French submarine Saphir

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ALT=A sub at dock
Saphir in port in Toulon
Name: Saphir
Namesake: Sapphire
Builder: Arsenal de Toulon
Laid down: October 1903
Launched: 6 February 1908
Completed: 10 December 1910
Identification: Pennant number: Q44
Fate: Scuttled, 15 January 1915
General characteristics
Class and type: Émeraude-class submarine
  • 394 t (388 long tons) (surfaced)
  • 427 t (420 long tons) (submerged)
Length: 44.9 m (147 ft 4 in) (o/a)
Beam: 3.9 m (12 ft 10 in)
Draft: 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in)
Installed power:
  • 600 PS (440 kW; 590 bhp) (diesels)
  • 600 PS (electric motors)
  • 11.25 knots (20.84 km/h; 12.95 mph) (surfaced)
  • 8.5 knots (15.7 km/h; 9.8 mph) (submerged)
  • 2,000 nmi (3,700 km; 2,300 mi) at 7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph) surfaced
  • 100 nmi (190 km; 120 mi) at 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) submerged
Test depth: 40 m (130 ft)
Complement: 2 officers and 23 crewmen
Armament: 6 × 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes (4 × bow, 2 × stern)

Saphir was one of six Émeraude-class submarines built for the French Navy in the first decade of the 20th century.


After its launch, Saphir was assigned to the Mediterranean. In 1913, it joined a squadron based in Bizerte, Tunisia, to defend the region.[1] In late 1914, it moved closer to the Dardanelles to reach its base in Tenedos to participate in monitoring and blockade of the straits.[2]

On 13 December 1914, a British submarine, the B11, was able to enter the straits and sink a Turkish battleship, the Messudiyeh.[2] On 15 January 1915, to follow the example of B11 and without prior orders,[2] the commander of Saphir, Lt Henri Fournier, tried to force the entrance of the straits. Diving under the minefield, off Chanak, a leak occurred in the Saphir. Forced to surface under fire from enemy guns, the commander gave the order to destroy the code documents and to sink the submarine. Located at 1500 m from the coast, the crew tried to gain ground by swimming. The survivors who did not perish from cold (13 of 27 men and the two officers did not survive) were recovered by two boats of the Turkish army and transferred, after interrogation, to prisons including the one in Afyonkarahisar. Some were soon after taken as prisoners to camps Asia Minor where they managed to escape.[3]


There was a French citation for officers and sailors of the Saphir submarines

The submarine Saphir and Curie and fell gloriously in battle are brought to the agenda of the Naval Staff. In his affliction seeing succumb as valiant servants of the country, the commander reminds everyone how the army should be proud to have in its ranks of officers and crews also capable of heroic actions as those were completed by these brave buildings whose names remain in the maritime splendor. Honor and glory to the officers and crews of the Saphir and Curie, they deserved well of the Motherland.[4]


  1. ^ Garier 2002, p. 59
  2. ^ a b c Garier 2002, p. 16
  3. ^ Garier 2002, pp. 143–46
  4. ^ Garier 2002, p. 146


  • Couhat, Jean Labayle (1974). French Warships of World War I. London: Ian Allen. ISBN 0-7110-0445-5. 
  • Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal (1985). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5. 
  • Garier, Gérard (2002). A l'épreuve de la Grande Guerre. L'odyssée technique et humaine du sous-marin en France (in French). 3–2. Bourg-en-Bresse, France: Marines édition. ISBN 2-909675-81-5. 
  • Garier, Gérard (1998). Des Émeraude (1905-1906) au Charles Brun (1908–1933). L'odyssée technique et humaine du sous-marin en France (in French). 2. Bourg-en-Bresse, France: Marines édition. ISBN 2-909675-34-3.