Book Review: French Cruisers, 1922-1956


by John Jordan & Jean Moulin,

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2013. Pp. 232. Illus., maps, tables, plans, notes, index. $74.95. ISBN: 1591142962

On the eve of World War II the French Navy was the fourth largest in the world, and particularly during the first eight months the war played a vital role in operations at sea, but it has been largely neglected in English language literature. French Cruisers, 1922-1956, a large, very well illustrated volume complements Jordan’s earlier French Battleships, 1922-1956. 

Co-authored with French naval historian Moulin, the book covers some two dozen cruisers of all types planned or acquired by the French Marine Nationale from the early 1920s through the mid-1950s, whether completed or not, including war prizes. Many of these ships served in World War II. The book includes alternative designs and projected modifications that were later discarded, such as plans to covert some ships to light aircraft carriers. The book is divided into two parts. 

The first part has chapters for each of the four principal classes laid down in the period, plus one for three rather specialized ships. Each chapter gives us a general overview of the design and characteristics of the class, with comparisons to foreign designs, notably Italian. The authors are careful to note important differences among members of the various classes, a matter often overlooked in books of this time. 

The second section deals with operations in four chapters. One covers the interwar period, 1926-1939, and includes operations in support of “Non-Intervention” during the Spanish Civil War. Two chapters cover the Second World War, covering 1939-1943, for part of which there were two French navies, the Gaullist and the Vichyite, and 1943-1945. A single chapter covers the immediate post war period, 1945-1956, which saw the French Navy supporting operations in Southeast Asia. 

This is a valuable work for anyone interested in twentieth century navies, and the operational section is very useful in covering activities not usually found in English-language accounts of the Second World War at sea.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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