La Galissonnière-class cruiser

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Class overview
Name: La Galissonnière
Preceded by: Emile Bertin (one unit)
Succeeded by: De Grasse (planned)
Completed: 6
Lost: 3
Retired: 3
General characteristics
Type: light cruiser
  • 7,600 tons (standard)
  • 9120 tons (full load)
Length: 179 m (587 ft)
Beam: 17.5 m (57 ft)
Draught: 5.35 m (17.6 ft)
Speed: 31 kn (57 km/h)
  • 7,000 nmi (13,000 km)
  • at 12 kn (22 km/h)
  • 6,800 nmi (12,600 km)
  • at 14 kn (26 km/h)
  • 5,500 nmi (10,200 km) at 18 kn (33 km/h)
  • 1,650 nmi (3,060 km)
  • at 34 kn (63 km/h)
Complement: 540
  • 9 × 152 mm / 54.3 calibre (3x3)
  • 8 × 90 mm anti-aircraft (4x2)
  • 24 × 40 mm (6x4)
  • 4 × 550 mm torpedo tubes (2x2)
  • main belt: 105 mm
  • end bulkheads: 30 mm
  • sides: 120 mm
  • deck: 38 mm
  • turrets: 100 mm
  • tower: 95 mm
Aircraft carried:
Notes: Ships in class include: La Galissonnière, Montcalm, Georges Leygues, Jean de Vienne, Marseillaise, Gloire

The La Galissonnière cruiser class was commissioned by the French Navy in the 1930s. They were the last French cruisers completed after 1935, until the completion of De Grasse in 1956. They are considered as fast, reliable and successful ships.[1] Two cruisers of this class, Georges Leygues and Montcalm, took part, in late September, 1940, in the defence of Dakar. With the cruiser Gloire, they joined the Allied forces, after the successful Allied landings in North Africa, on November 1942.

The three other cruisers of the La Galissoniere class, held under Vichy control in Toulon, were scuttled on November 27, 1942.

After refitting, Georges Leygues, Montcalm and Gloire took part in various Allied operations, including the Normandy landings in 1944. Postwar, several of the class acted as Flagship of the French Mediterranean Squadron, and carried out operations off Indo-China, till 1954, and afterwards were deployed during the Suez crisis and operations off Algeria

They were scrapped between 1958 and 1970.


The French Navy emerged from World war I with light cruisers, in very small numbers, aged and exhausted by war service.[2] One Austrian (SMS Novara) and four German light cruisers (SMS Kolberg, SMS Stralsund, SMS Regensburg, SMS Königsberg), were received as reparations for war losses. They were renamed from Alsace-Lorraine towns, respectively Thionville, Colmar, Mulhouse, Strasbourg and Metz, armed with nine 100 mm guns for Thionville, and six to eight 150 mm guns for the other ones, 4,000 tons for Thionville, from 5,000 to 7,000 tons for the other ones, with a speed of 26-27 knots. They were retired from active service by the early 1930's.[3]

After it had been considered in 1920, to build 5,200 tons light cruisers, with 5.5 in (138.6 mm) guns, capable of over 36 knots (67 km/h), funds were granted in the 1922 budget for the three Duguay-Trouin-class cruisers, known as 8000 tons cruisers, which were launched in 1923-24. They had four turrets mounting two guns each. The 155 mm (6.1-inch) caliber, in regular use by the French Army was chosen to facilitate a streamlined ammunition supply chain. With nearly no armour, they had a speed of 34 knots.[4]

Also remaining in service were armoured cruisers, built between 1900 and 1910, obsolete when they had been commissioned. With their armament arrangement in two double turrets of 194 mm caliber, and single turrets and casemates of generally 167.4 mm, (only the Edgar Quinet and Waldeck-Rousseau cruisers had fourteen 194 mm guns as their main armament ), a speed of 23  knots, an armoured belt of 90 to 170 mm, for a displacement of 12,000 to 14,000 tons, they were outgunned by their British or German contemporaries.[5]

Washington Naval Treaty and the preeminence of the heavy cruiser[edit]

The 1922 Washington Naval Treaty forbade the armoured cruiser type, with clauses limiting the cruiser tonnage to 10,000 tons, and the caliber of their guns to 203 mm (8 inches).

As war experience had clearly shown the importance of securing trade routes against surface threats , all the signatories of the treaty had built, until 1930, nearly only Washington heavy cruisers (fifteen each for the United Kingdom and the United States, twelve for Japan, seven each for France and Italy). These cruisers bore eight 203 mm guns in four double turrets, in the British,[6] French[7] and Italian Navies, but nine to ten guns in the U.S. Navy,[8] or the Imperial Japanese Navy,[9] with a speed from 30 to 35 knots (56 to 65 km/h), and a very light armour, for the earliest ships built, and a better protection, with a slightly reduced speed, for the next classes. On the first Washington heavy cruiser built, in the French Navy, Duquesne, the weight of amour was 430 tons, and the maximum speed on trials reached 35.30 knots (65.38 km/h), with 126,919 shp (94,643 kW), and, for the last one, Algérie, the weight of armour was 2,657 tons, and the maximum speed 33.20 knots (61.49 km/h), with 93,230 shp (69,520 kW).[10]

Germany was not subject to the restrictions in warship building resulting from the treaty, and the German Reichsmarine laid down, between 1926 and 1928, three cruisers with a displacement of 6,650 tons, armed with three triple turrets of 150 mm (5.9 in) calibre, with a speed of 30–32 knots, the Konigsberg cruiser class,[11] and, in 1929, an improved unit, the Leipzig, with a more powerful cruising diesel installation, and a more extended armoured belt, with nearly the same displacement (6,710 tons).[12]

The British Navy considered that the Washington cruiser type was too large for its needs, and, in 1927, a slightly smaller 8-inch-gun cruiser was laid down, the HMS York , with only six 8-inch guns.[13] As the 1930 London Naval Conference had just opened, the United Kingdom announced the cancellation of the next projected 8-inch-gun cruiser design, while the first unit of a new class was to be built, with a displacement of 6,500 tons and armed with eight 6-inch guns, able to counter the Leipzig. It was the HMS Leander.[14]

The 1930 London Naval Treaty and the resurgence of the light cruiser[edit]

The 1930 London Naval Treaty introduced a distinction between Type A cruisers (commonly called "heavy cruisers"), with guns over 6.1-inch (155 mm) calibre (the main armament mounted on the Duguay-Trouin-class cruisers) and up to 8-inch (203 mm) calibre, and Type B cruisers (commonly called "light cruisers"), with guns of 6.1-inch (155 mm) or under. It fixed the limit for the number of Type A units of each signatory to the number of existing cruisers, and authorized their replacement only twenty years after her completion.[15]

In 1926, as France had started to produce classes of destroyers (Chacal, Guépard, and Aigle classes) which were superior in displacement and firepower to the destroyers of that period, in order to counter this, Italy decided to produce a new class of cruiser that would be of intermediate size between the new French destroyer classes and the cruisers built in that period. The four units of the Da Giussano class (first sub-class of the Condottieri cruisers group) were laid down in 1928, and completed in 1931-32, respecting the newly signed London Naval Treaty. On a displacement of about 5,200 tons, they were armed with eight 152 mm in four double turrets, and could attain the remarkably high speed of 37 knots (69 km/h), but with negligible armour and short radius.[16]

A new French cruiser had been ordered in 1926 and launched in 1930, specially designed as a school ship for midshipmen. The cruiser Jeanne d'Arc had the same 6.1-in guns, in double turrets, than Duguay-Trouin-class cruisers.[17] But when, after the London Naval Treaty, a new cruiser Émile Bertin was designed to operate both as a minelayer and as a destroyer flotilla leader, she was armed with a completely new armament and turret layout, nine 6-in (152 mm) guns in three triple turrets, for the first time in the French Navy. She had two double and two single mounts of 90 mm for secondary AA artillery. Reaching 39.66 knots (73.45 km/h) on speed trials, with 137,908 hp (102,838 kW), she was the fastest of the French cruisers ever built.[18]

The triple turret was unusual in the French Navy, which had preferred the double turret on its battleships, and on its previous cruisers, or the quadruple turret. In 1910, the Chief Naval Constructor, French Navy, had designed Normandie-class battleships with three quadruple turrets,[19] and the quadruple turret was broadly used, on the Dunkerque-class battleships, as the mounting for the main armament, as for the dual-purpose secondary battery.[20] Triple turrets have been common in the Italian Navy battleships (uninterruptedly since the first Italian dreadnought built, Dante Alighieri)[21] as in the Russian,[22] W W I Austro-Hungarian,[23] U.S. Navies (since the Nevada to the Tennessee battleship classes),[24] and even in the British Royal Navy, with the Nelson-class battleships.[25] On cruisers, the triple turret was used in all the U.S. Navy Washington heavy cruiser classes, on the Reichsmarine light cruisers, and on Deutschland-class "pocket battleships".[26]

This was on the basis of the Émile Bertin's armament, and on the Algérie's protection and propulsion that was designed the leadship of the La Galissonnière class, launched in November 1933.[27]

Introduction of the large light cruiser[edit]

The Imperial Japanese Navy, and its great Pacific Ocean rival, the U.S. Navy were both interested by large cruisers, no matter they were classed "heavy" or "light". In the 1931 Building Program, Japan ordered the first units of a new light cruiser class, the Mogami class,[28] with fifteen 155 mm, in five triple turrets, and a speed of 37 knots (69 km/h), announcing, falsely a displacement of 8,500 tons. The U.S. Navy answered with the Brooklyn class,[29] with fifteen 152 mm guns, a speed of 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h), but a more exact displacement of 9,700 tons. The first units of this class were launched in 1937-38. The Royal Navy had laid down a class of four light cruisers, HMS Arethusa class,[30] smaller than the HMS Leander with only six 6-in (152 mm) guns. They were launched between 1934 and 1936. In reaction to the building of the Japanese and U.S. large light cruisers, the United Kingdom canceled some projected units of the Leander and Arethusa classes. The two first British large light cruisers, after drawing drafts for a so-called Minotaur class, became the Town cruiser class,[31] which were launched in 1936. They were fitted with twelve 6-in (152 mm) guns, in four triple turrets, and aircraft installations at the center of the ship, had a speed of 32 knots (59 km/h), and were nearly respecting the 10,000 tons displacement.

Three vessels, De Grasse, Guichen and Chateaurenault, were authorized shortly before the war as improved La Galissonniere class, with a displacement of 8,000 tons, the same armament and arrangement of three triple 152 mm turrets, two fore and one aft, and three twin AA 90 mm aft, one axial and two lateral. Aircraft installations, two catapults, crane and hangar, accommodating three/four seaplanes, would have been fitted in the ship's center, aft of a single large funnel. They were intended to have more powerful propulsion machinery, 110,000 hp (82,000 kW), to reach 35 knots (65 km/h). The silhouette, with a massive fore tower, would have been inspired by the Algerie's. But only the name ship was actually laid down in the Lorient Navy Yard, and as work was suspended during the war, she was launched in 1946, and completed only in 1956, as an integral anti-aircraft cruiser design.[32]


La Galissonière -class cruisers were very different, in displacement, armament, and protection from the London Naval Treaty Type B cruisers, such as the British Dido class,[33] American Atlanta class[34] or Italian Da Giussano-class cruisers, with a displacement of 6,000 tons or less, armed with numerous guns of caliber sometimes inferior to 152 mm, to the large light cruisers (Duca degli Abruzzi), the Brooklyn or Town class cruisers, (about 10,000 tons, and from ten to fifteen 152 mm guns).

With a displacement of 7,500 tons, and nine 152 mm guns, the La Galissonière-class cruisers belong to a middle category, comparable with the last Kriegsmarine light cruiser Nürnberg (an improved version of the Leipzig),[35] the Italian Montecuccoli cruiser (from the intermediate version of the Condottieri), or the nine gun units of the Crown Colony-class cruisers,[36] reduced version of the Town class cruisers.

The displacement of French cruisers was around 7-9,000 tons, yet it was enough to accommodate both heavy armour and heavy armament, while maintaining good maximum speed.

Main armament[edit]

The class main armament, in three triple mountings, concentrated a powerful broadside in a relatively small vessel. Their displacement was of the 7,000 ton class, just like the Italian Condottieri 's III Group (Attendolo and Montecuccoli). While the Condottieri's had four turrets with eight 152 mm guns, French cruisers had only three turrets with nine guns. The use of triple turrets allowed, as on the U.S. Navy cruisers, the deployment of nine 203 mm guns, or even fifteen 152 mm guns, on hulls of 10,000 tons, or on the German light cruisers, to have nine 5.9-in (150 mm) guns, with less than 7,000 tons displacement.

The armament consisted of the 152 mm gun (152 mm/55 Model 1930), the only French-built gun of this caliber. The cruiser mount was the Model 1930, that displaced 169.3 tons (172 mt). The rate of fire was one shell every 12 seconds (5 rounds per mn).

Anti-aircraft artillery, torpedoes, aircraft facilities[edit]

The secondary armament consisted of the 90 mm/50 cal Model 1926. It was a decided improvement over the old 75 mm guns, being mounted single or twin. La Galissonnière cruisers had four twin mounts. These ships were also fitted with two twin torpedo tubes, on sides, amidship. The torpedoes were the 550 mm (21.7 in)[37] 23 DT model, in service since 1925. Their aircraft installations, with hangar and derrick on stern, and a catapult fitted on the top of the aft 152 mm turret, could accommodate four Loire 130 seaplanes.

Like most French warships completed prewar, they were originally weak in light anti-aircraft artillery, with four twin 37 mm guns, and six 13.2 mm twin mount machine guns. Four more were added in 1941, with one 37 mm and one double 25 mm guns, and two Hotschkiss 13.2 mm twin mount machine guns. The three ex-Vichy units received a refit, with American help, in 1943. Georges Leygues, Montcalm, and Gloire, had their aircraft installations and all their original anti-aircraft artillery removed, and were fitted with six quadruple Bofors 40 mm guns, and twenty single Oerlikon 20 mm guns.


The armour was thicker than that of many other cruisers of the time (such as the Italian Condottieri) heavy enough to withstand opposing cruiser main batteries. The belt and deck armour was substantially thicker than usual. Condottieri 's Group III had only 60 mm belt and 30 mm deck, while La Galissonnière had a 75–105 mm armoured belt, and 37–50 mm deck armor thickness. This was enough to withstand a 152 mm round at combat range ( gives 76 mm at 11,000 m, when fired from a British gun), while Italian counterparts cannot have done the same with their light armour, sacrificed for the best speed. Only the last group of Condottieri was superior, with a heavier displacement of 9,100 tons (20% more than French cruisers), 10 guns, and up to 130 mm armour (thought to withstand 152 mm as well), but they were only two ships. In any event, these powerful ships never fought one another. The La Galissonière-class cruisers 105 mm armored belt was also thicker than the Nürnberg's (50 mm), the HMS Dido's (76.2 mm), or the Fiji‍ '​s (3.5-inch or 88 mm), and equivalent to the Leander's. The turret protection, with 100 mm (4-in.) on faces, and 50 mm (2-in.) on sides, back, and roofs was also better than on other cruisers with similar displacement (1.25-inch on German cruisers, 1-in, on the British ones, 2-in on Town or Fiji classes, and 3 to 5-in on Brooklyn class).


The propulsion was provided by four Indret boilers, and four Parsons turbines on La Galissonnière, Georges Leygues, Montcalm, or Rateau Bretagne turbines on the other ones, and two shafts, for a speed of 31 knots (57 km/h), with 84,000 hp (63,000 kW). They easily maintained 31/32 knots and all exceeded by far the expected trial speed of 33 knots (61 km/h). Thus, the Marseillaise steamed an average of 34.98 knots (64.78 km/h) during an 8-hour trial and 35.39 knots (65.54 km/h) during a ninth hour. At the end of the war, they could still easily make 32 knots (59 km/h), on a full load displacement then increased to 10,850 tons.[38] The endurance (5,500 nmi (10,200 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h)), was considerably better than Italian equivalents (Condottieris: around 3,800 nmi (7,000 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h)), but similar to the comparable light British or German cruisers, for the speed and radius, except the HMS Leander and HMS Arethusa class cruisers, which had an exceptional radius of 12,000 nmi.[39]


The ships were:

When completed, La Galissonnière, Jean de Vienne, and Marseillaise formed the 3rd Cruisers Division, flagship Marseillaise, attached to the Mediterranean Squadron, and based in Bizerte, Georges Leygues, Montcalm, and Gloire formed the 4th Cruisers Division, flagship Georges Leygues, attached to the Atlantic Fleet, and based in Brest. The 4th Cruisers Division carried out an endurance cruise to Indochina, from December 1937 to April 1938, and represented France at the New York World's Fair, in July 1939.

Phoney war, and under Vichy Control[edit]

During the Phoney War, the 4th Cruiser Division was attached to the Force de Raid under Admiral Gensoul, with Dunkerque and Strasbourg, heavy cruisers and large destroyers, first based in Brest. This squadron took part in screening Atlantic convoys, and tried unsuccessfully to give chase to German surface raiders. As Italy remained neutral in the Mediterranean, the Marseillaise and Jean de Vienne took part in the shipping to Canada of a part of the Banque de France's gold reserve, in December 1939, and shipped troops in the Mediterranean in March 1940.

In April 1940, the Émile Bertin was damaged by the Luftwaffe, off Norway,[46] and Montcalm replaced her, and took part in the evacuation of Namsos. In response to the increasingly threatening attitude of Italy, on April 1940, the Force de Raid was sent to the Mediterranean Sea, and the 3rd and 4th Cruiser Divisions were then based in Algiers. After Italy entered the war in June, they carried out two sorties, unsuccessfully attempting to intercept Italian fleet units .

On the July 3, 1940, Admiral Sommerville's Force H was sent to Mers-el-Kebir. As the French Admiralty signalled in a radio message in clear, that the Algiers cruisers had been ordered to rejoin the battleship squadron off Mers-el-Kebir, the British Admiralty warned Admiral Somerville and hurried him to put an end to the negotiations with Admiral Gensoul and to open fire. So the six cruisers had only one thing to do, to steer for Toulon, where they arrived the day after.

Two months after, the Vichy authorities obtained permission from the German Armistice Commission to send the 4th Cruisers Division (George Leygues, Montcalm and Gloire), and three large destroyers, to Libreville, to counter the Free French Forces which had taken control of French Equatorial Africa territories, except Gabon. As the oiler Tarn, escorted by the French cruiser Primauguet had been intercepted in the Bight of Benin by British warships, and bound to Casablanca, refueling was no longer possible in Libreville, and the French cruiser squadron had to turn back to Dakar. Slowed by machinery problems, the Gloire was intercepted by British cruisers, and was only allowed to proceed on to Casablanca, as the Georges Leygues and Montcalm reached Dakar at full speed, and so took part in its defence against Operation Menace. Until 1943, they remained there, where Gloire joined them in March 1941: from September 15 to 25, 1942, she was sent to rescue the victims of the sinking of the British troop ship Laconia, torpedoed by the German submarine U 156.[47]

In Toulon, two of the three cruisers from the 3rd Cruisers Division, Marseillaise and Galissonnière, the latter being replaced on March 15, 1941 by Jean de Vienne, were incorporated in a so-called High Seas Force, which nearly never went to sea, due to the lack of fuel, but in November 1940, to cover the return to Toulon of the battleship Provence, which had been severely damaged by British gunfire in July 1940. In January 1942, the Jean de Vienne was sent to rescue the liner Lamoriciere, whose sinking in a winter tempest, off the Balearic Islands, caused more than 300 deaths.

After the successful Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria, in November 1942, the Germans occupied the Zone libre, and tried to seize the French warships in Toulon, (Operation Lila). But the three La Galissonière -class cruisers, La Galissonnière, Jean de Vienne, Marseillaise, as most of the ships based at Toulon, were scuttled, on November 27, 1942. In 1943, the Italian Navy tried to salvage Jean de Vienne and La Galissonnière, and registered them as FR11 and FR12.[48] In 1944, after the Italian surrender, the Germans rendered the wrecks to the Vichy authorities, but they were sunk, following Allied bombing attacks on Jean de Vienne on November 24, 1943 and La Galissonnière, on April 18, 1944. They were both scrapped post war.

Allied service[edit]

Like all the French warships stationed in Africa and the French Antilles, Georges Leygues, Montcalm and Gloire joined the Allied Forces. Beginning February 1943, Georges Leygues carried out, from Dakar, patrols in the Central Atlantic, and on 13 April, she intercepted the German blockade runner Portland,[49] as the Flag Officer, French Navy West Africa, was Admiral Collinet, formerly Commanding Officer of the Strasbourg, at Mers-el-Kebir.

In February 1943, the Montcalm was sent to Philadelphia, to be refitted with American help, remaining there until August 1943. The Gloire was sent to Brooklyn, from July to November 1943, and the Georges Leygues, to Philadelphia, from July to October 1943. Their aircraft mounts were removed and they were fitted with modernised anti-aircraft weapons. Sent to the Mediterranean Sea, the Montcalm supported the Liberation of Corsica in September 1943, and Gloire carried out bombardment missions against land-based targets in the Gulf of Gaeta, in early 1944.

Georges Leygues and Montcalm supported the Allied Normandy landings, and, together with Gloire, Operation Dragoon. Georges Leygues returned to Toulon, on September 13, 1944, bearing the flag of the Chef d'état-major de la Marine, Vice Admiral Lemonnier, her Commanding Officer when she had left Toulon, and at Dakar, in 1940. Until April 1945, the three cruisers were part of the so-called Flank Force, operating off the Mediterranean cost of the western Italian Riviera.

Post war[edit]

In 1945, they carried out various missions to Indochina, and after 1954, off the Algerian coast. The Gloire was flagship of the French Mediterranean Squadron, in 1951-52, Montcalm from October 1952 to June 1954, and Georges Leygues afterwards, and she took part as flagship of the Intervention Force in the operations off Egypt, during the Suez Crisis, carrying out a bombardment mission against Rafah on November 1, 1956, and supporting the landing at Port-Saïd.

The Gloire and Georges Leygues were scrapped in 1958 and 1959, and the Montcalm in 1970.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Le Masson 1969, pp. 19–20
  2. ^ Labayle-Couhat 1974, pp. 64–77
  3. ^ Moulin 2007, pp. 54–62
  4. ^ Le Masson 1969, pp. 6, 9, 89–90
  5. ^ Labayle-Couhat 1974, pp. 58–63
  6. ^ Lenton 1973, pp. 50–71
  7. ^ Le Masson 1969, pp. 91–99
  8. ^ Lenton 1968, pp. 51–62
  9. ^ Watts 1971, pp. 84, p. 93, p. 99–101
  10. ^ Le Masson 1969, p. 91,p. 99
  11. ^ Lenton 1966, p. 59
  12. ^ Lenton 1966, p. 63
  13. ^ Lenton 1973, pp. 72–75
  14. ^ Lenton 1973, pp. 76–85
  15. ^ Lenton 1973, p. 5
  16. ^ Lenton 1973, p. 77
  17. ^ Le Masson 1969, p. 98
  18. ^ Le Masson 1969, p. 102
  19. ^ Labayle Couhat 1974, pp. 37–38
  20. ^ Le Masson 1969, pp. 69–72
  21. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 373–380
  22. ^ Meister 1972, pp. 23–28
  23. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 409–411
  24. ^ Lenton 1968, pp. 14–25
  25. ^ Lenton 1972, pp. 46–50
  26. ^ Lenton 1966, pp. 34–38
  27. ^ Le Masson 1969, pp. 20, p. 102–104
  28. ^ Watts 1971, pp. 99–101
  29. ^ Lenton 1968, p. 78
  30. ^ Lenton 1973, pp. 90–94
  31. ^ Lenton 1973, pp. 95–107
  32. ^ Le Masson 1969, p. 106
  33. ^ Lenton 1973, p. 119
  34. ^ Lenton 1968, p. 68
  35. ^ Lenton 1966, p. 65
  36. ^ Lenton 1973, p. 134
  37. ^ Le Masson 1969, p. 103
  38. ^ Le Masson 1969, p. 20
  39. ^ Lenton 1973, p. 83, p. 93
  40. ^ Moulin 2007, p. 26
  41. ^ Moulin 2007, p. 18
  42. ^ Moulin 2007, p. 16
  43. ^ Moulin 2007, p. 24
  44. ^ Moulin 2007, p. 22
  45. ^ Moulin 2007, p. 20
  46. ^ Moulin 2007, p. 28
  47. ^ Peillard 1974, pp. 293–296
  48. ^ Le Masson 1969, p. 104
  49. ^ Peillard 1974, pp. 378–379


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External links[edit]