French destroyer Léopard

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Chacal class destroyer
Chacal class destroyer
Career (France)
Name: Léopard
Namesake: Leopard
Builder: Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire, Saint-Nazaire
Laid down: 14 August 1923
Launched: 29 September 1924
Commissioned: 15 November 1927
Homeport: Brest
Honours and
awards:
Médaille de la Résistance
Fate: Wrecked on 27 May 1943 near Tobruk.
Notes: Pennant numbers: 7; 2; -2; X22
General characteristics
Class & type: Chacal-class destroyer
Displacement: 2,126 long tons (2,160 t) standard
3,098 long tons (3,148 t) full load
Length: 127 m (416 ft 8 in)
Beam: 11.2 m (36 ft 9 in)
Draught: 3.65 m (12 ft 0 in)
Propulsion: Geared turbines, 5 boilers, 55,000 shp (41,013 kW)
Speed: 35.5 knots (65.7 km/h; 40.9 mph)
Complement: 8 officers, 196 men
Armament:
  • 5 × 130 mm (5 in) guns
  • 2 × 37 mm/50 DCA Mod 1933 AA guns
  • 6 × 550 mm (21.7 in) torpedo tubes

Léopard was a Chacal-class destroyer of the French Navy, commissioned in 1927. As one of the larger destroyers of her time, she was designed to escort convoys, large naval units, or serve as a light cruiser in remote sectors of the French Empire. She served during the Second World War, notably taking part in the Dunkirk evacuation, in convoy escorts from Great Britain, and was instrumental in the liberation of La Réunion. She was lost in 1943 near Tobruk.

Career[edit]

Léopard was laid down on 14 August 1923 at the Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire shipyard at Saint-Nazaire, launched on 29 September 1924, and commissioned on 15 November 1927.[1]

Early stages of the war[edit]

In May 1940, Léopard, under Capitaine de frégate Loisel, constituted the 2nd Large Destroyer Division, along with Épervier, Fougueux and Frondeur. They served in a flotilla led by Capitaine de vaisseau Urvoy de Portzamparc, who flew his flag on Cyclone, and which also comprised the Chacal, Bourrasque, Orage, Mistral and Sirocco.[2] On 28 May, a special flotilla was constituted under the command of Admiral Marcel Landriau, with his flag on Savorgnan de Brazza, comprising these ships and a number of smaller units.

On 31 May, Léopard supported operations of the Dunkirk evacuation and sustained damage from German bombing.[2] She came under attack from German planes again on 2 June at 10:35, along with Épervier. On 5 June, she was still supporting the ground forces of Dunkirk with Épervier and Savorgnan de Brazza.

On 17 June, she patrolled Cherbourg with the squadron of Courbet, under Admiral Gaudin de Vilaine.[3] On 19 June, the squadron sailed to Portsmouth.[4] The ships were under repair there when Operation Catapult was triggered, on 3 July. Léopard was handed over to the Free French Naval Forces on 31 August.[1] Her command was given to Lieutenant de vaisseau Jules Evenou, who went by the nom de guerre of "Jacques Richard".[5]

Local escort at Clyde[edit]

In early 1941, Léopard served as a local escort, based at the Clyde. In this function, she would sail for a day or two with a departing convoy and provide protection in the Northern-Western Approaches before returning to Clyde.

As such, she escorted convoy WS5B from 12 January 1941, leaving the convoy on 14 January and returning to Clyde with HMS Witherington.[6] On 25 January, she similarly escorted convoy WS7, returning the next day.[7]

On 24 February 1941, Léopard rescued 39 survivors of a British cargo ship and hunted down a German submarine.[5]

On 25 March 1941, she escorted convoy WS7.[8]

In May 1942, Léopard was under repairs at Kingston upon Hull.

On 11 July 1942, at position 33.30N, 22.52W, as Léopard was part of the escort of Convoy OS33 bound for Freetown, HMS Spey spotted U-136 sailing surfaced. Spey gave chase and U-136 dived, attacked by Spey 's depth charges and Hedgehog and sustaining damage which reduced her speed to 3 knots. Léopard and HMS Pelican then joined in; Léopard made two 10-charge runs which sank U-136 with all hands at 33.28N 23.28W.[9]

The next day, on 12 July, Léopard collided with HMS Lowestoft. She undertook a refit which lasted until March 1942.

Liberation of La Réunion[edit]

Commemorative plaque of the liberation of La Réunion

In the night of 26 November 1942, Léopard sailed with 74 troops from Mauritius to La Réunion to claim the island for Free France. La Réunion was under authority of Governor Aubert, loyal to Vichy France. She arrived off Saint-Denis on 27 November at 23:00.

Two launches were sent to search for a favourable landing spot, before the entire 60-man party landed. At 2:30, Léopard was sighted by lookouts, but the landing party was quickly in control of Saint-Denis, meeting little resistance from local troops. A new governor, André Capagorry, landed. Some confusion arose as both governors, Aubert and Capagorry, made conflicting statements. A 95 mm coastal battery defending Saint-Denis harbour, under Lieutenant Hugot, opened fire on Léopard, while communist cells activated, taking control of the city hall, arresting the mayor and electing Léon de Lépervanche leader of a "Committee of Public Safety".

As the coastal battery proved impossible to storm for the communist and Gaullist rebels, Léopard retreated under fire. She then began pounding Pointe des Galets, while a sortie by Vichy loyalists was thwarted by small arms fire, severely wounding Hugot. The Vichists then retreated to Hell-Bourg, abandoning the battery, which allowed Léopard to enter the harbour. When the flag of the ship was known, Vichy forces refused to fight against fellow countrymen and engaged in negotiations, eventually surrendering on 30 November.

Léopard evacuated officials of the former regime to Mauritius to protect them against popular anger.[10]

Patrols in the Indian Ocean[edit]

General Charles De Gaulle inspecting sailors on the Léopard in June 1942

On 4 January 1943, Léopard departed from Kilindini, bound for Tamatave where she arrived on 7 January. From there, she sailed to Diego Suarez, arriving the next day. On 9 January, she left again for Réunion, where she arrived on 11 January, making the passage to Mauritius the same day.[11]

On 9 February, she departed Mauritius, bound for Réunion and Tamatave, but had to return on the next day with an engine failure.[11] Having repaired, she sailed again on 11 February and arrived at Tamatave the next day. She returned to Mauritius again on 18 February, arriving on 21 February, and the next day sailed for Diego Suarez. On 25 February, she was at Mauritius again, leaving on 27 February and arriving at Réunion the same day.[11]

On 24 April 1943, Léopard left Diego Suarez, bound for Djibouti and Suez. She arrived at Djibouti on 30 April.[11]

Loss[edit]

On 27 May 1943, Léopard accidentally ran aground near Tobruk. She was destroyed by the tides a few days later and became a total loss.

Honours[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Les bâtiments ayant porté le nom de Léopard". netmarine.net. 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2013.  (French)
  2. ^ a b Kindell, Don (2012). "NAVAL EVENTS, MAY 1940, Wednesday 22nd – Friday 31st". naval-history.net. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Kindell, Don (2012). "NAVAL EVENTS, JULY 1940, Monday 1st- Sunday 14th". naval-history.net. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Kindell, Don (2012). "NAVAL EVENTS, JUNE 1940, Saturday 15th - Friday 21st". naval-history.net. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Jules Evenou". ordredelaliberation.fr. 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2013.  (French)
  6. ^ Mason, Geoffrey B. (2012). "HMS Witherington, destroyer". Service Histories of Royal Navy Warships in World War II. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Mason, Geoffrey B. (2011). "HMS Rockingham, destroyer". Service Histories of Royal Navy Warships in World War II. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Mason, Geoffrey B. (2011). "HMS Winchelsea, destroyer". Service Histories of Royal Navy Warships in World War II. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  9. ^ "Convoy OS.33". convoyweb.org.uk. 2005. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  10. ^ "Le jour du Léopard". Journal de l'île de la Réunion. 1 January 2005. Retrieved 22 March 2013.  (French)
  11. ^ a b c d Kindell, Don (2012). "Eastern Fleet War Diaries, January to June 1943". naval-history.net. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "Médaille de la Résistance française". france-phaleristique.com. 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.  (French)