|During the inter-war years, the major naval powers became interested in building extra-large destroyers, to the point that in a sense it became an arms race. Each nation tried to outdo the others or at least match those ships
built by their likely enemies. After World War I, the French Navy took possession of the 2,500 ton German S 113.This ship, renamed Admiral Sénès, in a way influenced the French “super destroyer” concept, though
there were earlier feasibility studies on a large, heavily armed ship. The 2,126 ton Jaguar class was technically the first French super destroyer armed with five 130mm guns. Based on their success, building programs
were planned over the next several years to build more ships of this type. The 2,436 ton Guépard class was next, followed by the 2,441 ton Aigle and Vauquelin classes. These ships had a main armament of five 138mm
guns. By the time the 1930 building program was approved, a total of 18 super destroyers were built.
The six-ship, 2,659 ton Fantasque was authorized under the 1930 building program and they were the acme of the French super destroyer development. Their appearance was much different than their predecessors in
that instead of three or four funnels, this class had two which gave it a less obvious profile. Also, there was no main mast fitted so the aft funnel was used to carry the radio aerials. They were also armed with five 138mm
guns but with the newer 1929 model. Later in the war, these ships were reclassified as light cruisers because of their tonnage, but in reality they lacked the range and service radius of a true light cruiser. Le Terrible was
laid down in November 1931 and launched on November 30, 1933.On trials, Le Terrible was able to reach a speed of 45.029 knots which has not been surpassed since for a ship of her size. After her commissioning on
May 1, 1936, Le Terrible operated in the 10e Division Légère (DL) along with her sister ships Le Fantasque and L’Audacieux. The other three ships, L’Indomptable, Le Malin and Le Triomphant, were assigned to the
8e DL. Later on, the DL designation was changed to Division de Contre-torpilleurs (DCT). In 1937, the two super destroyer DCTs became part of the 2e Escadre Légère (EL), with light cruiser Emile Bertin as leader.
At the outbreak of World War II, the 2e EL was part of the force created to hunt for German surface raiders in the Atlantic, joining the search for the Graf Spee. Early in the Norway campaign, L’Indomptable, Le Malin
and Le Triomphant undertook a daring raid into the Skagerrak in support of British submarine operations. Their high speed was an important factor in catching the Germans by surprise, inflicting damage on some small
patrol craft and avoiding direct hits by Luftwaffe aircraft during the retreat. When the armistice between France and German was signed on June 25, 1940, Le Terrible was at Mers-el-Kebir. When the Royal Navy
attacked the French ships there on July 3, 1940, Le Terrible was part of the force screening the Strasbourg when she made a run for Toulon. When the French African colonies joined the Allies after Operation Torch, Le
Terrible went over to the Free French side.
In February 1943, Le Terrible underwent an extensive refit and modernization at the Boston Navy Yard (her sister ships Le Fantasque and Le Malin also went Boston for the same work). She was fitted with an improved
anti-aircraft armament consisting of six 40mm Bofors (1x4 and 2x2) and eight single 20mm Oerlikons. To accommodate the AA armament, the aft torpedo tubes were removed. Also added in this refit was a small lattice
mast with SA and SF radars, a pair of depth charge guns and storage racks for 4 charges on aft deck, 16 life rafts (8 forward and 8 aft) and an Alpha 128 type sonar. Removed during this refit were the torpedo tube and
secondary armament directors, all boats except one launch and motor launch and both boat cranes. When Le Terrible reentered service she was painted in a USN Measure 22 scheme with hull number X 101.
After her refit, Le Terrible and her two sisters were used in the Mediterranean, where their high speeds was useful in raids among the numerous Axis held islands. They carried out a total of 24 raids in the Adriatic and
Aegean seas and they supported the land campaign in Italy in December of 1943. They were very successful in high speed attacks against German coastal convoys. On Christmas day, 1944, Le Malin collided with Le
Terrible at 24 knots during night gunnery practice off Naples, Italy. Le Malin lost her entire bow up to “A” mount (which was later replaced with that of her sister ship L’Indomptable, which had been scuttled in Toulon
in 1942). Le Terrible was severely rammed by Le Malin’s bow on the port side aft of the second funnel. In total, 69 crewmen were killed. Le Terrible was able to reach Naples, powered by one shaft, to be patched up
by RN engineers with a concrete cofferdam. Afterwards, she sailed to the French Sidi-Abdallah Navy Yard in Bizerte, Tunisia for permanent repairs. At that time, Southern French naval yards were still unable to handle
extensive repairs. Le Terrible spent the rest of the war undergoing repairs and was not able to participate in the Far East/Pacific Campaign with the British Task Force in 1945.