French cruiser Léon Gambetta
Léon Gambetta underway
|Namesake:||Léon Gambetta, French statesman|
|Builder:||Arsenal de Brest|
|Launched:||26 October 1901|
|Fate:||Sunk by Austrian U-boat U-5, 27 April 1915|
|Class and type:||Léon Gambetta-class Armoured cruiser|
|Displacement:||12,400 tonnes (12,204 long tons)|
|Length:||149.1 m (489 ft 2 in)|
|Beam:||22.5 m (73 ft 10 in)|
|Draft:||8.2 m (26 ft 11 in)|
|Propulsion:||3 shafts; 3 triple-expansion steam engines|
|Speed:||22.5 knots (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph)|
The Léon Gambetta was a French Navy armoured cruiser of 12,400 tons, the lead ship of the class of that name. The Gambettas were larger than previous armoured cruisers of the class, but they lacked the heavier firepower. They also were vulnerable to underwater attacks.
She was launched on 26 October 1901 at the Arsenal de Brest. While on steam trial in December 1903, she struck an unknown pinnacle of rock off Black Rock Islands near Brest in fog and suffered considerable damage. Repairs were not complete until mid-1904.
On the night of 27 April 1915, when 15 miles (24 km) south of Santa Maria di Leuca (the south-eastern tip of Italy in the Ionian Sea) in position 39°30′N 18°15′E / 39.500°N 18.250°ECoordinates: 39°30′N 18°15′E / 39.500°N 18.250°E, she was torpedoed twice by Austro-Hungarian submarine U-5 under the command of Korvettenkapitän Georg Ludwig Ritter von Trapp (later to be known as patriarch of the Von Trapp Family Singers).
Léon Gambetta was part of the French fleet based at Malta blockading the Austrian Navy in the Adriatic, usually from a position south of the Strait of Otranto. At this time the blockade line was moved further north because of expected Austrian naval activity – the Allies were negotiating with the Italians which shortly led to them declaring war on Austria-Hungary. In spite of the growing threat from Austrian and now German U-boats in the Mediterranean, the armoured cruiser was patrolling unescorted at a reported 7 knots (13 km/h) on a clear, calm night just to the south of the Otranto Straits when she was torpedoed by the U-5.
Léon Gambetta sank in just 10 minutes. Out of 821 men on board, 684 including Rear Admiral Victor Baptistin Senes, commander of the 2nd Light Division, were lost along with all commissioned officers. There were 137 survivors. The French cruiser patrol line was moved South to the longitude of Cephalonia, western Greece. Other sources place her loss 20 miles (32 km) off Cape Leuca.
- "Wrecksite, Leon Gambetta". Retrieved 2009-02-22.
- "Vienna confirms disaster. Lieutenant von Trapp in Command of Submarine That Sank the Cruiser. French warship sunk. 552 perish" (PDF). New York Times. April 29, 1915. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
- Chesneau, Roger, Eugène M. Koleśnik, and N. J. M. Campbell. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905. New York: Mayflower Books, 1979.
- Moore, John Evelyn. Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I. New York: Military Press, 1990.
- French warship launched.; The Leon Gambetta to be One of a Hundred Fighting Vessels France Is to Build. The New York Times. October 27, 1901, Wednesday Page 4,
- How he sank a cruiser.; Submarine Captain Describes the Destruction of the Leon Gambetta. The New York Times. 1 May 1915, Saturday Page 2
- Reports cruiser ashore.; Delayed Bulletin Says the Leon Gambetta Was Beached. The New York Times. April 29, 1915, Thursday, Page 2
- Admiral Senes lost aboard the Gambetta; French Ministry Reports Him Among the Victims – Italians Bury Dead With Honors. The New York Times. 30 April 1915, Friday, Page 1
- 136 of crew saved.; But All the Officers of the Gambetta Perished at Their Posts. The New York Times. April 29, 1915, Thursday, Page 2
- French warship sunk; 552 perish; Cruiser Leon Gambetta Blown Up by an Austrian Submarine in Strait of Otranto. All her officers lost. Italian Vessels Rescue 162 of Warship's 714 Men – Surprise Attack at Night. TRAGEDY SEEN FROM SHORE Submarine Believed to Have Traveled 300 Miles to Strike Vessel Guarding Adriatic Outlet. The New York Times. April 29, 1915, Thursday, Page 1
- Destroyer aided attack.; German Vessel Said to Have Fired on the Leon Gambetta. Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES. The New York Times. April 29, 1915, Thursday, Page 2
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