Allied Warships

FR Primauguet

Light cruiser of the Duguay-Trouin class

NavyThe French Navy
TypeLight cruiser
Built byArsenal de Brest (Brest, France) 
Laid down16 Aug 1923 
Launched21 May 1924 
Commissioned1 Apr 1927 
Lost8 Nov 1942 

Primauguet was present at Dakar during the attack on 7/8 July 1940.

Sunk in Casablanca harbour on 8 November 1942.
The ship was under refit and not fully operational, but returned the USN gunfire.
The ship was badly damaged and suffered many casualties with 45 crew dead and more than 200 of the crew wounded).
(Capitaine De Vaisseau Leon Joseph Marie Mercier) the commanding officer was killed and Contre Amiral Raymond Emile Gervais De Lafond was wounded. After burning the whole night, the wreck was abandoned and became a total loss.


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Notable events involving Primauguet include:

11 Oct 1940
At 0204/11, Vice-Admiral Somerville received Admiralty message 0108/11 stating that the Vichy French light cruiser Primauget had departed Casablanca escorting a merchant ship loaded with munitions and bound for Dakar.

At 1737/11, Vice-Admiral Somerville received Admiralty message 1710/11 ordering HMS Barham (Capt G.C. Cooke, RN), HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN), HMS Echo (Cdr. S.H.K. Spurgeon, DSO, RAN) and HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN) to steer course 090°. Seven minutes later Admiralty mesage 1718/11 was received ordering HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN) to come to four hour's notice.

At 1821/11, Admiralty message 1732/11 was received in which HMS Barham and her three escorting destroyers were ordered to intercept the Primauget and the merchant vessel she was escorting. At the same time Admiralty message 1727/11, ordering HMS Renown and HMAS Australia (Capt. R.R. Stewart, RN) to proceed to the westward, being clear of the harbour as soon after 0700/12 as possible, was received.

Destroyers on patrol were then rcalled and those making good minor defects were ordered to complete repairs with all despatch. HMS Australia was warned to be ready to proceed at midnight.

At 2145/11, Admiralty message 2112/11 was received which ordered HMS Australia to sail as soon as possible for Las Palmas at 25 knots. HMS Renown was ordered to sail to the westward at 0500/12. HMS Australia sailed accordingly at 2330/11.

At 0450/12, HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN), HMS Vidette (Lt. E.N. Walmsley, RN), HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN) and HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar to carry out an A/S sweep in Gibraltar Bay. HMS Renown slipped shortly afterwards. Course was shaped to the westward at 18 knots with the destroyers screening.

A Vichy-French Glenn Martin aircraft was sighted at 1440/12 shadowing HMS Renown from astern. Course was altered to 300° to mislead this machine. This Glen Martin finally made off to the eastward at 1635/12.

At 1600/12, Vice-Admiral Somerville received a signal stating that the Yugoslav merchant vessel Orao (5135 GRT, built 1919), on passage to Gibraltar under armed guard from HMS Hotspur (Cdr. H.F.H. Layman, DSO, RN), was being fired at by a submarine (this was the Italian Enrico Tazzoli) and that the crew had taken to the boats in position 35°43'N, 10°20'W. As there appeared to be a reasonable chance of attacking this submarine, Vice-Admiral Somerville decided to sent the whole of Renown's screen to hunt this submarine. HMS Gallant and HMS Griffin were therefore ordered to proceed to the vicinity at full speed, HMS Wishart and HMS Vidette following at 25 knots. Meanwhile HMS Renown increased to 24 knots and carried out a broad zig-zag, subsequently altering course at 1700/12 to 180°.

Before parting company the destroyers were ordered to rendezvous with HMS Renown at 0800/13 in position 33°22'N, 11°58'W, this position being selected in order to make contact with the transports Ettrick (British, 11279 GRT, built 1938) and Karanja (British, 9891 GRT, built 1931) that were proceeding to Gibraltar escorted by HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall A'Deane, DSO, DSC, RN).

Shortly afterwards HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), previously escorting convoy HG 45, reported that she was proceeding to the position of the Orao at 32 knots. As four destroyers had already been directed to hunt the submarine, the Admiral Commanding North Atlantic Station, instructed HMS Firedake to join HMS Greyhound to provide additional escort for the two transports.

The four destroyers arrived in the position of the arrived in the position of te Orao about 1930/12 and found the ship in a sinking condition. The crew and armed boarding party of HMS Hotspur were picked up by HMS Gallant and HMS Griffin, who carried out an A/S sweep to the westward and the northward. HMS Wishart and HMS Vidette swept to the eastward and southward.

No contact had been obtained by midnight, at which time the destroyers left the area to rendezvous with HMS Renown as previously arranged. The submarine that attacked the Arao was a large one with two guns. Before leaving HMS Wishart sank the Arao, who was still afloat, with one torpedo.

HMS Renown sighted HMS Firedrake at 0724/13 proceeding to join HMS Greyhound. At 0745/13, HMS Gallant, HMS Griffin, HMS Wishart and HMS Vidette were all in sight and all were in their position in the screen by 0820/13. Course was then altered to close the estimated position of the convoy that was being escorted by HMS Greyhound.

At 1045/13, a merchant ship was sighted bearing 060° and HMS Gallant was detached to investigate. This ship turned out to be Portugese and was bound from the Cape Verde Islands to Lisbon. She was boarded and after investigation was allowed to proceed.

HMS Firedrake was again encountered at 1100/13 still searching for the convoy. Vice-Admiral Somerville ordered her stationed 10 miles on his port beam.

The convoy was sighted at 1300/13 and HMS Vidette was ordered to join HMS Greyhound and the convoy. HMS Firedrake was now ordered to take the place of HMS Vidette in Renown's screen as she had more fuel remaining than Vidette.

At 1430/13, Vice-Admiral Somerville received Admiralty's 1308/13 directing HMS Renown, HMS Barham and HMAS Australia and their accompanying destroyers to return to Gibraltar if the Primauget had not been sighted by 1800/13.

In view of the recent submarine reports in the vicinity of the Straits Vice-Admiral Somerville decided that HMS Wishart should join the convoy. HMS Renown now screened by HMS Firedrake, HMS Gallant and HMS Griffin proceeded towards Gibraltar at 24 knots with the object of entering the harbour as early as possible, so as to free the screening destroyers for local patrol and convoy escort duty.

On passing through the Straits HMS Renown overhauled the Vichy-French destroyer Fleuret escorting two merchant vessels proceeding eastwards.

HMS Renown and her escorting destroyers entered harbour at 1030/14. (1)


  1. ADM 199/392

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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