Allied Warships

FR Bougainville

Colonial sloop of the Bougainville class

NavyThe French Navy
TypeColonial sloop
Built byF.&Ch de la Gironde (Bordeaux, France) 
Laid down 
Launched21 Apr 1931 
Lost9 Nov 1940 

Sunk on 9 November 1940 off Libreville, Gabon by her Free French sistership Savorgnan de Brazza.


We don't have any commands listed for FR Bougainville

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Notable events involving Bougainville include:

7 Nov 1940

Operations against Gabon / landings off Libreville.

During the night of 7/8 November 1940, Free French Foreign Legion troops were landed by the Free French transport Fort Lamy (5242 GRT, built 1919) at Mondah Bay (north of Libreville). The Fort Lamy had departed Monaka around 0730A/6 escorted by the Free French sloop Savorgnan de Brazza (Lt.Cdr. A.J.M. Roux). They were known as ' convoy A '. Also in company had been the transport Anadyr (5224 GRT, built 1930) but she was later detached to proceed to Pointe Noire unescorted.

Around 2100A/6, ' Convoy B ' departed Manoka to land additional Free French troops at Mondah Bay after the first landings had proven to be successful. ' Convoy B ' was made up of the transports Casamance (5187 GRT, built 1921) and Nevada (5618 GRT, built 1917). They were escorted by the Free French sloop / minesweeper FFS Commandant Dominé (Lt. J. de la Porte des Vaux) and auxiliary patrol vessel FFS President Houduce (?).

Cover for this operation by the Free French was provided by British warships, these were the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Cdr. H.M.S. Mundy, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.H.D. Cunningham, CB, MVO, RN) which departed Manoka around 0900A/6 and then first provided cover for ' Convoy A '.

The light cruiser HMS Delhi (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN) had departed Manoka around 0930A/3 to patrol off Gabon. Also patrolling off Gabon were the sloop HMS Milford (Capt.(Retd.) S.K. Smyth, RN) which had departed Manoka around 1300A/4 and the auxiliary ASW trawler HMS Turcoman (Skr. A.G. Day, RNR) which had departed Manoka around 1000A/4.

HMS Devonshire remained near ' Convoy A ' until 1800A/6 when she set course to make rendezvous with HMS Delhi. Rendesvous was effected around 0545A/7.

Meanwhile HMS Milford and HMS Turcoman were on A/S patrol north to north-east of Cap St. Lopez near Port Gentil. This was so that the Vichy French submarine Poncelet (Lt.Cdr. P.H.S.B. de Saussine du Pont de Gault) which was at Port Gentil could not proceed to Libreville to reinforce the Vichy French ships stationed there which were the sloop Bougainville (Cdr. R.J.A. Morin) and a river flotilla made up of the armed tugs Falaba, Mandji and Oviro and three fishing smacks Saint François, Le Nicot and Christiane.

At 0630A/7, HMS Devonshire launched her Walrus aircraft to search for the Vichy French submarine Poncelet. Shortly afterwards HMS Delhi was detached with orders to show herself between Cape Santa Clara and Cape Esterias (north-west of Libreville) and then rejoin HMS Devonshire at 1100A/7.

At 0745A/7, the Walrus aircraft returned and reported that the Poncelet was anchored off Port Gentil (138°, Cape Lopez, 8 nautical miles).

At 1500A/7, both cruisers parted company to show themselves off Cape Gombé (HMS Devonshire) and between Cape Santa Clara and Cape Esterias (HMS Delhi).

At 1552A/7, HMS Milford reported that the Vichy French submarine Poncelet had gotten underway. This signal was however not received by Vice-Admiral Cunningham. An amplifying report set by Milford at 1615A/7 was received at 1623A/7. It reported Poncelet zig-zagging on course 060°. HMS Milford's own course was reported as 048°, speed 16 knots. At 1636A/7, Milford's signal timed 1619A/7 was received. It gave Milford's position as 00°20'S, 08°50'E. She reported the submarine bearing 030°, steering 060°, distance 7 nautical miles.

At 1650A/7, HMS Devonshire flew off her Walrus aircraft to attack the Poncelet with the intention to either damage the submarine or force her to submerge so that HMS Milford could overtake and attack her.

At 1715A/7, HMS Milford's signal timed 1700A/7 was received. It gave the position now as 00°11'S, 08°57'E. The submarine was now steering 039°, at 16 knots. Distance between the enemy and HMS Milford was 6.5 nautical miles.

At 1739A/7, HMS Milford's signal timed 1720A/7 was received. It stated that HMS Milford was now engaging the Vichy submarine which had altered course to the west and dived. Shortly afterwards she signalled that the Poncelet had surfaced in position 00°04'S, 08°56'E.

At 1801A/7, HMS Delhi was ordered to close this position and put a prize crew on board the submarine and then escort it to Lagos.

At 1815A/7, HMS Devonshire received HMS Milford's signal timed 1805A/7. It stated that Poncelet's engines had broken down and that she had surrendered.

At 1837A/7, HMS Milford's signal timed 1820A/7 was received. It stated that the Poncelet had been scuttled by her crew and that Milford was picking up the survivors. HMS Delhi was ordered to assist in recovering the survivors. All survivors were however picked up by HMS Milford, these were a total of three officers and fifty-one ratings. The French Commanding Officers had elected to go down with his submarine. From the French it was learnt that the Poncelet had actually fired two torpedoes at HMS Milford but that one of them had got stuck in the tube and toxic gasses had entered the submarine. Also about one third of the crew of the submarine had been landed at Port Gentil to bolster the garrison there.

At 1922A/7, HMS Devonshire received HMS Delhi's signal timed 1922A/7 which stated that she was in company with HMS Milford and HMS Turcoman in position 00°01'N, 09°03'E. HMS Milford would keep the prisoners on board for the night. HMS Turcoman's Asdic dome had been punctured.

At 2346A/7, HMS Devonshire received a signal from the Savorgnan de Brazza timed 2130A/7 that the operation (landing) was proceeding satisfactorily and that she was awaiting the news from the troops which were landing up the creeks.

At 0545A/8, HMS Devonshire made rendezvous with HMS Milford to obtain a full report on the sinking of the Poncelet.

At 0700A/8, HMS Devonshire made rendezvous with HMS Delhi and HMS Turcoman after which HMS Devonshire set course to proceed to the northwards.

At 0910A/8, a signal was received from the Savorgnan de Brazza timed 0630A/8 that the troops had been landed around 0730A/8 but that they had been machine gunned by enemy aircraft. Casualties were however small. ' Convoy B ' had just arrived and was proceeding to the anchorage to disembarked their troops.

At 1500A/8, Savorgnan de Brazza's 1335A/8 was received stating that all troops and material from the Casamance had been landed and that they were now at Assimba Island but would proceed to join the troops to the north of the airfield after dark. The Nevada was disembarking her troops for landing up the Mondah River.

At 1700A/8, HMS Devonshire closed the Gabon River estuary to see of Vichy French ships were patrolling there but none were sighted.

At 1840A/8, HMS Turcoman left the area as she was short of coal and water. She was to proceed to Port Harcourt.

At 1920A/8, Savorgnan de Brazza's 1745A/8, was received by HMS Devonshire. It stated that the Commandant Dominé was patrolling from 10 miles west of Cape Santa Clara to 10 miles west of Gombé lighthouse with the Savorgnan de Brazza 5 miles to the westward. They intended to take offensive action against the Vichy-French sloop Bougainville the following morning. The transport Casamance was still at Monday Bay. The transport Fort Lamy was patrolling east of Corisco Island and the transport Nevada was patrolling north and west of Corisco Island.

At 2216A/8, the President Houduce's signal timed 2030A/8, was received, it stated that she had disembarked the governor at Assimba Island and that she would remain there throughout the night.

At 0745A/9, HMS Milford disembarked the Vichy French prisoners of the Poncelet to HMS Delhi. The Walrus aircraft of HMS Devonshire conducted an A/S patrol in the area during the transfer.

An ultimatum was sent to the Vichy French.

At 1306A/9, HMS Devonshire received a signal from the Savorgnan de Brazza timed 1150A/9 that she and the Commandant Dominé were proceeding up river towards the airfield. The Commandant Dominé was sweeping for mines ahead of the Savorgnan de Brazza.

At 1400A/9, HMS Delhi was detached to fuel at Lagos and also to land the Vichy French prisoners there. She arrived at Lagos around 1130A/10.

At 1410A/9, gunfire was heard on board HMS Devonshire coming from the direction of Libreville.

At 1457A/9, Savorgnan de Brazza's 1355A/9, was received by HMS Devonshire. It stated that she was about to attack the enemy which was trying to put to sea.

At 1622A/9, Savorgnan de Brazza's 1430A/9, was received by HMS Devonshire. It stated that the Bougainville was on fire and that the Vichy transport Cap des Palmes was picking up survivors.

At 1940A/9, Savorgnan de Brazza's 1820A/9, was received by HMS Devonshire. It stated that the Savorgnan de Brazza and Commandant Dominé was anchored off Libreville and that the Cap de Palmes was used as hospital and depot ship.

At 0044A/10, Savorgnan de Brazza's 2230A/9, was received by HMS Devonshire. It stated the the Vichy-French had accepted the terms issued to them.

At 0754A/10, Savorgnan de Brazza's 0605A/10, was received by HMS Devonshire. It stated that negotiations were proceeding and that it was hoped that Port Gentil would also be included.

At 1157A/10, a message was received which stated that at 1100A/10, Libreville was occupied by Free French naval and other military Free French forces. Negotiations were still going on with Port Gentil but there were communication difficulties.

At 1730A/11, Savorgnan de Brazza's 1505A/11, was received by HMS Devonshire. It stated that the Commandant Dominé would leave Libreville tonight and was expected to arrive at Port Gentil around 0800A/12 to arrange for a peaceful occupation by Free French troops.

At 1916A/11, Savorgnan de Brazza's 1840A/11, was received by HMS Devonshire. It stated that the President Houduce and the three transports had been ordered to join the Savorgnan de Brazza at Libreville.

At 1530A/12, HMS Delhi rejoined coming from Lagos. HMS Devonshire then departed the area for Lagos. HMS Turcoman was also enroute to return to the area to relieve HMS Milford.

At 2016A/12, a signal was received from the Commandant Dominé that negotiations were ongoing but that most likely some more force must be shown off Port Gentil.

Around 0600A/13, the Savorgnan de Brazza departed Libreville for Port Gentil followed around 1730A/13 by the transport Casamance. Free French troops occupied Port Gentil at 0830A/14. (1)


  1. ADM 199/388

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

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