Military Review

Unique and useless. Cruising submarine Surcouf (NN 3)

31

Submarine Surcouf at sea, mid-30s. Photo Wikimedia Commons


In 1934, the French Navy entered the newest cruising submarine Surcouf (NN 3) - at that time the largest ship of its class in the world, carrying the most powerful weapons. The submarine remained in service for several years, but during this time it was never able to reveal its potential.

Under the terms of contracts


The Washington Naval Agreement of 1922 limited the construction of large surface ships, but did not in any way affect the submarine fleet. As a result, in different countries, work began on the creation of the so-called. cruising submarines - submarines with developed large-caliber artillery weapons. Together with others, France took up this direction.

July 1, 1927 at the shipyard in Cherbourg was laid down the lead "artillery submarine" of the new project, named after the famous privateer Robert Surcouf. In the foreseeable future, it was planned to build two ships of the same type. Three submarine cruisers were created for raids on the communications of a potential enemy - independent and as part of ship groups. It was with this that the specific composition of the weapons on board was associated.


Submarine in configuration and painting 1932. Drawing by Wikimedia Commons

The Surcouf was launched in November 1929 and was soon taken out for testing. However, at this stage, the project encountered difficulties of a military-diplomatic nature. In January 1930, a conference was opened in London, which resulted in a new restrictive agreement. The London Naval Treaty introduced the maximum displacement of submarines and the permissible calibers of guns.

Paris was able to defend the already finished "Surkuf", but the construction of the next two submarines was canceled. The Navy command had to revise its plans and strategies.

Testing the submarine and correcting the identified deficiencies took a lot of time. Most of the problems were successfully eliminated, but individual shortcomings turned out to be fundamentally unavoidable. In this form, the fleet accepted the submarine in April 1934.

design Features


The Surcouf was a single-hull diesel-electric submarine with a number of unusual features. First of all, these are record sizes and displacement. The length was 110 m with a width of up to 9 m. The displacement on the surface was 3,3 thousand tons, in the underwater position - almost 4,4 thousand tons. Larger submarines appeared only in the mid-forties.


Ship architecture. Figure Hisutton.com

The ship received two Sulzer diesel engines with a total capacity of 7600 hp, which were used for movement on the surface and for charging batteries. The underwater movement was provided by two electric motors with a total power of 3400 hp. This power plant provided a surface speed of more than 18 knots and an underwater speed of up to 10 knots. The cruising range is 10 thousand miles on the surface or 60-70 miles under water. Diving depth - 80 m.

The boat was operated by a crew of 118 people, incl. 8 officers. The crew members were responsible for managing all systems, there were gunners, aviation group, etc. If necessary, an inspection group was formed from the sailors. The autonomy of reserves reached 90 days, which made it possible to make long trips and work in the ocean zone. A room for 40 passengers or prisoners was provided.

Of particular interest is the complex of weapons. Four 550 mm torpedo tubes were placed in the nose. In the stern, below deck, two movable blocks were provided, each of which included one 550 mm and a pair of 400 mm vehicles. Thus, on board there were 10 torpedo tubes of two calibers. The total ammunition load is 22 torpedoes.


Boat model - superstructure with a tower close-up. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Instead of the traditional small-sized cabin, Surkuf received a large hermetic superstructure with partial armor. The nose assembly of the superstructure was a turret with two 203mm / 50 Modèle 1924 guns. Horizontal guidance was provided in a small sector. Inside there were stores for 14 rounds and stacks for 60 rounds.

An optical rangefinder with a base of 5 m was placed behind the tower on the superstructure. Due to its position, the viewing, measurement and firing range was limited to 11 km. When using a periscope, the range of fire increased to 16 km. However, on ships with better controls, the Mle 1924 cannon hit 31 km.

According to the project, the bulk of the preparation for firing could be carried out at periscope depth. After surfacing, only fine aiming and some other procedures were required. It took only a few minutes to fire the first shot after surfacing. After firing at the minimum time, the boat could go under water.


Crew formation on deck. It is curious that there is no fairing on the turret. Photo Survincity.com

Anti-aircraft weapons were installed on the superstructure. Its composition was refined, and as a result, the submarine received a pair of 37-mm Mle 1925 anti-aircraft guns and four Hotchkiss M1929 heavy machine guns.

A compartment for the boat was provided under the deck. The aft part of the superstructure was a sealed hangar for the Besson MB.411 seaplane. It was proposed to use it for finding targets and adjusting fire.

Жалобы и предложения


Tests of the Surcouf submarine lasted from 1929 to 1934, and during this time a number of problems of various kinds were revealed. Not everything was fixed. So, until the very end of operation, there was a problem with the supply of spare parts and parts. "Surkuf" had minimal unification with other submarines, and therefore the necessary products, up to the elements of fasteners, often had to be made "on an individual order."


Demonstration of turning the tower. Frame from newsreel

It turned out that the submarine is not stable enough. On the surface, the heavy superstructure with cannons and a hangar led to swaying. In the submerged position, efforts had to be made to keep the ship on an even keel. The submersion took several minutes, which gave the enemy a chance for a successful return volley.

Imperfect fire control facilities did not allow the full potential of the 203-mm guns to be realized - the firing range was far from maximum, the firing angles were seriously limited, and the use of guns at night was impossible. The aiming of the gun at periscope depth led to depressurization of the connections and threatened the boat. Accurate shooting was difficult during excitement. At the same time, the roll with a roll of more than 8 ° excluded the possibility of turning the turret.

Boat in service


The first years of service of "Surkuf", despite all the problems, passed quite calmly. The crew mastered the technique and learned to deal with its shortcomings. The submarine regularly participated in exercises, incl. with torpedo and artillery fire. Outings to the sea and long voyages were constantly made.


The interior of one of the compartments. Photo Lasegundaguerra.com

The cruising submarine with unique weapons quickly became a symbol of France's naval power. She was gladly shown in the press, and also organized friendly visits to foreign ports.

In mid-1939, Surcouf crossed the Atlantic to Jamaica. In September, an order was received to prepare to return home as part of the escort force of one of the convoys. A few weeks later, the boat arrived at the base in Cherbourg, where it remained until spring. In May, almost simultaneously with the German attack, the ship was sent to Brest for repairs in dry dock conditions.

The work was not yet completed, but the German army was approaching, which could lead to the loss of the ship. The crew decided on a real gamble: with one working diesel engine and an inoperative rudder, the boat crossed the English Channel and came to Plymouth.

On July 3, the French submarine became one of the targets of the British Operation Catapult. An attempt at the armed capture of the Surkuf ended in success, but three Englishmen and one French sailor were killed in the shootout. The divers were offered to join the Free France, but only 14 people expressed such a desire. The rest were sent to an internment camp. Before leaving the ship, they managed to destroy the documentation and damage some of the systems.


Reconnaissance aircraft Besson MB.411. Photo Airwar.ru

In August, repairs were completed and a new crew was formed. Due to the lack of specialists, many seamen from civilian ships entered it without any experience of service in underwater navy... Political disagreements related to the organization of the Free French Navy, combat service, etc., became a serious problem. The situation on board gradually heated up, the number of violations increased, and the morale fell. Seeing all this, the command of the British KMVF began to doubt the need to keep the "Surkuf" in the ranks.

By the end of 1940, Surcouf was transferred to Halifax, Canada, from where the boat was supposed to go out to escort Atlantic convoys. A similar service continued until July 1941, when the ship was sent to American Portsmouth for repairs. Technical difficulties led to a delay in the work, and a new campaign was started only at the end of November. This time the submarine was included in the naval group, which was to take control of the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

The Last Campaign


The new 1942 crew met in Halifax. At this time, the Free French command and the KVMF were discussing his further service. It was decided to transfer "Surkuf" to the Pacific Ocean to strengthen the Allied naval grouping.


Working with an airplane on deck. Photo Airwar.ru

On February 2, the submarine left Halifax and headed for Bermuda. On February 12, we started the next part of the route, laid through the Panama Canal. Then it was necessary to arrive at about. Tahiti and from there head for Australian Sydney. The latter was to become a new base for submariners.

On the night of February 19, the submarine with its entire crew went missing. On the same day, SS Thompson Lykes reported a collision with an unidentified object. The version of the collision of a submarine with a ship became the main one. However, others also spoke up. The submarine could die as a result of a mistaken attack by American anti-submarine forces, a riot could occur on board, etc.

Service results


The cruising submarine Surcouf (NN 3) was in service from 1934 to 1942 and during this time did not show any special results - but managed to prove itself not from the best side. The ship was regularly involved in exercises, and since 1940 it had to go to sea as part of real operations.


Submarine "Surkuf" in the port. Photo Survincity.com

During the construction of the submarine cruiser, the main focus was on increasing the firepower of artillery systems. This task has not been fully solved. The submarine received two 203-mm cannons, but their use according to the intended methods turned out to be impossible due to limitations in performance and the risks of flooding.

Throughout the entire period of service, the largest French submarine had only various targets in combat. Not a single victory in a real battle - with the use of torpedoes or cannons - was achieved. First of all, this is due to the fact that "Surkuf" has never been used for its intended purpose - to disrupt the enemy's sea communications. However, participation in the escort of convoys, even without the defeat of enemy ships and submarines, in itself brought serious benefits.

Thus, the unique, but controversial submarine, which had a specific ratio of characteristics, only helped to a limited extent in the fight against the enemy. Perhaps the situation could have changed, but on the night of February 19, 1942, in her stories the point was put. The most interesting and promising combat unit in France was killed in unclear circumstances.
Author:
31 comment
Information
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must to register.

I have an account? Sign in

  1. Catfish
    Catfish 11 August 2020 07: 02 New
    18
    Of the entire crew, only 14 out of 118 people agreed to fight the Nazis, less than ten percent ... How does this in percentage terms correlate with the number of De Gaulle's Free French soldiers and the country's male population quite fit for military service?
    By the way, the end of this boat was quite natural.
    Thanks to the author for interesting material. hi
    1. BDRM 667
      BDRM 667 11 August 2020 07: 17 New
      10
      Quote: Sea Cat
      Of the entire crew, only 14 out of 118 people agreed to fight the Nazis, less than ten percent... How does this in percentage terms correlate with the number of de Gaulle's Free French soldiers and the country's male population quite fit for military service?

      Directly and correlates yes It can't be straighter no .
      That, in general, reflect the "infantilism" of Europe of that period as a whole.

      And I read about Surcouf in "Technology of Youth", God knows what other years, but in this article I learned many new and interesting details for me personally.
      1. Mikhail3
        Mikhail3 11 August 2020 12: 34 New
        +6
        Quote: BDRM 667
        Of the entire crew, only 14 out of 118 people agreed to fight the Nazis, less than ten percent ..

        The French sailors had good reason not to serve the British. The Free French Navy was clearly a British project. And Operation Catapult was an incomparably dastardly stab in the back, so people, having received weapons, most likely would not have held back.
      2. Proctologist
        Proctologist 11 August 2020 12: 58 New
        +6
        And about Surcouf, I read in the "Technology of Youth"

        Aha! .. I also remember. As for "they refused to fight the fascists", this is a modern interpretation, since "Free France", like the Polish "Polish Army", was only one of the options to continue fighting, and according to the British scenario - and this against the background of the British attack on the French fleet "so that the Germans did not get it. " It is difficult to accuse these sailors of cowardice.
    2. mr.ZinGer
      mr.ZinGer 12 August 2020 09: 04 New
      +1
      With de Golem, only 3000 people left for England.
  2. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 11 August 2020 07: 10 New
    +3
    Thank. I read as a child about "surkuf" and that it was an unsuccessful, dead-end branch.
  3. sergo1914
    sergo1914 11 August 2020 07: 28 New
    +8
    Eh. They opened the wound. Lies, modelka waiting in the wings. 100th scale. The length of the model is 110 cm. It is not known when the hands will reach.
  4. Mavrikiy
    Mavrikiy 11 August 2020 08: 45 New
    +3
    In January 1930, a conference was opened in London, which resulted in a new restrictive agreement. The London Naval Treaty introduced the maximum displacement of submarines and the permissible calibers of guns.
    What's this in English. As soon as someone did something dangerous for the Grand Fleet, there was a conference and a taboo.
    The crew members were responsible for the control of all systems, there were gunners, an air group, etc.
    Valuable communication with a sea of ​​information. hi
    It took only a few minutes to fire the first shot after surfacing. The submersion took several minutes, which gave the enemy a chance for a successful return volley.
    And he would have followed. The boat is doomed, lucky she didn't shoot.
    1. Constanty
      Constanty 11 August 2020 10: 42 New
      +5
      The British also built a rather unusual submarine of a similar concept, which was the largest submarine in the world until it entered service with the Surkuf - the HMS X-1.


      It was the positive attempts with these ships ((despite technical defects and despite the official position that it was unsuccessful) that made the British fearful of such ships and attempts to block their construction by other countries.

      1. Bormanxnumx
        Bormanxnumx 11 August 2020 11: 38 New
        +5
        British submarine set fashion
        M-1 with 305 / 40mm "ham")
      2. Proctologist
        Proctologist 11 August 2020 13: 00 New
        +5
        Oh, White Submarine!

        "... A small shallow bay opened behind the dunes, and the submarine towered above the water a hundred meters from the shore. Actually, it did not look at all like a submarine, and even less like a white one. Guy decided at first that it was not the carcass of some gigantic a two-humped animal, not a bizarre rock, out of nowhere from the sands. But Maxim immediately understood what it was. He even suggested that the submarine had been abandoned, that it had been standing here for several years and that it had been sucked in. So it turned out. We got to the bay and went down to the water, Guy saw that the long hull and both superstructures were covered with rusty spots, the white paint had peeled off, the artillery platform was rolled to one side and the gun was looking into the water. could not stay.

        - Is this really a white submarine? - asked Maxim. - Have you seen them before?
    2. Mikhail3
      Mikhail3 11 August 2020 12: 38 New
      +1
      Well, really lucky. It could be an incomparable hunter, pirate and invader. Gutting unarmed transport ships is her mission! The boat would do just fine here. What are the 40 prisoners? The most valuable and expensive cargo is gold, rare metals, equipment ...
      1. Alf
        Alf 11 August 2020 19: 59 New
        +1
        Quote: Mikhail3
        Gutting unarmed transport ships is her mission!

        And then what about her 8 inches? To make an unarmed tramp, built by no means according to naval strength and survivability requirements, 105-120 with a powerful high-explosive projectile is enough.
        But why are torpedo tubes of different calibers on board - for me personally, this is a great secret.
        1. Mikhail3
          Mikhail3 12 August 2020 13: 36 New
          0
          Military people make the same mistake all the time. For some reason, you think about the military purpose of this or that weapon, as if it were some kind of feudalism. Big boat - big contracts. Install in general, absolutely, absolutely not what you NEED. Understand this already! They establish what is available, or can be inexpensively adapted, and so that all this can be pushed through the Ministry of War, which, in turn, could fool the heads of politicians who give money (after convincing politicians of the extreme necessity of this, they can share much less).
          Is it really so difficult to understand ?!) Almost all the armies of capitalism start wars with weapons that work disgustingly, or do not work at all as intended. Only the war itself, only the mortal threat allows us to slightly deviate from the general line - the greatest profit at the lowest cost. But just a little. The unearned profits of the military-industrial complex are washed in the blood of millions of their soldiers. The money is very hot.
          And you are all looking for some sort of military expediency, well, like children, right ... ((
      2. Catfish
        Catfish 12 August 2020 09: 30 New
        +1
        In order to "gut transport ships" you do not need 305-mm guns at all, the boat was designed for completely different purposes. According to British standards, such a boat was qualified as a "squadron", i.e. was intended for operations as part of a squadron with ships of other types. A little higher, our colleague Konstanty (Konstanty) showed a photo of a British boat of this class HMS X-1.
  5. akunin
    akunin 11 August 2020 10: 10 New
    +5
    In the "technology of youth" in the 70s or 80s (I don't remember exactly) there was an article about surkuf. The main version of flooding was considered to be incomplete sealing of a hangar for a seaplane.
    1. Constanty
      Constanty 11 August 2020 12: 00 New
      +4
      because of this - incomplete sealing of the hangar for the seaplane, the British submarine HMS "M-2" sank
      1. akunin
        akunin 11 August 2020 12: 51 New
        +1
        dear, I do not argue, but in the "technique of youth" there was a version about "surkuf".
        1. Constanty
          Constanty 11 August 2020 13: 07 New
          +4
          You're right - Tech - Youth 1940-11, page 18 wrote about this back in 1940.
  6. Fibrizio
    Fibrizio 11 August 2020 10: 42 New
    +9
    Quote: Sea Cat
    How does this compare in percentage with the number of de Gaulle's Free French soldiers

    I am not making excuses for anyone, but here it is necessary to take into account, or rather to understand, several traditional European "circumstances"
    1. Surrender is not a shame, everyone does it, the conditions of detention there are decent (usually), after the war we will exchange. Surrender if the situation is hopeless is not only not ashamed but also reasonable (under the tsar, this was also the norm with us).
    2. In the European wars, they did not hesitate to conclude peace treaties. It was a normal practice when the choice was to lose money or go to zero for the country. Moreover, all the regimes before World War II were about the same, and no one touched the kings (their analogue) (they are all relatives)
    3. The French did not particularly rock the boat, especially at first, because the government signed a peace treaty with Germany. The war is over. Signed Stalin's surrender at 41, what would have happened? History does not tolerate the subjunctive mood. Anything could happen.
    4. Probably we must admit that if France had not signed the peace treaty, it would have been rolled out in another month. They were not ready for such a war. In 100% of cases, they would have lost the metropolis without harming the Germans. No one could help them at that time (Britain has a good fleet, but a small army + after the First World War they never recovered economically).

    So it's hard to say how it was more correct. Of course, in hindsight, the French had to admit defeat, but take the maximum troops and equipment to England and Africa and transfer all this under the control of the government in exile. It also turned out rather sadly with the fleet, part of it was forced to drown by the British and allies, because under the terms of the peace treaty, Germany took the fleet for itself, and the French sailors had no (legal) reason not to fulfill it.

    In short, everything is far from obvious and rather complicated.
    You can also talk about the place of the USSR in cooperation with Germany until the age of 41. We have been a very important supplier of a range of military or paramilitary products and raw materials.
    1. Alf
      Alf 11 August 2020 20: 01 New
      +1
      Quote: Fibrizio
      We have been a very important supplier of a range of military or paramilitary products and raw materials.

      So the Germans supplied us with a lot of valuable and essential things, even to their own detriment. Schliemann alone is worth something.
      1. Fibrizio
        Fibrizio 12 August 2020 09: 54 New
        +2
        So no one argues. I just ask you not to simplify history and not measure the situation with our modern view (or a subjective view through the interests of only our country). Now we know how it happened, then many things were seen differently. And there was no answer how to act "right".
        And the worst thing is to denounce Hitler's Germany when she attacked us at 41 and turn a blind eye to her actions from 39. This is all one line of behavior. Without any changes.
        And here you can go into a complex demagogy on the subject of whether the USSR allowed its actions or not to incite the Second World War or not.
        Everything is complicated here. I am sure that at that time no one at all could have thought about a world war.
    2. Mikhail3
      Mikhail3 13 August 2020 14: 55 New
      +2
      Quote: Fibrizio
      If Stalin had signed his surrender at 41, what would have happened?

      We Russians would all be destroyed. No "subjunctive moods". The wars you are writing about were fought for the sake of profits, for the sake of the land, for the sake of the population, finally. However, the "Fuehrer of the German nation" very clearly and consistently advocated the ALLEGUAL DESTRUCTION of the Slavs as racially inferior. How many blacks did the Belgians kill in the Belgian Congo with an unwavering hand? 6 million? ten? But the Belgian king simply wanted more money, raising labor productivity with the help of mass murders. Well, he did not consider blacks as people, of course.
      And Hitler wanted to kill us all. He was an accurate man in German - he wanted to kill Jews and began to do it with high efficiency. It's funny that you don't want to see this, invoking the feudal showdown of the masters as an argument ...
      1. Fibrizio
        Fibrizio 14 August 2020 10: 10 New
        0
        Was this information publicly available in 39 or 41? (if you forget about the propaganda (by the way, very loyal to Hitler until 41, there are even 39-year leaflets where the Nazis and the Red Army soldiers together rejoice at the "meeting on the border" printed in the USSR)).
        I wrote about people like you above. You judge people knowing how it will be. Concentration camps became public knowledge already at the final stage of the war (especially the most monstrous ones, as they were located in eastern Europe and western Germany).
        The world became aware of all this in 44.
        By the way, it was not immediately known about the Congo, as well as about the Zusul problem =) Although my wife was in South Africa for work, blacks are worse than people in our wild regions, some kind of darkness.
  7. Romka47
    Romka47 11 August 2020 12: 48 New
    +1
    I understand correctly, she has not yet been found?
    1. Avior
      Avior 11 August 2020 18: 04 New
      +2
      Not found
      ... The official investigation concluded that the most likely cause of the submarine's death was a collision with the American bulk carrier "Thompson Lykes" (eng. SS Thompson Lykes) on the night of 18 February. The crash site has not yet been discovered. If we accept the hypothesis of the death of "Surkuf" as a result of a collision with "Thomson Likes", then its wreckage should lie at a depth of about 3000 meters (9800 feet) at the point with coordinates 10 ° 40'N 79 ° 32'W. However, this point on the seabed has not yet been explored with the help of underwater vehicles and the exact location of the sinking of the "Surkuf" cannot be considered established.
    2. Crimea26
      Crimea26 11 August 2020 22: 29 New
      +2
      There is also a version that the Americans (or the British) sank it for "technical and political" reasons: such a ship was just a burden, there was no sense in it, the crew was politically unreliable. With a successful riot and going over to the "other" side - disgrace and new problems, as they say - no boat, no problem.
      Partial confirmation that it was sunk by "friends" is the response of the military to French relatives: "don't stick your nose where you shouldn't." Agree, to admit that the allied "Surkuf" was sunk CONSCIOUSLY by the allies themselves - this is, sorry, a scandal!
      1. Romka47
        Romka47 12 August 2020 09: 14 New
        +1
        Thank you for the detailed answer Crimea26 and Avior hi
  8. Al_lexx
    Al_lexx 11 August 2020 23: 47 New
    +1
    Japanese filmmakers were clearly and quite inspired by the French underwater monster.
    "Lorelei, the witch of the Pacific" 2005
    Quite a funny fantasy. Especially the footage of the finale is delivered, where they shoot down an American B-29, which was heading for Tokyo, with an atomic bomb on board, from their unplugged cannons.
    1. Alf
      Alf 12 August 2020 19: 31 New
      +1
      Quote: Al_lexx
      Japanese filmmakers were clearly and quite inspired by the French underwater monster.

      There is another similar Japanese film from '63 about the PL. It is called Atragon. That's where they twisted, so they twisted ...