French Armoured Cruiser Dupuy De Lôme - Service

Service

Dupuy de Lôme was laid down at the Brest shipyard on 4 July 1888 and she was launched on 27 October 1890. A number of her forged steel armour plates proved to be defective during tests as the metallurgical techniques to harden it were still under development, but most plates were accepted anyway. The ship was commissioned for preliminary sea trials on 1 April 1892 and one boiler tube burst on 20 June, burning 16 men. The necessary modifications to fix the problem delayed the ship's completion by almost a year. Further testing in October 1893, showed that Dupuy de Lôme's engines could only attain 10,180 metric horsepower (7,490 kW) during a 24-hour trial and that the boilers were structurally unsound. The manufacturer agreed to replace them, but the necessary work delayed the ship's completion by another year. She was commissioned again for a new set of sea trials on 15 November 1894 and proved reasonably satisfactory.

Dupuy de Lôme was finally commissioned on 15 May 1895 and was assigned to the Northern Squadron, based on the Atlantic coast. She represented France, together with the ironclad Hoche and the cruiser Surcouf, during the opening ceremony for the Kiel Canal the following month. She made port visits in Spain in June 1896 and escorted the Russian Imperial yacht into Cherbourg when Nicholas II of Russia began a state visit on 5 October. The ship escorted the President of France, Félix Faure, when he visited Russia in April 1897. Bilge keels were fitted during a brief refit that began in October and effectively reduced the ship's roll by half. In June 1899, Dupuy de Lôme visited ports in Spain and Portugal and she represented France at Spithead during Queen Victoria's funeral in January–February 1901.

The ship began an extensive reconstruction in 1902 at Brest, with the installation of 20 new Guyot–du-Temple water-tube boilers, that took four years to complete. The boilers had an operating pressure of 11.25 kg/cm2 (1,103 kPa; 160 psi) and they required that a third funnel be added which necessitated extensive structural modifications. The rear military mast was replaced by a simple pole mast and sea trials in July 1906 showed that the ship could only attain 18.27 knots (33.84 km/h; 21.02 mph) from 12,887 metric horsepower (9,478 kW). Dupuy de Lôme was placed in reserve after completing her refit in October 1906 and was not recommissioned until September 1908 for service on the Moroccan station. By this time many of the ship's plates were rusting and her entire water distribution system had to be dismantled for cleaning in 1909. Later that year, she was placed into reserve again and deemed uneconomical to repair. Dupuy de Lôme was decommissioned on 20 March 1910, but the final decision to strike her from the Navy List was not made until 20 February 1911.

Prompted by the rumoured purchase of the small Italian protected cruiser Umbria by Ecuador in 1910, Peru offered to buy a French armoured cruiser. A price of three million francs was agreed upon, to be paid in three instalments, and Peru agreed to reimburse France for the costs of repairing Dupuy de Lôme. These repairs were completed by 6 March 1912 and the ship was formally transferred to the Peruvian Navy and renamed Commandante Aguirre after the first instalment was paid. After Umbria was bought by Haiti instead of Ecuador, the Peruvians lost interest in completing the purchase and the ship was left in the care of the French in October 1914. Proposals to use her during World War I were rejected as she was thought to be too obsolete to be worth refitting. On 17 January 1917 the ship was officially returned to France and the money already paid was put against the cost to repair Commandante Aguirre. Any money in excess of the estimated 400,000 francs that her scrapping would bring would be turned over to Peru.

In October 1918, she was sold to the Belgian firm of Lloyd Royal Belge (LRB) and converted to a freighter under the name Péruvier by Forges et Chantiers de la Gironde. A conventional bow was built up over her pseudo-ram and the space was used to accommodate her crew. The two outboard engines, their associated boilers and propeller shafts were removed as were the two forward funnels. The ship's side and deck armour was removed wherever it did not compromise structural strength. Péruvier was delivered in December 1919 and she began her first voyage carrying 5,000 tonnes (4,900 long tons) of coal from Cardiff to Rio de Janeiro on 20 January 1920. Engine repairs had to be made at Falmouth the next day and were not completed until 14 February. Her engine broke down again in the mid-Atlantic and she was towed to Las Palmas by a Spanish merchantman. Arriving there on 20 March, she was towed by another LRB ship to Pernambuco. After her arrival there on 1 June, the coal in her No. 3 hold was found to be on fire. This was not extinguished until 19 June and the ship remained in harbour until 14 October. Péruvier was towed to Antwerp, arriving on 18 November, and lay idle there until she was sold for scrap. On 4 March 1923, she was towed to the shipbreakers in Flushing.

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