French Naval Policy and Its Reactions
THREE years ago it would have been difficult to write informatively on the naval policy of France, for at that time French statesmen, and even French strategists, were still uncertain as to what policy should be pursued with regard to the development of their naval power. It was by no means only a question of matériel, though even on this subject the most conflicting views obtained, some officers urging the construction of battleships, while others condemned the dreadnought as obsolete and pinned their faith to speedy cruisers, submarines, and aircraft. The French Parliament desired to know first the rôle of the navy in future national defense. To lavish money on new ships without previously determining their function in an emergency would be folly, it was argued. On the eve of the Washington Conference a French admiral was invited to outline his country’s post-war naval plans. He replied: ‘The answer is simple; we have none.’ But much has happened since 1921. It is a fact, ironic yet indisputable, that the rebirth of French naval power dates from the Conference.
For three years following the peace the navy languished in almost complete neglect. Though its war losses had been cruel, nothing was done to repair the wastage. True, the bureaus, the navy yards, and the arsenals were treated very tenderly in the matter of retrenchment, because the horde of officials and workmen employed therein constituted a voting element that the politicians did not wish to estrange. So much money, indeed, was absorbed by the shore-going personnel that little remained over for the fleet itself. As late as 1923 the civil employees on the navy pay-roll numbered no less than 36,500, or nearly two thirds as many as the fighting personnel. Repeated attempts have been made to cut down this preposterous total of ineffectives, but local interests have so far defeated every plan of reduction. France, as a consequence, does not reap anything like the full advantage of her expenditure on naval defense.
At the close of the World War French sea power, both relatively and absolutely, was at its lowest ebb. During the preceding four years no warship of major importance had been laid down. Construction in the war period was limited to antisubmarine craft and other poussière navale, most of which ceased to be of value immediately the crisis was over. Instead of building and arming ships for the navy, the navy yards and marine arsenals were engaged throughout the conflict in manufacturing munitions for the army. They furnished a large percentage of its artillery and transport equipment, but the construction of ships was virtually suspended. France, in effect, relied on the British navy to look after the ‘sea affair,’ while her own resources were devoted almost exclusively to the prosecution of the land campaign. Let us admit, however, that the French fleet cooperated loyally and gallantly to the full extent of its meagre powers. The heroism and self-sacrifice displayed by the sailors of France in the Dardanelles attack evoked the warm admiration of their British comrades. But by the end of 1918 the navy had shrunk to a miscellaneous assortment of obsolete ships, its impotence being accentuated by the enormous dimensions to which the British navy had then attained. Without entering into a detailed analysis of relative strength, it may be mentioned that Great Britain had over forty dreadnoughts and France only seven, a disparity that was almost as marked in other types. Nor was it only vis-à-vis Britain that French sea power had waned. Before the war her fleet stood on an equality with that of the United States, and was considerably stronger than that of Japan. But she now found herself outdistanced by both those countries and, what was particularly mortifying, hard pressed by Italy, whose margin of strength in certain types was already superior.
None who knew the proud spirit of France, her inspiring naval traditions, and her extensive maritime commitments, can have supposed that she would tolerate indefinitely the humble status at sea to which circumstances had reduced her. But for a long period she remained quiescent. Her inactivity in the early post-war years was due, first, to financial embarrassment; and, second, to the influence of her military leaders. Concerning the first reason, she appears to have taken a darker view of her financial future in 1919 than she does to-day, though foreign spectators are at a loss to explain why. As for the second reason, French military men naturally attached more importance to the land than to the sea, contending with every appearance of justice that it would be madness to spend a franc on the naval service until the demands of the army had been satisfied, and those demands were already imposing an onerous burden on the treasury. Had military opinion undergone no change, the French navy would still be a negligible quantity. But, in fact, the soldiers have since become ardent champions of a powerful navy, and it is to their advocacy that the navy owes in large measure its gradual restoration to power and prestige. The reasons for this change of attitude will be dealt with anon. Here it suffices to emphasize the support which the navy is receiving from the highest military authorities, for as long as this support continues the growth of French naval armaments will proceed unchecked, because in all matters of national defense the influence of the soldiers is paramount.
It is impossible to appreciate the French point of view on naval policy unless one takes into account the historical background. France is no parvenu in the community of naval states, no upstart claimant to a voice in the control of the seas. Her ships of war ploughed the waves when Charlemagne ruled, her fleet was puissant when the first Crusaders sailed for the East, and from those remote days to our own times it has been a commanding factor in world affairs. In the reign of Louis XIV it boasted an armada of forty ships of the line and sixty frigates, led by such doughty seamen as Jean Bart, Duquesne, and Tourville. French warships of that epoch were unrivaled in excellence of design, and under Colbert the system of administration became a model of efficiency. All through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the navy remained formidable, nor was its strength permanently impaired by the disasters of the Napoleonic Wars. For thirty years after Trafalgar there was little naval activity in Europe, but the old rivalry between France and England was dormant — not dead. By 1840 the renovation of the French navy was in full progress, and for the next sixty years Great Britain was often hard put to it to maintain her traditional supremacy. Ambition to challenge the sea power of Britain was undoubtedly the mainspring of French naval effort; but with the creation of the Entente Cordiale this motive lost much of its original force, and so it came about that in the decade preceding the World War the French navy steadily retrogressed, and was soon left behind by the rapid expansion of the German fleet.
When France sent her delegates to the Washington Conference in November 1921, she had already begun to reconsider her naval position in the light of post-war political developments. Though the entente with Britain still existed in name, it had lost much of its former significance. The interests of the two countries were visibly diverging, and France thought it high time to adopt an independent line of policy in respect of sea defense. Debates in the Paris Chamber during 1920 and in the spring of 1921 had foreshadowed the introduction of a new shipbuilding programme. Expert opinion in France was partial to the submarine, and eulogies of this arm, for both defense and offense, dominated the Parliamentary discussions. Applause greeted the declaration of M. de Kerguezec, reporter of the committee on finance, that ‘the day on which France is backed by a fleet of 250 to 300 submarines she will be able to contemplate the future without any misgiving whatever.’ In the meantime Captain Castex and other naval publicists had been lauding the achievements of German submarines and upholding the legality of their war on commerce. These outspoken French comments did not pass unnoticed on the other side of the Channel, where every favorable allusion to the German submarine campaign aroused feelings of bitterness and mistrust. It will be perceived, therefore, that the seeds of that controversy which marred the harmony of the Washington Conference were sown a year or two beforehand. While France had a perfect right to her own views on submarine warfare, it was scarcely politic to air them so freely at a time when the British nation was still seething with anger at the recollection of Germany’s U-boat crimes.
France, on her part, conceived herself affronted at the very outset of the Conference, when she found that the Hughes plan of limitation bracketed her with Italy. It was a sore blow to her pride, and was resented as such. Important as the maritime interests of the Italian State may be, they are much less extensive than those of France, who in addition to a lengthy coast-line in Europe and a thriving overseas trade has a great oceanic empire to defend. Moreover, it was only because of the special circumstances of the war period, referred to above, that the French navy had momentarily declined to a level that left it barely stronger than the Italian. At no earlier period had Italian sea power approached the French standard. The presumption of naval equality between these two countries was a defect in the Hughes scheme, and one that was destined to have enduring consequences. From the practical point of view French interests were not prejudiced by the Limitation Treaty. The restriction of her battle fleet was of minor consequence to a State that had previously denounced the capital ship as an anachronism. Five huge dreadnoughts left unfinished at the end of the war were voluntarily scrapped in 1920, not because they were of obsolete design, but because French naval opinion regarded them as superfluous. Therefore the French grievance at Washington was based upon sentiment, but history warns us that national passions may be inflamed as readily by sentimental as by practical grievances.
In an interview published one year later, M. Georges Leygues, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber and a former Minister of Marine, candidly avowed the reasons for the unpopularity of the Washington Treaty in France. He declared : —
We refuse to accept naval equality with Italy, because France faces two seas, and has a vast empire only eighteen hours from Marseilles, with which we must amply protect our communications. We protest vehemently against taking a post-war instead of a pre-war formula of strength for establishing a naval ratio for the next ten years. This would penalize France for its enormous military efforts during the war at the expense of normal naval construction. The present weakness of our navy is abnormal. It may be impossible for France to add considerably to her navy for some years, but French national pride has been deeply wounded.
M. Leygues added that a vote taken in the Chambers would be overwhelmingly against ratification of the Washington Treaty. Events fortunately proved him wrong, but it is common knowledge that only the personal intervention of M. Poincaré — who recognized the far-reaching issues involved — saved the Treaty from being cast ignominiously into the discard by an adverse vote in Chamber and Senate.
Since influential French writers continue to assail the Treaty on the ground of its alleged injury to the material interests of France, it may be as well to present briefly the other side of the case; and here the writer ventures to quote some remarks he penned in December 1923, nothing having occurred in the interval to modify the thesis then presented.
‘In view of the generous provision she has recently made for sea defense, it is not easy to see why France should affect to be so perturbed by Italian efforts in the same direction. France, so far from losing ground as against her Italian neighbor, will soon be in a much stronger position than she is at present. Moreover, unless the large expansion of her torpedo and submarine flotillas is offset by a corresponding increase in the light forces of other navies, she will have effected a considerable improvement in her relative standing toward all other foreign naval powers. French criticisms of the Washington Treaty are therefore difficult to comprehend. One thing is quite certain: but for that Treaty, and the consequent scrapping of so many tremendous battleships abroad, France would now be occupying an almost negligible place in the naval hierarchy. Furthermore, the Treaty has greatly enhanced the relative value of those cruisers and other light forces which are all that France, on her own admission, can afford to build. In sober fact, the Treaty has been a boon to France. Since she appears to have lost faith in the battleship and, in any case, had no intention of building more of these ships for the time being, the adoption of a common ratio of capital ship tonnage for her and Italy can have no practical effect on her future naval position. France might have had reason to complain of the Treaty had it involved the limitation of all types of fighting ships, but, in fact, it leaves her free to build an unlimited number of the very types which she believes to be most useful for her purpose.’
At an early stage of the Washington parley the French delegates found themselves at variance with their British colleagues. The latter, having proposed the total abolition of submarines, failed to win support from any quarter, and this rebuff appears to have rankled, for the French claim to an allotment of 90,000 tons of submarines was opposed by them with what now seems to have been unnecessary heat. Once more, however, we must remember the peculiar reasons which Britain had for detesting the submarine and all its works — reasons dictated partly, but not wholly, by self-interest. When Lord Lee and Mr. — now Lord — Balfour protested so vigorously against the perpetuation of this weapon, they were not thinking solely of its power to wound their own country. To them, as to many other thoughtful people, in the United States as well as in Britain, the submarine had become the symbol of organized barbarism and brutality, and it may be that they spoke as much from the heart as from the head. No doubt their denunciation went too far. In denying all legitimate military value to the submarine they did violence to acknowledged facts. That undersea craft are capable of most useful service, when employed in a strictly lawful manner, is attested by war experience. To mention but one example: the British watch on the North Sea was rendered possible only by the cordon of submarine scouts which lay off the German coast and gave warning by radio of every hostile naval movement. No other type of vessel could have performed this work with equal efficiency.
But if the British case against the submarine was overstated, it is to be feared that M. Sarraut and Admiral de Bon, in behalf of France, failed to make sufficiently clear their motive in demanding so large a ratio of submarine tonnage.
Mr. Balfour asked: —
How are French assurances consistent with the building of this huge mass of submarines, which anybody who looked at the matter from a strategical and tactical point of view would certainly say, from the very geographical situation, was built against Great Britain? Men will inevitably ask themselves, What is the ultimate end underlying all that is being done? Against whom is this submarine fleet being built? What purpose is it to serve? What danger to France is it intended to ward off? I know no satisfactory answer to such questions.
France, however, could not be persuaded into modifying her claim, and as Great Britain, in these circumstances, naturally declined to limit her production of antisubmarine vessels, the whole scheme of regulating the socalled auxiliary fleets fell to the ground.
Proof that the French interest in submarines was not merely academic was soon forthcoming. Less than six weeks after the Washington Conference had ended, the Paris Chambers adopted a provisional shipbuilding programme in which undersea craft occupied a prominent place. In the course of the debate on this measure M. de Kerguezec, now speaking as president of the Senate naval committee, expressed great satisfaction that the Conference had set no limit on the building of submarines, and declared, with the tacit approval of Ministers, that French naval policy would not be changed. ‘It is necessary,’ he added, ‘for France to have her hands free to pursue a foreign policy suitable to her greatness and her dignity. We must not abandon our destinies to anybody, not even to our dearest allies.’ At the same time, both M. de Kerguezec and the Minister of Marine insisted that French submarines must ‘act in conformity with the laws of honor and humanity.’ No reference was made to the British view, expressed at Washington, that with submarines once let loose to attack merchantmen it is incredible in the stress of war that their powers will not be abused in the future as they were so grossly abused in the past.
The programme approved on March 17, 1922, has since been amplified to cover French naval requirements for a period of several years. The project is divided into two sections, and it was announced in January 1924 that the building of vessels authorized under the second half would be accelerated, with a view to having them all in commission by 1931 at the latest. For the sake of clarity the main provisions of the scheme are tabulated below: —
3 cruisers of 8000 tons
6 flotilla leaders of 2400 tons
12 destroyers of 1400 tons
12 submarines of 600 to 1148 tons
1 aircraft carrier
All these vessels are now completing, and should be ready for service at the end of this year.
6 cruisers of 10,000 tons
l5 flotilla leaders of 2400 tons
24 destroyers of 1400 tons
2 submersible cruisers of 3000 tons
30 submarines of 1385 tons
7 submarine mine-layers of 600 to 1300 tons
2 surface mine-layers
These vessels are to be completed by December 1931.
Such, then, is the new fleet that will be under the French flag seven years hence. It is not a high-sea fleet in the broad meaning of the term. Save for the cruisers and the larger submarines, it is composed of vessels that would be most formidable in the comparatively confined waters of the Mediterranean, though hardly less so in the English Channel. For overseas warfare they would not be so effective. France is therefore entitled to claim that her new naval policy is essentially defensive. But the line of demarcation between offensive and defensive warfare at sea, never clearly drawn, has long ceased to be visible. If France were fighting Great Britain, she would doubtless consider herself to be acting on the defensive if her cruisers, destroyers, and submarines attacked British shipping wherever it could be found. Could a submarine, issuing forth from Cherbourg to sink a British ship twenty miles offshore, be regarded as engaging in defensive action, if a larger boat, doing the same thing a thousand miles out at sea, were adjudged to be taking the offensive? Size is no longer a guide to the potentiality of a war vessel. Most of the German cruisers that played havoc with British trade in the early part of the World War were ships of less than 5000 tons, and four fifths of the shipping lost in the U-boat campaign was sent to the bottom by boats of 900 tons or less.
In fact, there is scarcely one of the 120 vessels named in the French building programme that could not, under favorable conditions, act effectively as a destroyer of commerce.
No rational person supposes that the destruction of British commerce is the sole, or even the cardinal, aim of French naval strategy, despite its traditional leaning toward the guerre de course. But it would be futile to deny the existence of a certain uneasiness at the large number of submarines included in the programme. Irrespective of the new boats, France already possesses about forty-five submarines, of which more than half will retain their efficiency for a considerable time to come. This means that the completion of her building scheme will find France possessed of more than seventy effective submarines, and Great Britain does not forget that Germany began the World War with less than thirty submarines.
Parisian writers continue to deride the ‘morbid fears’ entertained by their cross-Channel neighbors on the subject of French naval activity, and are indignant at ‘the implication that France is preparing to emulate the misdeeds of German U-boat commanders at the expense of British shipping.’ There is, they maintain, no vestige of excuse for ‘this willful misunderstanding of French naval policy.’ One can only reply that British misgivings arise from the published statements of eminent French strategists, to say nothing of the less responsible opinions which the French press has voiced since the war. It is they who have reminded us, with illconcealed pride, that the methods of sea ‘ frightfulness ‘ practised by Germany were first recommended by French naval officers, and were, indeed, strictly in accord with the doctrines preached by the Jeune École, of which the French Admiral Aube was the founder. More than this, one of the ablest of present-day French naval critics has declared the Germans to have been ‘absolutely right’ in employing the submarine as they did. French statesmen, it is true, have deprecated the use of submarines in such a way as to transgress the law of humanity; but we know from bitter experience that in time of war the fighting men are prone to follow their own devices. The consistent opposition of the German military power could not restrain the German military authorities from adopting ruthless submarine warfare in its extreme form. Consequently, when we find French naval experts of weight and standing openly praising the submarine as the one weapon capable of striking deadly blows at Britain’s naval power, and when we also see France developing this weapon on a most formidable scale, it is inevitable that certain conclusions should be drawn of a nature not calculated to promote amicable relations between the two countries.
So much has been heard lately of the doctrines of the Jeune École that it may be useful to quote from the writings of Admiral Aube, who founded this school of progressive naval thought in the eighties of the last century. It should be interpolated that the Jeune École waged war on the battleship, arguing that, since France could never hope to compete with wealthy Britain in the building of costly ironclads, she should devote all her resources to the production of smaller, cheaper, but deadlier craft, whose very multiplicity would render the seas unsafe for the mastodon. Under the impulse of this teaching, France, in the closing decades of the century, spent most of her energy in building squadrons of cruisers and veritable swarms of torpedo boats, all of which speedily became obsolete. In the end she found herself weaker at sea than before, notwithstanding a lavish outlay on construction, and but for the coming of the submarine and the airplane the Jeune École would have been hopelessly discredited. Today, however, this school is again in the ascendant, and if Admiral Aube were still alive he would be the first to give his benediction to a building programme which reflects so faithfully his views on naval strategy.
Dealing with the ‘next war’ with Britain, Admiral Aube wrote: —
All of England’s littoral towns, fortified and unfortified, whether purely peace establishments or warlike, will be burned or pitilessly ransomed by cruisers of great speed and power. In any future war Frauce will come down from the heights of the cloudy sentimentality which has created that monstrous association of words, rights of war, and her attack on every source of English riches will become not only legitimate but obligatory.
Elsewhere he wrote: —
To-morrow war breaks out; a torpedo boat has sighted one of those ocean steamers freighted with a cargo of greater value than that of the richest galleons of Spain. The torpedo boat will follow at a distance, keeping out of sight, and when night comes on will, unobserved, close with the steamer and send to the bottom cargo, crew, and passengers, not only without remorse, but proud of the achievement. In every part of the ocean similar atrocities would be seen. Others may protest; for ourselves we accept in these new methods of destruction the developments of that law of progress in which we have a firm faith, and the final result would be to put an end to war altogether.
The fatal, facile doctrine that war can be abolished by intensifying its horrors still persists on the Continent.
Although the name of Captain Castex has figured so often and so prominently in discussions on French naval policy, some uncertainty still exists as to what he has really written on the German submarine campaign. Lord Lee is charged with having misquoted this writer in a discussion at the Washington Conference. But, in truth, the study entitled ‘The Synthesis of Submarine Warfare,’ which Captain Castex contributed to the official Revue Maritime in 1920, what time he was on duty at the Ministry of Marine and as professor of naval strategy at the Naval and War Staff College, is too clear to admit of misconstruction.
Here is one passage, not wrenched arbitrarily from the context, but in keeping with the whole tendency of the article: —
Submarine warfare has frequently been called ‘piracy,’ and ‘pirates’ those who participated in it. These expressions translated in a weak manner, a little too openly, the feelings which at the time were entertained by most of Germany’s foes, the surprise created by this unusual method of warfare, the unreadiness in facing it, powerlessness in regard to it, and anxiety as to its final results. Astonished, taken by surprise, momentarily impotent, anxious, they found nothing better to do than to show their vexation by stamping their feet and calling down abuse upon the evil opponent, who despised the rules of fair play and struck in secret. . . . Before thus attacking the Germans in words we should have remembered that this cruising war, using torpedoes, was, like many other novelties of our planet, the application of a conception most essentially of French origin. Further consideration leads to the admission that the Germans had an absolute right to follow this kind of warfare. Germany had the right, for her cause, to put in action all her means, and to require of her submarine armament the doing of the utmost harm to her enemy. This constituted, as it were, a fencing thrust aimed at the lower part of the body, but a perfectly regular one. The omission of warning previous to torpedo action, which has given rise to so many protests, is not so inadmissible as at first appeared. To this contention the Germans have replied, not without some semblance of right on their part, that they had ‘once and for all’ warned all ships not to proceed through the dangerous zone.
It is recognized in Britain that Captain Castex speaks for himself, not necessarily for the French Government or the French nation. None the less, his opinions cannot be ignored, and they unquestionably acquire weight from the fact of the author’s semiofficial position. Is it, then, surprising that the publication of such views, closely followed by the ordering of more than fifty submarines, should have caused many Britons to regard French naval policy with the eye of suspicion? When in addition we see France expanding her air force, which is already supreme in Europe, and legislating for a war reserve of 4800 modern airplanes, the wonder is that British public opinion as a whole remains quite calm in the face of martial preparations that might easily be construed as a direct menace to Great Britain.
In responsible circles, however, France is not credited with aggressive designs against her island neighbor. There, at least, a clear appreciation of her strategical requirements exists. The object of these lavish preparations by sea and air is, first and foremost, to ensure the safety of the sea routes which link France with her vast African domain. During the World War nearly a million troops were brought from Africa to swell the French legions in the field. But for this host of colored levies depopulated France could never have maintained her armies at the requisite strength. As a consequence, reënforcements from Africa now play a highly important part in the scheme of national defense. Every plan of mobilization and strategy framed by the General Staff postulates the punctual arrival on French soil of half a million or more fighting men from North Africa, Senegal, and the Niger. For this reason sea power has for the first time become a dominating factor in French military strategy, and here we discern the reason for that lively interest which Marshal Foch and other eminent soldiers are displaying in the strength and welfare of l’armée navale. Upon the safety of the sea routes in time of emergency depends the prompt arrival of those reënforcements from Africa without which France could not bring her army up to war strength. It is with a view to this supreme need of open sea communications that the new shipbuilding programme has been launched with the full approval of the highest military authorities.
But while all are agreed that command of the Western Mediterranean is a sine qua non, many contradictory opinions prevail as to the best method of securing it. For the moment, preference is given to a combination of fast cruisers, well-armed torpedo vessels, submarines, and aircraft, which it is thought would be able to form an impenetrable screen across the sea lanes by which the transports conveying African troops must voyage to France. No hostile battleship, it is argued, could approach this guarded zone without courting certain destruction. On the other hand, there is a dissentient school in the French navy which holds that intruding battleships could not be dealt with so easily, and should be met by French ships of equal power. So far, however, this view has not been accepted.
It is, in the writer’s judgment, no more than a regrettable coincidence that the material by which France hopes to guard her vital line of communication with Africa should be precisely that which she could use with maximum effect in a war with Great Britain. But the coincidence is not at all remarkable when we look into it more closely. Since cruisers and their lighter satellites are cheaper than dreadnoughts, it is natural that they should appeal to a country such as France, whose coffers are by no means bursting with gold. Furthermore, these light vessels, both surface and submersible, may really possess, collectively, a higher tactical value for Mediterranean warfare than a fleet of dreadnoughts. That the majority of them would make very efficient commerce-destroyers is true, but beyond the writings of Captain Castex and a few other publicists of his way of thinking there is nowhere an atom of proof, or even of suggestion, that the current French programme was drawn up with any special reference to Great Britain. So far, at all events, it has had no marked reaction on British naval policy, from which one may infer that its true significance is not misunderstood in London.
Frenchmen, on their part, have taken an equally rational and objective view of the present concentration of British naval force in the Mediterranean. Within the past few months the strength of the British fleet in those waters has been practically doubled. At Malta are now assembled eight first-class battleships, two cruiser squadrons, two airplane-carriers, many destroyers, and a flotilla of submarines, comprising an armament which equals — if it does not surpass — in power the entire French navy as at present constituted. The presence of this immense fleet so close to her shores, and its obvious ability to menace the transMediterranean routes that are vital to her safety, does not appear to have excited misgiving in France. Indeed, the calm and sensible tone in which the French newspapers, with a few insignificant exceptions, have discussed the matter is an assurance that AngloFrench relations are, at bottom, more amicable than superficial observers might infer. It is well known in France that the gravitation of British naval strength toward the East is influenced by considerations which have nothing to do with European politics. They are inspired by the same motives which have led the Conservative Government to proceed with the development of Singapore as a great naval base. Ever since the war the attention of British strategists has been focused on the Pacific, and the choice of Malta as the headquarters of their strongest fleet has a purely fortuitous bearing on the European balance of power.
In conclusion, a few notes on the future composition of the French navy may be of interest. It is weakest in capital ships, for the six modern vessels of this type under the Tricolor are all of pre-war design, and do not compare favorably with the newest units of the British or American battle fleet. At best they serve as a stiffening to the lighter craft, which represent the real spearhead of the navy. The former German cruisers now embodied in the French fleet are mostly obsolete, and not more than three will remain effective when the new ships are completed. By 1931, therefore, France will have a squadron of twelve cruisers, six being of the powerful 10,000-ton type, armed with 8-inch guns, as permitted by the Washington Treaty. She will have, besides, approximately one hundred destroyers, including twenty-seven which in tonnage and gun-power are equal to small cruisers. More than half the total of one hundred boats will be armed with 5.1-inch guns, a battery that would enable them to make short work of any destroyer afloat to-day. By the same date she will possess at least seventy submarines, without reckoning boats which may be scrapped in the interim on account of age and deterioration. With few exceptions, these submarines will be of the long-range, ocean-going type. It is noticeable, also, that the destroyers are to have a radius of 3000 miles.
Concurrently with the building of this new material, numerous reforms have been instituted in the governance and personnel of the navy. No difficulty is foreseen in manning the new fleet with officers and men of the best quality. Naval bases in the Channel, the Mediterranean, and along the African littoral are being modernized and equipped with new defenses. The active fleet frequently engages in manœuvres at sea, and nothing is left undone to promote efficiency in gun and torpedo practice.
In fine, the modern French navy aspires to, and probably has reached, a far higher standard of preparedness for war than was deemed necessary in 1914. In all this we can detect the exhilarating influence of army patronage, which was never extended in pre-war days. Almost for the first time in the annals of France, the prestige hitherto monopolized by the soldiers as the true defenders of la Patrie is now shared in equal measure by the sailors. From now onward the French navy is destined to count as a weighty factor in world politics.