The warship type called the destroyer came out as a result of the building practices of the French navy. Until the 1880s the French navy tried to compete with the Royal Navy in construction of the standard battle line centered around the battleship, little changing from the competition between the two countries in the age of sale. It was the Royal Navy that developed the destroyer as a response to the French switch in building strategy. There was no way that the French navy could compete with Britain in the construction of battleships, as the French yards were too slow. A new strategy was developed, which swung the pendulum to quantity over quality. The development of the self-propelled torpedo in the 1870s allowed this swing. Why spend millions on a battleship that took four to five years to build, when a cheap, quickly built small vessel with a torpedo could sink it in one strike?

L’Ecole Jeune or the Young School was the proponent for the construction of mass quantities of torpedo boats. The 1880s were also the era of the big gun, characterized by giant guns that were extremely slow loading. In the Royal Navy these guns were more often than not, muzzle loaders. When confronted by swarms of torpedo boats the battleships were muscle bound. Their rate of fire was far too slow to cope with the threat. A partial remedy came in the form of development of a lighter, smaller gun, heavy enough to sink a torpedo boat but far faster firing than the existing ordnance. This type of gun was the Quick Firing gun or QF. Even so, QF guns on battleships would only be engaging the torpedo boat at close range during the attack run. This may be too late and the British were eager to engage the French torpedo boats before they could attack the expensive battleships. As a result they developed a new type of warship called the Torpedo Boat Destroyer, later shortened to destroyer.

The new type had to be bigger, faster and more heavily armed than the torpedo boat. They had to be able to chase them down and destroy them. Almost as an afterthought, the destroyer was given its own torpedo armament. Since the destroyer was far more seaworthy than the much smaller torpedo boat, far better armed and also capable of launching their own torpedo attack, it was the destroyer, which became the dominant smaller warship. Steam powered torpedo boats would be built from time, but only in small numbers and by the smaller navies that were still trying to discover the equalizer to larger navies. As the 20th century dawned, the contest was over, the French navy had neither a battleship challenge nor a torpedo boat challenge to the Royal Navy. However, with the growing power of Imperial Germany, both France and Great Britain saw Germany as a bigger threat to them than each other. The result was an alliance. Instead of tilting at windmills by taking on the Royal Navy, it could concentrate on a smaller opponent in the Mediterranean in the form of the Italian Navy.

At the end of World War One the French Navy was in a pitiful condition. Always slow in building, larger French warships were normally obsolescent when launched. By the end of the war obsolescent had turned into obsolete and very true in the realm of the destroyer. The French navy had an odd collection of hodge-podge junk that loosely could be described as destroyers. Part of the spoils from being victorious in the war was a share of the German navy. The French navy acquired a number of warships from the former Imperial Germany Navy. Light cruisers and destroyers were placed into French service. The French admirals were especially impressed with the large, late war German destroyers. As the creator of a navy of small, cheap, expendable torpedo craft, the French navy did an about face and became one of the first naval power after Word War One to build the large destroyer. Their first class of large destroyer was the Jaguar class but with the French navy classes were designated by their displacement. For the Jaguar class, the official designation was Contre-Torpilleurs 2100 Tonnes.


Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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The ships of the class were approved in the April 1922 Naval Program. As France cast an eye at the Italian navy, the most impressive new destroyer construction of the Italians was the Leone three ship class. Leone, Pantera and Tigre displaced 1,743-tons standard, had a speed of 34-knots and carried eight 4.7-inch guns and four 21-inch torpedoes. The French, like the Italians, also named their new destroyers after the big cats. The first two, Jaguar and Panthere, were ordered four days before their appropriations were approved. Four more, Chacal, Leopard, Lynx and Tigre, were ordered on February 7, 1923. Although launched within a reasonable time, the Jaguar class shared the slow completion times characteristic of French construction. The worst was Lynx, laid down on January 14, 1923 but not commissioned until October 10, 1927. It took almost five years to build that destroyer!

This class of destroyers has not gotten the attention that it deserves. One only needs to compare the Jaguar characteristics with those of the latest foreign designs. It is true that the Royal Navy and USN had not produced a new destroyer design since the mass production British V&W class and American flush deckers. The Japanese had been producing destroyers beyond WWI but they were essentially improvements over earlier designs. The first of the Fubuki class Special Type would not be laid down until 1926. The chart below shows the characteristics of the latest destroyer designs per country in 1923.

Destroyers of 1923

Country

Class

Disp (ST/FL)

ihp

Speed

Guns

Torp

France

Jaguar

2126/3050

50,000

35 kts

Five 5.1 in

Six 21.7 in

Britain

V&W

1188/1490

27,000

35 kts

Four 4 in

Six 21 in

Italy

Sella

970/1480

36,000

35 kts

Four 4.7in

Four 21 in

Japan

Wakatake

900/1100

21,500

35.5 kts

Three 4.7

Four 21 in

USA

Clemson

1190/1308

27,000

35 kts

Four 4 in

12 21-in

At double the size of the other destroyer classes, you may think that the Jaguar class is under-gunned for its size and there is a point to be made in that area. However, the size also improved sea-worthiness over all of the other smaller designs but also increased the amount of damage that the Jaguar class could take compared to smaller designs.

Maximum speeds are always deceptive as speed is always the first characteristic to degrade in actual operations. However, the Jaguar class were built to be fast and stayed fast. All of them reached 36 knots on trials and the fastest was Tigre. Tigre averaged 35.93 knots 55,200ihp over an eight-hour period at which time she displaced 2,540 tons. After those eight hours the command then put the pedal to the metal and ran a ninth hour all out. The average speed on that last hour was 36.7 knots at 57,200ihp.

The French navy designed a new gun for this class. The idea was to have a gun that was markedly superior to the guns mounted on foreign designs. The Model 1919 5.1-inch (130mm) gun fired a heavy 70.4 lb (32kg) shell with a maximum range of 20,226 yards (18,500m). This shell could pierce three-inch armor at 11,000 yards (10,000m). However, the design had a serious drawback. High trunions made for slow loading. The rate of fire was only four to five rounds per minute, which was a much slower rate than the smaller but quicker firing guns of contemporary foreign designs. With the continuing development of naval aviation it was realized that the class had to have some sort of anti-aircraft armament, as the main armament was strictly for surface firing and the initial two 75mm AA guns were obsolete by 1932 with a low rate of fire. In February 1932 it was decided to replace the 75mm guns with eight Hotchkiss 13.2mm heavy machine guns in four twin mountings.


Hull Detail
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Even though other navies also had machine guns as AA armament, they were obvious too short range and too light as aircraft grew in size and speed. Early in 1939 plans were drawn up to convert the Jaguar class into AA destroyers. All of the guns would be landed and the destroyers fitted with a new 3.9-inch (100mm) HA/DP gun. However, these plans changed in September of that year when Germany invaded Poland. Instead of the complete refit, in November and December 1939 Chacal, Panthere and Jaguar did land their number three gun and aft torpedo tubes. The aft pair of twin 13.2mm mg was moved on top of an extended deck house upon which number three mount had formerly been mounted and K guns were mounted on each side of the deck where the aft torpedo mount had been located. At the start of the war three of the class were in the Mediterranean and three stationed in the Bay of Biscay. The three in the Atlantic were soon moved to a new station in the English Channel. These three would find themselves in confined waters when the blitzkrieg turned westward in the spring of 1940. In the channel their size would work against them. On 23 May the Jaguar was sunk by torpedoes from S21 and S23. The next day Chacal was sunk by Stukas. The third of the Channel based members of the class was Leopard was luckier, as she was at Portsmouth when France fell and was seized by the Royal Navy on July 3, 1940. On August 31, 1940 Leopard was transferred to the Free French Navy. Leopard was tasked with escorting North Atlantic Convoys in the winter of 1940/1941. Her range was not sufficient for the work and the ship had to frequently refuel in Iceland. After a winter of North Atlantic service the Leopard, the ship needed a refit including replacement of the boilers.

The forward boiler was completely removed along with the forward stack, creating a two stack more balanced profile. The space created by this removal was used to add berthing for a larger crew and additional fuel storage to increase range. Of course with a smaller plant her top speed dropped but still remained respectable, reaching 31.5 knots on trials. The number three gun was landed to make room for more AA. In addition to the four 5.1-inch main guns, she mounted a formidable AA complement, which could be carried, because of her size. This armament consisted of ten 37mm guns in twin mounts, seven 20mm, two 13.2mm mg and four 8mm mg, as well as radar. Leopard served with the Free French forces until May 27, 1943 when was wrecked off the coast of Libya.


Hull Detail
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The three Mediterranean based ships were all disarmed at Toulon in September 1940, where they remained inactive until November 27, 1942 when they were scuttled after the Germans invaded Vichy France. Actually only Panthere and Lynx were successfully scuttled, as Tigre crew was overwhelmed before they could cause much damage. The Italian Navy took over Tigre as FR23 for use as a troop transport. Panthere was raised and also taken over by the Italians as FR22. However, since she had been scuttled she was towed to La Spezia for a refit. Panthere was still in refit when Italy collapsed and the ship was scuttled a second time on September 9, 1943. Tigre on the other hand, survived the war and served into the 1950s. After the Italian collapse the Tigre was given back to the French navy on October28, 1943, no longer Free French, as there was no longer any Vichy France. At Casablanca Tigre received radar and a new AA fit. She reentered service on March 1944 in escorting convoys to Corsica. Near misses from air attacks caused shock damage, which created vibration problems, requiring a return to the dockyard for repairs. Tigre got back into the fight before the end of the war and saw duty off of the Riviera, poor crew! After the war Tigre became a training ship in the Mediterranean until stricken in November 1954. (History from: Destroyers of World War Two, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis Mryland 2000, by M.J. Whitley; and Les C.T. de 2400 tonnes du type Jaguar, Marines Edition, Bourg en Bresse France, by Jean Lassaque.)

L’Arsenal Leopard
The L’Arsenal 1:700 scale Leopard carries on its long tradition of providing the highest quality parts for the modeler. The kit portrays the Leopard in her 1936 to 1939 with the original three stacks, before forward one removed in her British refit. The hull is cast on a resin sheet with a narrow connector down the centerline joining the hull to the sheet. This means that is fairly easy to remove from the sheet since the connector is narrow in width and doesn’t come close to the hull edge. Once the hull is removed from the connector by Dremel or saw, only a narrow width of the hull bottom will needed to be sanded smooth. The casting is excellent with no pinholes, voids or breakage. Almost all of the superstructure, including the three stacks, is molded integral to the hull simplifying assembly. The hull is sleek with a sharply raked cutwater, anchor hawse and a strake running along the water line. This strake looks like an armor belt but the ship did not have an armored belt. It did have a horizontal strengthening strake on each side of the hull, which was slightly above the waterline put did not extend down to the waterline. The strakes on the kit hull are too wide but this is only a minor distraction and the work involved in removing the lower portion of the strake is too prone to error to justify the effort. Two rows of portholes are forward in front of the deck break with only one row on the aft hull.

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The sides of the superstructure have their own portholes but most striking are the square windows of the bridge as well as on the deckhouses between the stacks and on each side of the 2nd and 3rd stacks. The first stack is round with larger slab sided stacks for the other two. All three stacks have outstanding stack caps with an indented line underneath the wide flared aprons. Stack openings are deeply incised with crisp thin sides to sides of the caps. The 1st and 3rd stacks have well done steam pipes cast on the hull as well. Some of the deckhouses have thin overhangs. Thin splinter shielding is found in several locations including the 03 and 04 levels of the superstructure and the tub on top of the search light tower. There is some flash underneath the forward superstructure overhangs but it is thin and easily removed with a hobby knife.

The metal deck has interesting features as well. Since it is metal there are no wooden plank lines. On the forecastle the most interesting feature is the breakwater. Most breakwater have two or three planes in the form of a simple vee or a forward face and angled faces on each side. The Leopard breakwater has five faces. Although Lynx also had a variation of the five plane breakwater, Panthere, Tigre and Chacal had the more conventional simple vee breakwater according to the plans found in Les C.T. de 2400 tonnes du type Jaguar by Jean Lassaque. Right behind the breakwater is some well cast machinery on a slightly raised platform. Forecastle detail includes nice deck hawse, a short solid bulkhead on each side of the cutwater, a raised deck coaming and four sets of twin bollards. About the only deck detail amidships is a single access coaming just in front of the aft superstructure. The deck detail resumes on the quarterdeck. The largest feature here is a part of machinery on a platform surrounded by two access coamings, five panels and four sets of twin bollards.

Smaller Resin Parts
The bulk of the smaller resin parts is the armament. The main guns are cast in two pieces with well-detailed guns and separate gun shielding. The triple torpedo mounts also continue the excellent detail. The second largest set of parts consists of the ship’s boats. There are to each of three different styles with two types of powered boats and one style of oared boats. Other resin parts are the anchors, searchlights, K-guns and masts. The masts are on a thin resin wafer and the other parts are on small resin casting blocks. Each part is easily removed from the wafer or blocks but care must be used in the separation, as to not damage the part and of course they will require a small degree of clean-up afterward.


Brass Photo-Etch and Decals
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Brass Photo-Etch Parts
There are two frets of photo-etch frets included in the kit. The large one is half railings and half ship specific parts. The ship specific parts have three gun platforms for the decking for guns number 2, 3, and 4 for the raised gun positions at the 01 level of the superstructure. The forward or aft face of each is bent upwards at about a 40 degree angle and the side splinter shielding is bent upwards at right angles. The brass parts have incised lines to facilitate folding. Other specific parts on this fret are propeller guards, top masts, davits, inclined ladders for the deck break, boat cranes, rear anchor, gun director, searchlight platform, 75mm platform, boat skids and lattice bridge wing supports. Six runs of three bar railing are provided for the main deck and superstructure. The smaller fret has the twin 13.2mm twin machine guns with separate guns and mount parts and anchor chain.

Decals and Instructions
L’Arsenal provides a full set of hull numbers with their Leopard kit. The numbers/letters allow the modeler to portray the Leopard and Lynx at any time from 1936 to early 1940 when the ships had different number designations in white or red at different times. Both the white and red characters have black shading. Instructions consist of three pages with one back printed sheet and an another sheet printed on only one side. Page one has a short history, general instructions and a resin parts lay-down. The text is in English. Page two has the photo-etch lay-down with descriptions of the parts and drawings of profile and plan with the attachment locations for most of the resin parts. Page three has attachment locations for a small number of resin parts and the brass photo-etch parts. It also shows the location for the hull decals as well as a listing of which ship wore which numbers for the various periods from 1936 to early 1940. Since the superstructure, other than platforms, is cast integral to the hull and the smaller resin parts consist of armament and fittings, these instructions are more than sufficient to assemble the kit.


Box & Instructions
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Verdict
The L’Arsenal 1:700 scale Leopard provides a very nice kit of the first class of giant destroyers built by France between the wars. With fine resin castings, full brass photo-etch frets and multi-color decals, the kit provides everything needed for a fine model of this unique three-stacked design.

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