French destroyer Fleuret (1938)
Sister ship Le Hardi at anchor
|Builder:||Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, La Seyne-sur-Mer|
|Laid down:||18 August 1936|
|Launched:||28 July 1938|
|Commissioned:||10 May 1940|
|Renamed:||Foudroyant, 1 April 1941|
|Captured:||27 November 1942|
|Fate:||Scuttled, 27 November 1942|
|Class and type:||Le Hardi-class destroyer|
|Length:||117.2 m (384 ft 6 in) (o/a)|
|Beam:||11.1 m (36 ft 5 in)|
|Draught:||3.8 m (12 ft 6 in)|
|Speed:||37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph)|
|Range:||3,100 nautical miles (5,700 km; 3,600 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
|Complement:||187 officers and enlisted men|
Fleuret was one of a dozen Le Hardi-class destroyers built for the French Navy during the late 1930s. The ship was completed during the Battle of France in mid-1940 and her first mission was to help escort a battleship to Dakar, French West Africa, only days before the French signed an armistice with the Germans. After the British attack on Dakar in September, she was one of four destroyers ordered to attack British shipping, although there was only an inconclusive duel with a British destroyer. Fleuret helped to escort one of the battleships damaged by the British during their July Attack on Mers-el-Kébir, French Algeria, back to France in November and was then reduced to reserve.
When the Germans occupied Vichy France after the Allies landed in French North Africa in November 1942 and tried to seize the French fleet, the destroyer was one of the ships scuttled to prevent their capture. She was salvaged by the Regia Marina (Royal Italian Navy) in 1943, but was scuttled again by the Germans as a blockship in mid-1944. The ship was refloated in 1951 and later scrapped.
Design and description
The Le Hardi class was designed to counter the large destroyers of the Italian Navigatori and Japanese Fubuki classes. The ships had an overall length of 117.2 meters (384 ft 6 in), a beam of 11.1 meters (36 ft 5 in), and a draft of 3.8 meters (12 ft 6 in). The ships displaced 1,800 t (1,772 long tons) at standard and 2,577 metric tons (2,536 long tons) at deep load. They were powered by two geared steam turbines, each driving one propeller shaft, using steam provided by four Sural-Penhöet forced-circulation boilers. The turbines were designed to produce 58,000 metric horsepower (42,659 kW; 57,207 shp), which would propel the ships at 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph). Le Hardi, the only ship of the class to run sea trials, comfortably exceeded that speed during her trials on 6 November 1939, reaching a maximum speed of 39.1 knots (72.4 km/h; 45.0 mph) from 60,450 metric horsepower (44,461 kW; 59,623 shp). The ships carried 470 metric tons (463 long tons) of fuel oil which gave them a range of 3,100 nautical miles (5,700 km; 3,600 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). The crew consisted of 10 officers and 177 enlisted men.
The main armament of the Le Hardi-class ships consisted of six Canon de 130 mm Modèle 1932 guns in three twin mounts, one forward and a superfiring pair aft of the superstructure. Their anti-aircraft armament consisted of one twin mount for 37 mm (1.5 in) guns and two twin Hotchkiss 13.2 mm (0.5 in) anti-aircraft machinegun mounts. The ships carried one triple and two twin sets of 550-millimeter (21.7 in) torpedo tubes, all above-water. One depth charge chute was built into the stern; this housed eight 200-kilogram (440 lb) depth charges. The other side of the stern was used for the handling gear for a "Ginocchio" anti-submarine torpedo, but this was removed before the ship was completed.
Construction and career
Ordered on 31 December 1935, Fleuret was built by Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée at their shipyard in La Seyne-sur-Mer. She was laid down on 18 August 1936, launched on 28 July 1938, and entered service on 11 June 1940. The following day, the ship sailed from Toulon to Casablanca, French Morocco to help to escort the battleship Richelieu from Casablanca to Dakar. Together with the large destroyer Milan, Fleuret escorted three passenger ships to Casablanca, 17–23 August. After the British attack on Dakar in September, Fleuret and her sister Épée, together with the destroyers Fougueux and Frondeur were ordered attack British shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar in retaliation. They encountered only an unidentified British destroyer and Fleuret's fire-control director malfunctioned and she was unable to engage her opponent at all. The ships continued onward to Oran, French Algeria, and Fleuret returned to Casablanca on 7 October.
The following months saw five of the Le Hardi-class ships ordered to Oran to escort the battleship Provence; Fleuret arrived there on 15 October. Departing on 5 November, they arrived at Toulon three days later. All of the ships in the class were assigned to the 10th DT (division de torpilleurs) at this time, although only three were allowed to be in commission at any time in accordance with the rules imposed by the Italian and German Armistice Commissions. On 1 April 1941, Fleuret was renamed Foudroyant to commemorate the destroyer of that name that was sunk during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. When the Germans attempted to capture the French ships in Toulon on 27 November 1942, Foudroyant was scuttled by her crew. The Italians refloated her on 20 May 1943 and redesignated her as FR36. The ship was damaged by a bomb during the Allied bombing raid on 7 March 1944 and was scuttled as a blockship in the main channel on 17 August. She was finally refloated in 1951 and scrapped in 1957.
- Jordan & Moulin, pp. 180–186, 190
- Jordan & Moulin, pp. 186–190
- Jordan & Caresse, pp. 182, 188, 231, 233, 239
- Jordan & Caresse, pp. 236–237, 248–249; Whitley, p. 52
- Cernuschi, Enrico & O'Hara, Vincent P. (2013). "Toulon: The Self-Destruction and Salvage of the French Fleet". In Jordan, John (ed.). Warship 2013. London: Conway. pp. 134–148. ISBN 978-1-84486-205-4.
- Chesneau, Roger, ed. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7.
- Jordan, John & Moulin, Jean (2015). French Destroyers: Torpilleurs d'Escadre & Contre-Torpilleurs 1922–1956. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-198-4.
- Whitley, M. J. (1988). Destroyers of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-326-1.