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French cruiser Montcalm

French cruiser Montcalm

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The Montcalm was a French light cruiser
Light cruiser
A light cruiser is a type of small- or medium-sized warship. The term is a shortening of the phrase "light armored cruiser", describing a small ship that carried armor in the same way as an armored cruiser: a protective belt and deck...

 of the La Galissonnière class
La Galissonnière class cruiser
The La Galissonnière cruiser class was a group of six warships admitted in active service in 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...

, named in honour of Louis-Joseph de Montcalm
Louis-Joseph de Montcalm
Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran was a French soldier best known as the commander of the forces in North America during the Seven Years' War .Montcalm was born near Nîmes in France to a noble family, and entered military service...

. During World War II, she served with both Vichy France
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 and the Allies.


After commissioning and trials, Montcalm was assigned to the 4th Cruiser Division at Brest
Brest, France
Brest is a city in the Finistère department in Brittany in northwestern France. Located in a sheltered position not far from the western tip of the Breton peninsula, and the western extremity of metropolitan France, Brest is an important harbour and the second French military port after Toulon...

. Pre-war activities included being stationed in Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City , formerly named Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam...

 (now Ho Chi Minh City), French Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

 for two months from January 1938. Once back in France and part of the French Atlantic Fleet, her peacetime routine included a review for King George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

 at Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

 in July 1938 and she represented France at the New York World's Fair
1939 New York World's Fair
The 1939–40 New York World's Fair, which covered the of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park , was the second largest American world's fair of all time, exceeded only by St. Louis's Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. Many countries around the world participated in it, and over 44 million people...

, in 1939.

World War II

At the start of the war, now assigned to the 2nd Squadron of the Force de Raid
Force de Raid
The Force de Raid was a French naval unit based at Brest until 1940. It included some of the most modern capital ships of its day organised into two squadrons, commanded at the outbreak of World War II by Vice Amiral Marcel Gensoul...

, she performed Atlantic patrols and convoy
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.-Age of Sail:Naval...

 escort duties and swept for the Scharnhorst
German battleship Scharnhorst
Scharnhorst was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of the German Kriegsmarine. She was the lead ship of her class, which included one other ship, Gneisenau. The ship was built at the Kriegsmarinewerft dockyard in Wilhelmshaven; she was laid down on 15...

 and Gneisenau
German battleship Gneisenau
Gneisenau was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of the German Kriegsmarine. She was the second vessel of her class, which included one other ship, Scharnhorst. The ship was built at the Deutsche Werke dockyard in Kiel; she was laid down on 6 May 1935...

 after they had sunk the British Armed Merchant Cruiser
Armed merchantmen
Armed merchantman is a term that has come to mean a merchant ship equipped with guns, usually for defensive purposes, either by design or after the fact. In the days of sail, piracy and privateers, many merchantmen would be routinely armed, especially those engaging in long distance and high value...

HMS Rawalpindi
HMS Rawalpindi was a British armed merchant cruiser that was sunk during the Second World War.-Merchant service:...

. In early September, 1939, there was a major French fleet deployment to Casablanca
Casablanca is a city in western Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Grand Casablanca region.Casablanca is Morocco's largest city as well as its chief port. It is also the biggest city in the Maghreb. The 2004 census recorded a population of 2,949,805 in the prefecture...

 to forestall an enemy naval attack, which was soon abandoned.

After a major refit in April 1940, Montcalm served as flagship of the French Scandinavian Force supporting the Franco-British defence of Norway (replacing the damaged Émile Bertin
French cruiser Émile Bertin
The Émile Bertin was a French fast light cruiser named after Louis-Émile Bertin, a 19th century naval architect. She was designed to operate both as a minelayer and as a destroyer flotilla leader. The design was the basis for later light and heavy French cruisers, particularly the slightly larger...

) and the evacuation of troops from Namsos
Namsos campaign
In April and early May, 1940 Namsos and its surrounding area were the scene of heavy fighting between Anglo-French, Polish and Norwegian naval and military forces on the one hand, and German military, naval and air forces on the other...

, Norway, with HMS Devonshire
HMS Devonshire (39)
HMS Devonshire was a County-class heavy cruiser of the Royal Navy. She was part of the London subgroup of the County class, and saw service in the Second World War.-Early career:...

, at the end of April 1940.

Recalled to the Force de Raid in May, Montcalm was then moved to Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

 in North Africa where she stayed, performing at least one convoy escort, until the Destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir
Destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir
The Attack on Mers-el-Kébir, part of Operation Catapult and also known as the Battle of Mers-el-Kébir, was a naval engagement fought at Mers-el-Kébir on the coast of what was then French Algeria on 3 July 1940...

, when she was ordered to Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

. On 9 September 1940, she left Toulon with her sisterships Gloire
French cruiser Gloire
The Gloire was a French light cruiser of the La Galissonnière class.After completing trials, Gloire arrived in Brest on 18 November 1937, then left for French Indochina on 1 December, returning to Brest on 16 April 1938. Gloire joined the 4th Cruiser Division in January 1939, with which she visited...

 and George Leygues, and passed Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 without being challenged (for which the local British commander, Admiral Sir Dudley North
Dudley Burton Napier North
Sir Dudley Burton Napier North, GCVO, CB, CSI, CMG, RN was an Admiral of the Royal Navy who served during World War I and World War II. He was relieved of his command on the grounds of his failure, while naval commander at Gibraltar, to challenge a Vichy French naval squadron; this after he had...

, was relieved of his command). The flotilla refuelled at Casablanca
Casablanca is a city in western Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Grand Casablanca region.Casablanca is Morocco's largest city as well as its chief port. It is also the biggest city in the Maghreb. The 2004 census recorded a population of 2,949,805 in the prefecture...

 and continued to Dakar
Dakar is the capital city and largest city of Senegal. It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city on the African mainland...

, arriving on 14 September.

The three cruisers left Dakar on 18 September, intending to go south to Libreville
Libreville is the capital and largest city of Gabon, in west central Africa. The city is a port on the Komo River, near the Gulf of Guinea, and a trade center for a timber region. As of 2005, it has a population of 578,156.- History :...

, but they were intercepted by British forces, including HMAS Australia
HMAS Australia (1927)
HMAS Australia was a County-class heavy cruiser of the Royal Australian Navy . 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...

. The Montcalm and George Leygues outran the British ships and returned to Dakar, where they helped to defend the port against the unsuccessful British and Free French attack (Operation Menace
Battle of Dakar
The Battle of Dakar, also known as Operation Menace, was an unsuccessful attempt in September 1940 by the Allies to capture the strategic port of Dakar in French West Africa , which was under Vichy French control, and to install the Free French under General Charles de Gaulle there.-Background:At...

) on the 23 to 25 September 1940. The Gloire, slowed by mechanical troubles and unable to escape, was ordered back to Casablanca.

Apart from a deployment in April 1941 to recapture a French steamer, Fort de France, the next two years were relatively uneventful until the Allied landings in North Africa (Operation Torch
Operation Torch
Operation Torch was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942....

) and the German occupation of Vichy France
Case Anton
Operation Anton was the codename for the military occupation of Vichy France carried out by Germany and Italy in November 1942.- Background :...

, when she joined the Allies, as did other French warships. Montcalm was refitted at Philadelphia, from February until August 1943, the engines were overhauled, aircraft installations removed and the French light anti-aircraft weapons were replaced and augnented

Montcalms next duty was anti-blockade-runner patrols, based from Dakar. She was allocated to the Western Task Force and supported Allied landings in Normandy
Operation Neptune
The Normandy landings, codenamed Operation Neptune, were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, in Operation Overlord, during World War II. The landings commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 , beginning at 6:30 AM British Double Summer Time...

 in June 1944 and southern France
Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up...

 in August. Her war ended with coastal bombardments along the Riviera
French Riviera
The Côte d'Azur, pronounced , often known in English as the French Riviera , is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France, also including the sovereign state of Monaco...

 coastline until March 1945.


She had a refit at Chantiers de la Seyne from May to the end of January 1946.

She made a tour of Indo-China in 1955.

Montcalm was decommissioned and placed in reserve, in Tunisia, on 1 May 1957. She was subsequently towed to Toulon in 1959 to serve as an accommodation hulk for the submarine school. Finally condemned on 31 December 1969, she was renamed Q457 and passed to the dockyard for disposal for scrap.