French cruiser Léon Gambetta

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Léon Gambetta
French cruiser Leon Gambetta.jpg
Léon Gambetta underway
Name: Léon Gambetta
Namesake: Léon Gambetta
Builder: Arsenal de Brest
Launched: 26 October 1901
Commissioned: 1903
Fate: Sunk by Austrian U-boat U-5, 27 April 1915
General characteristics
Class and type: Léon Gambetta-class armoured cruiser
Displacement: 12,400 tonnes (12,204 long tons)
Length: 149.1 m (489 ft 2 in)
Beam: 22.5 m (73 ft 10 in)
Draft: 8.2 m (26 ft 11 in)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 3 shafts; 3 triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph)
Complement: 728

Léon Gambetta was a French Navy armoured cruiser of 12,400 tons, the lead ship of the class of that name. The Léon Gambettas were larger than previous armoured cruisers of the class, but they lacked the heavier firepower. They also were vulnerable to underwater attacks.

Early history[edit]

She was launched on 26 October 1901 at the Arsenal de Brest. While on steam trial in December 1903, she struck an unknown pinnacle of rock off Black Rock Islands near Brest in fog and suffered considerable damage. Repairs were not complete until mid-1904.


French cruiser Léon Gambetta is located in Italy
French cruiser Léon Gambetta
Location of the wreck.[1]

On the night of 27 April 1915, when 15 miles (24 km) south of Santa Maria di Leuca (the south-eastern tip of Italy in the Ionian Sea) in position 39°30′N 18°15′E / 39.500°N 18.250°E / 39.500; 18.250Coordinates: 39°30′N 18°15′E / 39.500°N 18.250°E / 39.500; 18.250, she was torpedoed twice by Austro-Hungarian submarine U-5 under the command of Korvettenkapitän Georg Ludwig Ritter von Trapp (later to be known as patriarch of the Von Trapp Family Singers).[2]

Léon Gambetta was part of the French fleet based at Malta blockading the Austrian Navy in the Adriatic, usually from a position south of the Strait of Otranto. At this time the blockade line was moved further north because of expected Austrian naval activity – the Allies were negotiating with the Italians which shortly led to them declaring war on Austria-Hungary. In spite of the growing threat from Austrian and now German U-boats in the Mediterranean, the armoured cruiser was patrolling unescorted at a reported 7 knots (13 km/h) on a clear, calm night just to the south of the Otranto Straits when she was torpedoed by the U-5.

Léon Gambetta sank in just 10 minutes. Out of 821 men on board, 684 including Rear Admiral Victor Baptistin Senes, commander of the 2nd Light Division, were lost along with all commissioned officers. There were 137 survivors. The French cruiser patrol line was moved South to the longitude of Cephalonia, western Greece. Other sources place her loss 20 miles (32 km) off Cape Leuca.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wrecksite, Leon Gambetta". Retrieved 2009-02-22.
  2. ^ "Vienna confirms disaster. Lieutenant von Trapp in Command of Submarine That Sank the Cruiser. French warship sunk. 552 perish" (PDF). New York Times. April 29, 1915. Retrieved 2009-11-16.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]