'French Destroyers'

French Destroyers

Title: French Destroyers
Subtitle: Torpilleurs d`Escadre & Contre-Torpilleurs 1922-1926
Authors: John Jordan & Jean Moulin
Editor: Seaforth Publishing
Edited: 2015
Pages: 296
Language: English
ISBN: 9781848321984
Review:

In spite of the fact that the title of this book uses the English word for this type of war vessel, the French language has no single translation for it. Both French terminologies that can be used for this particular ship are ‘torpilleur d’escadre’ and ’contre-torpilleur’. This has been indicated already by the authors John Jordan and Jean Moulin in its subtitle. The Marine Nationale Franҫaise however has never applied the usual word for destroyer as the French distinguished between large and small destroyers. In French the translation for ‘destroyer’, or ‘Zerstörer’ in German ,would be ‘destructeur’, but the French selected to use their own nomenclature as you see.

During the interbellum the French constructed large and fast destroyers which they called ‘torpilleurs d’escadres’ These ships were not developed to hunt destroyers or submarines but to accompany battle ships and aircraft carriers in squadrons. During the Second World War the missions of the ‘torpilleurs d’escadres’ would certainly be focused on the hunting and destruction of the enemy ships as mentioned, as in this way the large warships could be best protected. These vessels could be well compared to the American escort-destroyers.

From the 1900s the French navy had ships being built after the British example. These were small ships of approximately 300 tons deadweight armed with four torpedoes and a number of rapid firing guns. In the early 1920s from these ships the ‘contre-torpilleurs’ were developed. Also these were not designed and built to hunt destroyers , but to be deployed as fast reconnaissance units. In practice however the ‘contre-torpilleurs’ were used to fight small enemy torpedo boats and other coasters. As time progressed, these war vessels became bigger and faster and from the 1930s the French only constructed ‘contre-torpilleurs’ and no more ‘torpilleurs d’escadres’ Later on the ‘contre-torpilleurs’ could be best compared to small cruisers or squadron leaders like the Dutch cruisers of the Tromp-class (Hr.Ms. Tromp and Hr.Ms. Jacob van Heemskerck).

The Marine Nationale Franҫaise during the interbellum built an excellent fleet. After the British, American and Japanese navies, the French naval fleet was the largest in the world. Especially the French destroyers in general were better than the British and American but certainly surpassed those of the Italian navy, which was from the 1930s onwards considered more and more as the immediate opponent. As the German forces in 1940 overran France and forced a quick capitulation, the French fleet did not play a part of any significance during the Second World War. Only the ships that were captured by the British during Operation Catapult, in July 1940, fought on the allied side during the war. A few dozen of ‘torpilleurs d’escadres’ survived the war and formed part of the French navy till 1956.

"French Destroyers" has been composed with great care by the authors John Jordan and Jean Moulin. The British author John Jordan is a former language teacher who started writing about the post war Soviet navy by the end of the 1970s. Thereafter he indulged in the French navy and during the past twenty years he published numerous articles about this subject for the British magazine "Warships". In 2005 he became chief editor of the monthly. The first book he edited with Seaforth Publishing "French Battleships 1922-1956" he wrote together with author Robert Dumas. This book was published in 2009 and was succeeded in 2013 by "French Cruisers 1922-1956". This he wrote together with Jean Moulin. This French author served with the French navy before he started a career in information technology. In 2000 he was retired and wrote articles and books about French navy ships. He specialized in cruisers and destroyers. The co-authorship with John Jordan finally resulted in "French Destroyers".

"French Destroyers" has been composed in the same way as its predecessors "French Battleships" and "French Cruisers". The first part of the book consists of technical descriptions of the ships. The design, development, build and technical data are presented in chronological order. That sequence is defined by a time line along which the ships were produced. That illustrates clearly that there is a defined evolution of the French destroyers. John Jordan was largely responsible for this part, assisted by co-author Jean Moulin. The second part of the book contains the operational history of the relevant ships. This history was originally written in French, in four chapters, which were later on translated into English by John Jordan.

The excellent text is being supported by hundreds of photographs in black and white, tables, schemes, maps and graphic work. These drawings are also by John Jordan and most of them were especially made for this issue. As a bonus, the middle eight pages show 17 pictures of paintings by an artist by the name of Jean Bladé . The total issue provides a reference book of encyclopedic character of great historical class which reads easy and which looks very good. Together with its both predecessors about the cruisers and battle ships "French Destroyers" fills a significant gap in the English library about French warships. Apart from that the book will absolutely be a treasure on the book shelves of collectors, historians, ships modelers and all other devotees of maritime history. This is exactly what the editor Seaforth Publishing (an imprint of Pen & Sword) had in mind with her publications.

Rating: Excellent!

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Translated by:
Fred Bolle
Article by:
Peter Kimenai
Published on:
17-11-2015
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