French destroyer L'Audacieux

L'Audacieux ("The audacious one") was one of six Le Fantasque-class large destroyers (contre-torpilleur, "Torpedo-boat destroyer") built for the Marine Nationale (French Navy) during the 1930s. The ship entered service in 1935 and participated in the Second World War. When war was declared in September 1939, all of the Le Fantasques were assigned to the Force de Raid which was tasked to hunt down German commerce raiders and blockade runners. L'Audacieux and two of her sister ships were based in Dakar, French West Africa, to patrol the Central Atlantic for several months in late 1939. They returned to Metropolitan France before the end of the year and were transferred to French Algeria in late April 1940 in case Italy decided to enter the war. She screened French cruisers several times as they unsuccessfully hunted for Italian ships after Italy declared war in June.

After most of French Equatorial Africa had declared for Free France in August, L'Audacieux and two of her sisters escorted a force of cruisers sent to Dakar in September to intimidate the colonies into rejoining Vichy France. The British and Free French sent a force to persuade French West Africa to join the Free French and the Battle of Dakar began when the garrison rejected their entreaties. The Vichy French destroyers were initially given a defensive role, but L'Audacieux was ordered to conduct a reconnaissance mission. She encountered an Australian cruiser at close range and drifted onto the shore after her power was knocked out. The ship was salvaged in early 1941 and was slowly repaired enough to reach French Tunisia for permanent repairs in mid-1942. Captured when the Germans occupied Tunisia six months later, she was sunk when the Germans evacuated in May 1943. Refloated once more at the end of the year, she was deemed not worth repairing and was cannibalized for spare parts. Her wreck was scrapped in 1947.

L'Audacieux NH 86549
L'Audacieux in port, circa 1939
Name: L'Audacieux
Ordered: 17 November 1930
Builder: Arsenal de Lorient
Laid down: 16 November 1931
Launched: 15 March 1934
Completed: 27 November 1935
Commissioned: 1 August 1935
In service: 7 December 1935
Captured: 8 December 1942
  • Sunk, 23 September 1940
  • Refloated, 11 March 1941
  • Sunk, 7 May 1943
  • Refloated, 14 December 1943
  • Scrapped, August 1947
General characteristics (as built)
Class and type: Le Fantasque-class destroyer
Length: 132.4 m (434 ft 5 in)
Beam: 12 m (39 ft 4 in)
Draught: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 2 shafts; 2 geared steam turbines
Speed: 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph) (designed)
Range: 2,700–2,900 nmi (5,000–5,400 km; 3,100–3,300 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 11 officers, 254 sailors (wartime)

Design and description

The Le Fantasque-class ships were designed to counter the fast Italian Condottieri-class light cruisers and one member of the class, Le Terrible, set a world record for a ship with a conventional hull that was in excess of 45 knots (83 km/h; 52 mph). They had an overall length of 132.4 meters (434 ft 5 in), a beam of 12 meters (39 ft 4 in), and a draft of 4.5 meters (14 ft 9 in).[1] The ships displaced 2,569 metric tons (2,528 long tons) at standard[2] and 3,417 metric tons (3,363 long tons) at deep load. L'Audacieux was powered by two Rateau-Bretagne geared steam turbines, each driving one propeller shaft, using steam provided by four water-tube boilers. The turbines were designed to produce 74,000 metric horsepower (54,000 kW; 73,000 shp), which would propel the ship at 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph). During her sea trials on 8 May 1935, her turbines provided 97,448 metric horsepower (71,673 kW; 96,115 shp) and she reached 42.4 knots (78.5 km/h; 48.8 mph) for a single hour. The Parsons turbines were more economical than the Rateau-Bretagne turbines which gave those ships equipped with them a range of 2,900 nautical miles (5,400 km; 3,300 mi) versus 2,700 nmi (5,000 km; 3,100 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). The crew of the Le Fantasque class consisted of 11 officers and 221 crewmen in peacetime and the number of the latter increased to 254 in wartime.[3]

The main armament of the Le Fantasques consisted of five Canon de 138.6 mm (5.5 in) Modèle 1929 guns in single mounts, one superfiring pair fore and aft of the superstructure and the fifth gun abaft the aft funnel. The guns were numbered '1' to '5' from front to rear. Their anti-aircraft armament consisted of two Canon de 37 mm (1.5 in) Modèle 1925 guns in single mounts positioned amidships and four Mitrailleuse de 13.2 mm (0.52 in) CA Modèle 1929 in two twin-gun mounts aft of the 37 mm mounts. The ships carried three above-water triple sets of 550-millimeter (21.7 in) torpedo tubes; the aft mount could traverse to both sides, but the forward mounts were positioned one on each broadside. A pair of depth charge chutes were built into their stern; these housed a total of sixteen 200-kilogram (440 lb) depth charges with another dozen available in the torpedo magazine. They could also be fitted with rails capable of handling 40 naval mines.[4]

Construction and career

Ordered on 17 November 1930 as part of the 1930 Naval Program, L'Audacieux was built by Arsenal de Lorient. She was laid down on 16 November 1931, launched on 15 March 1934, commissioned on 1 August 1935, completed on 27 November and entered service on 7 December. Completion was delayed when her boilers had to be rebuilt because of defective firebricks. When the Le Fantasques entered service they were assigned to the newly formed 8th and 10th Light Divisions (Division légère) which were later redesignated as scout divisions (Division de contre-torpilleurs); both divisions were assigned to the 2nd Light Squadron (2eme Escadre légère) in Brest. As of 1 October 1936 L'Indomptable, Le Triomphant and Le Malin were assigned to the 8th Light Division while Le Fantasque, Le Terrible and L'Audacieux belonged to the 10th.[5]

The ship departed Brest on 4 December 1935 to represent the Marine Nationale at the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the French colonization of the Antilles where she joined the cruiser Emile Bertin and the submarine Surcouf in making port visits to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, and Fort de France, Martinique. Albert Lebrun, President of France, inaugurated the new building of the Naval Academy (École Navale) in Brest and reviewed the 2nd Squadron on 30 May 1936, including L'Audacieux, L'Indomptable, Le Fantasque, and Le Terrible. Between 15 January and 26 February, the 2nd Light Squadron cruised as far south as Conakry, French West Africa. On 27 May 1937, Alphonse Gasnier-Duparc, Minister of the Navy, reviewed the fleet, including all of the Le Fantasques. L'Audacieux briefly served as flagship of the 2nd Light Squadron from 9 August 1938 until she was relieved on 7 November.[6]

World War II

Both the 8th and 10th Scout Divisions were assigned to the Force de Raid when war was declared in September 1939; it made only a single sortie as a complete unit on 2–6 September when it responded to an erroneous report that German ships had left port. Afterwards it was dispersed into smaller groups to search for German commerce raiders and blockade runners. The 10th Scout Division, which consisted of L'Audacieux, Le Terrible, and Le Fantasque, together with British ships, was assigned to Force X that was based in Dakar, French West Africa from 10 October to 18 November.[7] During 21–30 October, the Force de Raid, including all of the Le Fantasques, screened Convoy KJ 4 against a possible attack by the heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee.[8] The ships of the 10th Scout Division escorted the Strasbourg and the British aircraft carrier Hermes as they searched for German ships in the Central Atlantic 7–13 November. The division escorted Strasbourg and the heavy cruiser Algérie back to France on 18 November.[9] L'Audacieux was one of the escorts for Strasbourg and her sister Dunkerque en route to Mers-el-Kébir, French Algeria, where they arrived on 27 April, although the destroyer was based at nearby Algiers. She took part in a sortie by the Force de Raid into the Western Mediterranean on 12–13 June, after Italy declared war on the Allies on the 10th. L'Audacieux then began escorting convoys evacuating people from mainland France to French North Africa and escorted cruisers fruitlessly searching for Italian cruisers on 23–24 June after an erroneous report that they were at sea. After the British attack on Mers-el-Kébir on 3 July, the ship escorted the cruisers that attempted to rendezvous with Strasbourg after she escaped from Mers-el-Kébir and later arrived at Toulon.[10]

By the end of August, all of French Equatorial Africa had joined Free France, with the exception of French Gabon. In response, the Germans and Italians authorized the Vichy French to send ships to the Gulf of Guinea to bring the rebellious colonies back under control. The 4eme Division de croiseurs (4th Cruiser Division) of three light cruisers, escorted by the 10th Scout Division, was chosen and the ships were designated as Force Y. They departed on 9 September and departed Casablanca, French Morocco, on the 12th after refueling. The destroyers lacked enough range to reach Dakar at the 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph) ordered by Contre amiral (Rear Admiral) Bourragué and were forced to return to Casablanca. They finally reached Dakar on 19–20 September.[11]

A powerful British and Free French force was already en route to Dakar; their mission was to rally it to the Free French or to conquer it. The Vichy French garrison refused General Charles de Gaulle's appeal to join the Free French and opened fire on the British ships.[12] The French destroyers were tasked to make a continuous smoke screen to protect the cruisers as they maneuvered to avoid British shells. The heavy fog reduced the ability of the French ships to spot the British and L'Audacieux was ordered to venture forth on a reconnaissance mission. The ship was spotted by the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Australia and was quickly hit at close range. Her bridge was destroyed by 8 in (203 mm) shells that also knocked out her power and set her on fire. The destroyer drifted ashore shortly afterwards near Rufisque. L'Audacieux lost 81 crewmen dead or missing during the battle.[13]

She was refloated on 11 March 1941 and was slowly repaired so that she was able to sail to Bizerte, French Tunisia, on 7 August 1942 where she arrived on the 22nd; when the Germans occupied Bizerte on 8 December, the ship was in a dry dock and was not scuttled. L'Audacieux was damaged by Allied bombing and was sunk on 7 May 1943 when the Germans destroyed the dock's gate when they evacuated the city. Her hulk was refloated on 14 December 1943, after she had been repaired enough to get her out of the dock. Deemed a constructive total loss the ship was cannibalized for spare parts for Le Triomphant, Le Fantasque and Le Terrible. Her remains were scrapped in August 1947.[14]


  1. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 137, 139–140
  2. ^ Chesneau, p. 268
  3. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 140, 143–144
  4. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 145–151
  5. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 138–139, 214–215
  6. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 208, 210, 213, 218
  7. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 222–223
  8. ^ Rohwer, p. 7
  9. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2013, pp. 177–178
  10. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 231, 233
  11. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 233–234
  12. ^ Rohwer, p. 42
  13. ^ Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 234–235
  14. ^ Chesneau, pp. 268–269; Jordan & Moulin 2015, pp. 235, 260, 274–275


  • 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 (2013). French Cruisers, 1922−1956. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-133-5.
  • Jordan, John & Moulin, Jean (2015). French Destroyers: Torpilleurs d'Escadre & Contre-Torpilleurs 1922–1956. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-198-4.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2.
French ship Audacieux

At least five ships of the French Navy have borne the name Audacieux or Audacieuse

which means audacious in French:

French ship Audacieux (1784) (1783–1803) French Navy Téméraire-class 74-gun ship of the line

French frigate Audacieuse (1856) French Navy Ardente-class frigate

French torpedo boat Audacieux, a Cyclone-class torpedo boat launched in 1900 and struck in 1923.

French destroyer L'Audacieux (1934–1943) French Navy ship of World War II

French patrol vessel L'Audacieuse (P682) a P400-class patrol vessel or L'Audacieuse-class patrol boat

HMAS Australia (D84)

HMAS Australia (I84/D84/C01) was a County-class heavy cruiser of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). One of two Kent-subclass ships ordered for the RAN in 1924, Australia was laid down in Scotland in 1925, and entered service in 1928. Apart from an exchange deployment to the Mediterranean from 1934 to 1936, during which she became involved in the planned British response to the Abyssinia Crisis, Australia operated in local and South-West Pacific waters until World War II began.

The cruiser remained near Australia until mid-1940, when she was deployed for duties in the eastern Atlantic, including hunts for German ships and participation in Operation Menace. During 1941, Australia operated in home and Indian Ocean waters, but was reassigned as flagship of the ANZAC Squadron in early 1942. As part of this force (which was later redesignated Task Force 44, then Task Force 74), Australia operated in support of United States naval and amphibious operations throughout South-East Asia until the start of 1945, including involvement in the battles at the Coral Sea and Savo Island, the amphibious landings at Guadalcanal and Leyte Gulf, and numerous actions during the New Guinea campaign. She was forced to withdraw following a series of kamikaze attacks during the invasion of Lingayen Gulf. The prioritisation of shipyard work in Australia for British Pacific Fleet vessels saw the Australian cruiser sail to England for repairs, where she was at the end of the war.

During the late 1940s, Australia served with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and participated in several port visits to other nations, before being retasked as a training ship in 1950. The cruiser was decommissioned in 1954, and sold for scrapping in 1955.

HMS Fury (H76)

HMS Fury was an F-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy in the 1930s. Although assigned to the Home Fleet upon completion, the ship was attached to the Mediterranean Fleet in 1935–36 during the Abyssinia Crisis. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, she spent time in Spanish waters, enforcing the arms blockade imposed by Britain and France on both sides of the conflict. The ship escorted the larger ships of the fleet during the early stages of World War II and played a minor role in the Norwegian Campaign of 1940. Fury was sent to Gibraltar in mid-1940 and formed part of Force H where she participated in the attack on Mers-el-Kébir and the Battle of Dakar. The ship escorted numerous convoys to Malta in 1940–41 and Arctic convoys during 1942.

Fury was briefly transferred to the Mediterranean in August 1942 to participate in Operation Pedestal but returned to the Home Fleet immediately afterwards to resume her role screening convoys to Russia. She continued in this role until March 1943 when she began escorting convoys in the North Atlantic for several months. The ship was transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet a few months later as the Allies began making landings in Italian territory in mid-1943. Later in the year, she participated in the Dodecanese Campaign in the Aegean where she helped to sink a German troop convoy. Fury returned to the Home Fleet in mid-1944 in preparation for Operation Neptune, the Allied invasion of France. The ship provided naval gunfire support during the landings until she struck a mine during a storm on 21 June and was then blown ashore. She was deemed uneconomical to repair and scrapping began in September.

HMS Greyhound (H05)

HMS Greyhound was a G-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy in the 1930s. Greyhound participated in the Norwegian Campaign in April 1940, the Dunkirk evacuation in May and the Battle of Dakar in September before being transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in November. The ship generally escorted the larger ships of the Mediterranean Fleet as they protected convoys against attacks from the Italian Fleet. She sank two Italian submarines while escorting convoys herself in early 1941. Greyhound was sunk by German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers north-west of Crete on 22 May 1941 as she escorted the battleships of the Mediterranean Fleet attempting to intercept the German sea-borne invasion forces destined for Crete.

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