry spotting aircraft, that's even more of a vote for cruiser over CT.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2,742
[HINON]
Privateers, In AlfaTesters
7,640 posts
2,112 battles
On 12/3/2018 at 9:42 PM, mofton said:

It's not just the 3-on-1 and everything will be fine scenario and ignoring Italian practice (just sheer boneheadedness or intelligence failures I wonder), it's more that operating in disparate groups is likely to become more and more common.

For instance - 1st Battle of Narvik in 1940, the British send the nice, neat, totally homogeneous 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of 5x 'H' class ships including their leader. Opposing them are the almost as neat group of 1x Z-1934, 4x Z-1934A and 5x Z-1936.

Come August 1942 and Operation Pedestal, the British are operating a rather eclectic group of destroyers - Tribals, L's, Q's, P's, I's F's, some old V&W's and some Hunt's. Positively for them though, the bulk of the destroyers have a fairly similar lineage and work together quite well in speed, firepower, role. In contrast the Le Fantasque's do not play well with a lot of the other French destroyers - there are 6 of them and 2 Mogador's, they have different ballistics from the earlier classes and will either roam off at their own high speed or waste it by staying with the slower ships. They're kind of a pain in the neck.

That's a good point, I'm n to sure why I didn't think of it - and that did end up happening to quite a few French destroyers. At the very least the older classes were at least fairly homogenous (save for the first class, which used 130mm guns), small improvements here and there, so they'd be affected less - the Le Fantasque Mogador is where the really radical changes occurred. Then again - I struggle to fault the French entirely as far as armament change goes, because at the very least, the poor ballistic qualities of the 138.6/40 was something that needed to be addressed, especially if the French were planning on having to deal with 152mm cruisers with these ships (which, then again - easy answer is don't build a destroyer to counter something the size of a cruiser).

A lot of it, though is down to the highly specific war the French believed they were going to fight with Italy. In that context, and that context alone, the choices they made for the ships made sense (well, as much sense as building big destroyers to counter small cruisers does). I would argue the same applies to the Capitani, as while they made sense due to the threat posed by the French ships, in any other context they weren't great choices.  - building a few more Abruzzi-class light cruisers with the same material, or more destroyers, would have been a better investment for the type of war Italy ultimately did fight.

On 12/3/2018 at 9:42 PM, mofton said:

I think I the Romani's are superior to the Giussano's too, not just by being later but by being a better sum of their parts. The Romani's have synergy with themselves.

Exactly how much of a cost saving a Romani with 3,700t of 'stuff' vs. a Giussano with 5,200t of stuff would be is maybe debatable. Steel's relatively cheap, engines are pricey and the Romani costs you the machinery to develop 110,000 SHP vs. the 95,000 SHP of a Giussano. That's definitely cheaper in 1939 than 1928, but generally there's a 'per SHP' cost for machinery. Both ships need a FCS/DC system which year for year would cost the same, etc. For personnel you're at 500 to 400 or so, a slight saving.

I was thinking more of the general cost of operation, as the amount of tonnage of supplies needed to operate a cruiser is much more than a destroyer (or a ship trapped between). Likewise, I'd also note that for a country like Italy, relatively speaking, steel is very not so cheap, especially in wartime. If you can get more, smaller hulls out to counter the French destroyer with one type of ship than you could with a larger design...

 

On 12/3/2018 at 9:42 PM, mofton said:

Torpedo utility is a bit of a rabbit hole. It's not just ambushes, though you're right that long-range daytime launches were pretty unproductive. There are occasions where there were 'we didn't have enough torpedoes' conclusions drawn -

  • After the Channel Dash the British concluded that the main problem in their surface attack was not attacking with only 5 old V&W/leader types, but that in so doing they only had 3 torpedoes apiece and that was too few (my conclusion, don't attack 2 battleships, a heavy cruiser and a gaggle of destroyers/torpedo boats)
  • The attack on Bismarck by the Tribal class flotilla set one of the weaker torpedo-armed groups into a night-time torpedo attack in which volume may have been more successful
  • O'Hara mentions it in the Acton off Cape Passero with the low broadside of the torpedo boats being a downside, that said a Leander tangling with some CT's up close and at night is rather a different kettle of fish

Overall it's a plus, and it does give you utility against the heavy ships, whereas for all the firepower improvement of L'Audacieux over a normal destroyer she was still a dead duck against a cruiser.

  • In that first case, I'm going to have to say the massive degree to which the poor old destroyers were out-gunned had more to do with not getting hits - although if I'm not mistaken, many of those destroyers did in fact have six tubes?
  • That is a good point, although to be fair the weather was also poor and Bismarck wasn't giving the destroyers an easy time of it. That being said, if they had been able to launch 50% more torpedoes (assuming 6-TT destroyer) would not have hurt at all.
  • That is a good point, and in this case more torpedoes could have been decisive, had it not been for other factors - such as the Italians messing up their aim in the first place, and the fact Leander's captain was already reacting by the time the torpedoes were on their way. 

I agree, it's always a benefit to have it - and to be fair, for all their inflated tonnage, the French never intended to fight heavy cruisers with their destroyers - and extra torpedoes aren't going to help in such a fight, unless it's an ambush at close range. In any kind of ranged fight, the torpedoes aren't going to give you much chance to use them, as most likely you'd be trying to disengage if possible. The exception was that the French were hoping to be able to take down the Italian cruisers with them - and to be fair, although still horribly out-gunned, the French 138.6mm could certainly have easily punched through the 'armor' of a Giussano or Cadorna. But, overall, that leads back into my earlier point - if you're trying to design a ship to kill another type of ship, don't build smaller ships to do it. Although more expensive, to be frank, a ship similar to a La Galissonniére-class light cruiser, perhaps sacrificing a little bit of something for higher top speed, would be far more effective at countering the early Italian CLs than a division of Le Fantasque's.

On 12/3/2018 at 9:42 PM, mofton said:

Well, at least the sailors might correctly identify the ships in question, unlike the airmen who... well, had a questionable track record! After all from the air those Italian ships look rather British to the Luftwaffe, that Dido looks rather like a Nelson, and that Sheffield apparently looks like a Bismarck(?!).

Overall though, it is a good point - though given that even smaller cruisers can carry spotting aircraft, that's even more of a vote for cruiser over CT.

True, although to be fair - surface ships screwed up plenty of times to. The British mistook Italian cruisers for battleships several times (and confused the Giussano's for heavy cruisers at Calabria!), and destroyers for cruisers, and the Italians mistook British destroyers for cruisers a few times, etc, etc - and that went for all the powers. Although, it should be also noted those tended to have less major impacts than aerial spotting, as they tended to be spotting on a tactical rather than strategic level. Then again, that could still be quite painful *glances at Friedrich Eckoldt*.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2,742
[HINON]
Privateers, In AlfaTesters
7,640 posts
2,112 battles
2 hours ago, KiyoSenkan said:

I tried to read, but a certain typo distracted me

The clam before the storm...

 

52 minutes ago, Schnauzahpowahz said:

The clam before the storm :cap_haloween:

 

 

Great piece though, i love stuff like this. 

Fear

the

CLAM

  • Funny 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×