French cruiser Ernest Renan

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Ernest Renan
Ernest Renan
Ernest Renan at anchor
Class overview
Operators:  French Navy
Preceded by: Jules Michelet
Succeeded by: Edgar Quinet class
Name: Ernest Renan
Namesake: Ernest Renan
Builder: Chantiers de Penhoët, Saint-Nazaire
Laid down: 1 October 1903
Launched: 9 March 1906
Completed: 1909
Out of service: 1931
Struck: 1931
Fate: Sunk as a target ship, 1931
General characteristics
Type: Armored cruiser
Displacement: 13,644 tonnes (13,429 long tons)
Length: 159 m (521 ft 8 in) (o/a)
Beam: 21.5 m (70 ft 6 in)
Draft: 8.4 m (27 ft 7 in)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 3 shafts, 3 vertical triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph)
Range: 5,100 nmi (9,400 km; 5,900 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 750 or 824
  • Belt: 58–152 mm (2.3–6 in)
  • Primary gun turrets: 203 mm (8 in)
  • Intermediate gun turrets: 170 mm (6.5 in)
  • Bulkhead: 89 mm (3.5 in)
  • Deck: 46–66 mm (1.8–2.6 in)
  • Conning tower: 8 in (203 mm)

Ernest Renan was an armored cruiser built for the French Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, she participated in the hunt for the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben and then joined the blockade of the Austro-Hungarian Navy in the Adriatic. She took part in the Battle of Antivari later in August, and the seizure of Corfu in January 1916, but saw no further action during the war. After the war, the British and French intervened in the Russian Civil War; this included a major naval deployment to the Black Sea, which included Ernest Renan. She served as a training ship in the late 1920s before she was sunk as a target ship in the 1930s.

Design and description[edit]

Right elevation and deck plan as depicted in Brassey's Naval Annual 1923

Ernest Renan was intended to be a member of the Leon Gambetta class, but naval architect Emile Bertin repeatedly tinkered with the design and decided to lengthen the ship in an attempt to increase her speed. She measured 159 meters (521 ft 8 in) overall, with a beam of 21.4 meters (70 ft 3 in). Ernest Renan had a draft of 8.2 meters (26 ft 11 in) and displaced 13,644 metric tons (13,429 long tons). Her crew numbered either 750[1] or 824 officers and enlisted men.[2]

The ship had three propeller shafts, each powered by a single vertical triple-expansion steam engine. They were rated at a total of 37,000 indicated horsepower (28,000 kW) using steam provided by 42 Niclausse boilers. The boilers were grouped into two sets of boiler rooms that were separated by the amidships gun turrets and their magazines and exhausted into six funnels. Ernest Renan had a designed speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph),[1] but reached 24.4 knots (45.2 km/h; 28.1 mph) from 37,685 ihp (28,102 kW) during her sea trials. She initially carried up to 2,260 tonnes (2,220 long tons) of coal, although this was later reduced to 1,870 tonnes (1,840 long tons),[2] which gave her a range of 5,100 nautical miles (9,400 km; 5,900 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).[1]

Ernest Renan's main armament consisted of four 50-caliber Canon de 194 mm Modèle 1902 guns mounted in twin gun turrets fore and aft. Her intermediate armament was twelve 45-caliber Canon de 164 mm Modèle 1893-96 guns. Eight of these were in single turrets on the forecastle deck and the other four were in casemates. For anti-torpedo boat defence she carried sixteen 65-millimeter (2.6 in) guns and eight 47-millimeter (1.9 in) Hotchkiss guns. She was also armed with two submerged 450-millimetre (18 in) torpedo tubes. During World War I, some of her lighter guns were replaced by anti-aircraft guns, but details are lacking.[2]

The waterline armored belt of Ernest Renan was 152 millimeters (6.0 in) thick amidships and extended from 1.35 meters (4 ft 5 in) below the waterline to 2.31 meters (7 ft 7 in) above it. The armor thinned to 102 millimeters (4.0 in) forward of the foremast and 84 millimeters (3.3 in) aft of the mainmast. It did not extend all the way to the stern and terminated in a 89-millimeter (3.5 in) bulkhead. The upper strake of armor was 36–58 millimeters (1.4–2.3 in) thick and extended to the upper deck. The curved protective deck had a thickness of 46 millimeters (1.8 in) along its centerline that increased to 66 millimeters (2.6 in) at its outer edges and 71 millimeters (2.8 in) over the rudder. A watertight internal cofferdam, filled with cellulose, ran the length of the ship between the upper and main decks.[2]

The main gun turrets had 203-millimeter (8.0 in) thick sides and 51-millimeter (2 in) roofs and the intermediate turrets were protected by 170-millimeter (6.5 in) sides and had 30-millimeter (1.2 in) roofs. The supports for the turrets ranged from 102 to 183 millimeters (4 to 7.2 in) in thickness for the main turrets and 64 to 132 millimeters (2.5 to 5.2 in) for the intermediate turrets. The conning tower was 203 mm thick.[2][Note 1]

Construction and career[edit]

Ernest Renan, named after the philosopher and philologist Ernest Renan, was built at the Chantiers de Penhoët shipyard in Saint-Nazaire. Her keel was laid down on 1 October 1904 and she was launched on 9 March 1906.[3] Fitting-out work was completed by early 1909, and she was commissioned into the French Navy in February.[2] After entering service, Ernest Renan was assigned to the cruiser squadron of the Mediterranean Fleet, based in Toulon.[4]

World War I[edit]

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Ernest Renan and the armored cruisers Edgar Quinet and Jules Michelet were mobilized as the First Light Division and tasked with hunting down the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben and her consort Breslau.[5] These ships, along with a flotilla of twelve destroyers, was to steam to Philippeville on 4 August, but the German ships had bombarded the port the previous day. This attack, coupled with reports that suggested the Germans would try to break out of the Mediterranean into the Atlantic, prompted the French high command to send Ernest Renan and the First Light Division further west, to Algiers.[6]

After the German ships escaped to Constantinople, rather than attack the French troop transports from North Africa as had been expected, Ernest Renan joined the rest of the French fleet in its blockade of the Adriatic Sea. The fleet, commanded by Admiral Augustin Boué de Lapeyrère, had assembled by the night of 15 August; the following morning, it conducted a sweep into the Adriatic and encountered the Austro-Hungarian cruiser SMS Zenta. In the ensuing Battle of Antivari, Zenta was sunk, with no losses on the French side. The French fleet then withdrew due to the threat of Austro-Hungarian U-boats in the area.[7]

On 8 January 1916, Ernest Renan, Edgar Quinet, Waldeck-Rousseau and Jules Ferry embarked a contingent of Chasseurs Alpins (mountain troops) to seize the Greek island of Corfu. The cruisers sent the troops ashore on the night of 10 January; the Greek officials on the island protested the move but offered no resistance.[8] On 22 December, Ernest Renan collided with an Italian steamer, several passengers of which drowned in the accident.[9] Ernest Renan spent the rest of the war in the Mediterranean and did not see further action.[5]


Shortly after the end of the war, British and French warships began to operate in the Black Sea in what became a large-scale intervention in the Russian Civil War against the Bolsheviks. Ernest Renan was among the first Allied warships to enter the area; she arrived in Novorossiysk with the British light cruiser HMS Liverpool and two torpedo boats on 23 November.[10]

After returning to France, the ship's mainmast was removed to allow her to tow a balloon and anti-aircraft guns were installed on the roofs of the after 164 mm gun turrets.[5] Ernest Renan finished her active career as a gunnery training ship from 1927 to 1929, after which she was stricken from the naval register.[11] During her tenure in the gunnery school, she was commanded by Émile Muselier, who went on to serve as the commander of the Free French Naval Forces during World War II.[12] In 1931, the old cruiser was expended as a target ship for aircraft and naval gunners.[5][Note 2]


  1. ^ The armor layout is somewhat unclear; in Directory of the World's Capital Ships, Silverstone provides different figures, including an armored belt 90–170 mm (3.5–6.7 in) thick and thinner protection for the main turrets and intermediate turrets, at 170 mm (6.7 in) and 165 mm (6.5 in), respectively. See Silverstone, p. 82, for further details.
  2. ^ The ship's fate is also unclear, Silverstone says that she was discarded in 1936 and sunk in 1939. See Silverstone, p. 97, for further details.
  1. ^ a b c Silverstone, p. 80
  2. ^ a b c d e f Chesneau & Kolesnik, p. 307
  3. ^ Silverstone, p. 97
  4. ^ Earle, p. 1113
  5. ^ a b c d Gardiner & Gray, p. 193
  6. ^ Corbett & Newbolt, pp. 61–62
  7. ^ Corbett & Newbolt, pp. 88–89
  8. ^ Lauzanne, pp. 121–122
  9. ^ New York Times Index, p. 4
  10. ^ Chamberlin, p. 153
  11. ^ Jordan & Moulin, p. 167
  12. ^ Callo & Wilson, p. 293


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