In October 1886 there was a quandary about cruisers. With most navies the prevalent type of cruiser was the protected cruiser, which was characterized by an armored
deck that joined the hull sides below the waterline. This deck was designed to protect the machinery spaces and provide buoyancy with the hull sides were pierced.
Protected cruisers did not carry an armored belt. Cruisers that carried an armored belt were called armored cruisers. The belt could vary in length but in most cases was
limited to protect the machinery spaces in conjunction with an armored deck. The Royal Navy had been building ships along cruiser lines with an armored belt starting
Audacious Class in 1867. Initially called Iron Plated Ships, they carried an iron belt. Later they were renamed as 2nd Class Armored Battleships or 1st Class
Armored Cruisers. With the
Imperieuse Class of 1881 the Royal Navy switched from iron to steel belts and introduced a new model 9’2-inch gun deemed more
powerful than contemporary 12’5-inch battleship guns. The two
Imperieuse Class ships were followed in 1885 by seven Orlando Class, typed armored cruisers from
the beginning. The final design for the
Orlando Class was for a cruiser that could act with the Battlefleet. The Orlando Class fitted with 9.2-inch and 6-inch guns, was
the direct ancestor to the following RN large armored cruisers and finally to the battlecruiser. The operational theory was to build large cruisers that could operate with
the battle line. However, the
Orlando Class also exhibited shortcomings that plagued early British armored cruisers. The ships were 15% over the designed
displacement. This resulted in that the top of the armored belt was two feet under the waterline, rather than being 3.5 feet above waterline as designed.

During this time the most likely opponents to the Royal Navy were France and Russia. Imperial Russia had been building a series of large armored cruisers that had
attracted the attention of the Royal Navy. France on the other hand had been building a series of armored corvettes. These designs had been significantly inferior to the
contemporary British designs. Compared to the British cruisers, the French armored corvettes were significantly smaller and lighter than British designs and had smaller
or inferior weapons and much thinner armored belts. In October 1886 things changed. In that month the French Navy ordered two protected cruisers to be named the
Dupuy de Lôme and the Jean Bart. Two more were ordered in March 1887, Alger and Isly. However, at the same time French trials showed that the new powder was
so much more powerful than black powder that an armored belt would be needed to prevent penetration. In October 1887 an order was placed to make
Dupuy de Lôme
an armored cruiser. The other three continued to be build as protected cruisers. The new design for the ship was done by Louis de Bussy and it revolutionized the
concept of the armored cruiser. The ship is considered to be the inspiration for the classic armored cruiser.
Instead of following the old design concepts of a short thick belt covering the machinery spaces, the ship had armor plate of the same thickness covering the entire
hull. The design also introduced a three shaft propulsion system with the outboard shafts powered by horizontal triple expansion engines and the center shaft powered
by a vertical triple expansion engine. This was the first time that a major warship was equipped with three drive shafts. The armament layout was also unusual. The
main armament of two 7.6-inch single guns were placed amidships with one gun on each side. The secondary guns consisted of six 6.5-inch single guns clustered
three on the bow and three on the stern in a triangle in each location. Both the primary and secondary guns were mounted in turrets. At the time experts considered the
design well suited for all three major missions of cruisers. It could scout for the fleet, raid enemy commerce and serve on distant stations. After
Dupuy de Lôme,
almost all of subsequent French cruisers were armored cruisers. International interest was further stimulated by the ship’s appearance. With enormous ram bow,
extreme tumblehome, multiple turrets and thick military masts with very large tops, she presented an extraordinarily aggressive appearance. The large tops/fighting
positions were designed to carry as many quick firing anti-torpedo boat guns as possible. Later they were removed when they proved too light to stop a torpedo boat
and to reduce top-weight.

Dupuy de Lôme was laid down at the Brest Dockyard on July 4, 1888 and launched October 27, 1890. Trials started in June 1892 and almost from the start, the ship
experienced boiler problems. In the initial trials under natural draught 9,500shp and a speed of 18.4-knots was attained. In July 1893 the
Dupuy de Lôme underwent
trials under forced draught and developed 13,000shp and a speed of 19.7-knots. However, she sustained machinery damage to the boilers due to overheating. Tests
resumed in October and this time one of the Fox boilers gave way completely. The boilers were subsequently removed from the ship for repairs and completion
significantly delayed. As a result of the boiler problems the she was not commissioned until May 15, 1895.
The length was 374-feet (114m) overall (364.2-feet (111m) between perpendicular bulkheads) with a beam of 51.5-feet (15.7m) and draught of 23-feet (7m).
Displacement was 6,676-tons, which was more than 50% heavier than her original protected cruiser design of 4,160-tons. Initial armament consisted of two
7.6-inch/45 main guns, six 6.5-inch/45 secondary guns, four 65mm/50 QF guns, eight 47mm/40 QF guns, eight 37mm/20 QF Gatling guns and four 21-inch torpedo
tubes. The revolutionary armor scheme had 3.9-inch side armor, an armored deck of 1.2-inches, turrets with 3.9-inches and conning tower with 4.9-inches of
armor. Initial machinery consisted of thirteen cylindrical Fox boilers powering the two horizontal triple expansion engines and one vertical triple expansion engine for
maximum power of 13,000shp and maximum speed of 19.7-knots. The coal capacity was 1080-tons and cruising radius of 7,000nm at 10-knots. Complement was
526 crewmen.

It is interesting to follow the commentary on the
Dupuy de Lôme found in The Naval Annual by Lord Brassey, which was preeminent source on warships during
this period.
The only other ironclad recently laid down which it will be necessary to notice is the Dupuy de Lôme. The original design of this vessel, described as a protected
cruiser to be built on plans of M. Thibaudier, has been abandoned. The present design is by M. de Bussy and is made with the object of furnishing protection
against projectiles charged with high explosives….The Dupuy de Lôme is to be built at Brest, entirely of steel; she is to have a complete armour belt of 10-
centimetre (3.94-in.) maximum thickness amidships and side armour of the same thickness in wake of the battery. A complete protective deck is to be fitted, and
below it a splinter deck over vital parts. Above the protective deck is a coffer-dam or belt of cellulose or other obturating material, 1 metre (3.28 feet) high. There
will be thirteen principal, and a large number of small, water-tight compartments.
The Naval Annual 1888-9 at page 66.

The trials of the Dupuy de Lôme were interrupted by an accident to one of the boilers, in consequence of which it was considered necessary to modify the
arrangement of the tubes. As this vessel is of an exceptional type, it is well to give a detailed description of her….In point of armament, protection, and speed,
the Dupuy de Lôme is a most remarkable fighting machine, capable of coping with many battleships, especially with those of the older types.
The Naval
Annual 1893
at pages 8 and 9.
After commissioning the Dupuy de Lôme was sent to serve in the Northern Squadron with which she served from 1895 to 1902. In 1899 the ship paid courtesy
visits to Spain and Portugal. In 1901 the
Dupuy de Lôme represented France at the funeral of Queen Victoria. After this visit a number of QF guns were removed
from the fighting tops. Throughout her service, she had continued to experience boiler problems. She was docked at Brest for reconstruction for a period from 1902
to 1906. All of the boilers were removed and replaced by twenty Guyor-du-Temple boilers. The increased number of boilers required a third funnel, which was
placed between the original two. Originally it was planned to replace both military masts with pole masts but only the aft military mast was replaced. On October 3,
Dupuy de Lôme was recommissioned and was immediately placed in reserve. She remained in reserve September 1908 when she was assigned to the
Morocco Station at Tangier. She was only there for a year because in September 1909 she was placed back in reserve due to her deterioration. It was discovered
that she needed significant hull repairs and rather pay money for repairs on a 20+ year old ship, she was decommissioned in March 1910 and stricken in February
1911. However, this was not the end of the
Dupuy de Lôme.

In 1910 Peru was worried that Ecuador about buying the protected cruiser
Umbria (1891) from Italy. Peru approached France about buying an older French
armored cruiser to out shine the Ecuadorian protected cruiser. A number of different ships were discussed but in the end, France suggested that Peru purchase a
Dupuy de Lôme. The price was three million French Francs plus the cost of reconditioning estimated to be 0.7 million FF. A contract was signed in
July 1911, Reconditioning was started almost immediately and
Dupuy de Lôme was ready for trials in January 1912. The trials through March were successful and
later a Peruvian crew showed up to take over the ship. In September 1912 the ship was transferred to Peru and renamed
Commandante Elias Aguirre. Peru was
slow in making payments and only one million FF was paid to France. Peru’s desire to make the ship the terror of the Pacific was significantly reduced when the
Umbria was sold to Haiti instead of Ecuador. When World War One broke out in August 1914, the Peruvian crew was sent packing having enjoyed a very long
vacation in France. In January 1917 France went into the repo business and reclaimed
Dupuy de Lôme. As new construction had taken the name, the ship remained
a nameless accommodation hulk at Lorient for the use of France’s new allies, the Americans. In the meantime France was looking for a new sucker on which to
palm off the
Dupuy de Lôme. They found one. In October 1918 the ship was sold to the Societie Commerciale & Industriel de Paris who resold it to Consortium du
Nord and resold again to Lloyd Royal Belge for conversion to a merchant ship. The U-Boat war had been so devastating to merchant ships that many old warships
were purchased for such conversions. A dramatic reconstruction was made with all superstructure except for an aft deckhouse kept for passenger use, and armor
removed. The ram bow disappeared for a straight stem and expanded forecastle. The extreme tumblehome was replaced by high freeboard slab sides. Masts were
replaced by a light pole main mast and a cargo derrick with seven booms forward. About the only external remnant from the old
Dupuy de Lôme was curved stern,
general underwater form, central propeller and rudder.
Internally there were a great number of changes. In order to be financially successful in merchant service a significant amount of cargo space had to be provided.
Four cargo holds were created. The forward hold was the space originally the forward magazines. The second hold took over two stripped boiler rooms. Both of
these holds were serviced by the forward cargo derrick. The third cargo hold took over the space of two stripped engine rooms. The forth hold took over the aft
magazines. Both the 3rd and 4th holds had their own small cargo derrick. A bridge and officer’s accommodation were added over the forward end of the last
remaining boiler room. With only one engine turning the centerline shaft the maximum speed dropped to 10.5-knots on 2,000shp. Displacement rose to 8,100-tons.
The ship was renamed the
Peruvier by her new owners. The spirit of the Dupuy de Lôme clearly did not fancy her new assignment as a slow, lumbering merchant.
On January 20, 1920 the
Peruvier cast off from Cardiff on her first cargo voyage carrying coal to Rio de Janeiro. The Peruvier broke down in the Atlantic and was
towed to Las Palmas and then towed to Pernambuco, Brazil, reached on June 1, 1920. After reaching Brazil it was discovered that the coal in the third cargo hold
was on fire. It took 19 days to extinguish the fire, which caused the main mast to collapse and destroyed the machinery plant. Lloyd Royal Belge had seen enough of
Peruvier. In October and November, she was towed back to Antwerp, where she remained until sold to the breakers. She arrived at Flushing Netherlands on March
4, 1923 for scrapping. (The bulk of the history is from the marvelous,  new book,
Before the Battlecruiser, The Big Cruiser in the World’s Navies 1865-1910,
Naval Institute Press 2018 by Aidan Dodson. This volume is spectacular and the new Bible on the large cruisers of the period.)

Combrig Dupuy de Lôme in 1:350 Scale – When I saw that Combrig was producing a resin kit of the Dupuy de Lôme in both 1:350 and 1:700 scales, I was
extremely excited. The
Combrig kit portrays the ship as built in 1895. I love the French designs of the late 19th Century with their fierce face military masts,
extreme tumblehome and enormous rams. It takes
Combrig to produce kits of the French warships of the period from the Grand Hotel of the Hoche and now the
mother of the classic armored cruiser, the
Dupuy de Lôme. In October 2018 I cruised over to Blue Ridge, Georgia to make my annual pilgrimage to the sole source
Combrig kits in the USA, Freetime Hobbies. On the way over I concentrated on which Combrig Dupuy de Lôme that I wished to acquire as Freetime had all
of the versions of the kit. Normally I prefer 1:350 scale kits in their full hull version. The 1:350 scale kit of the ship is available in waterline only or full hull. The kits
are identical except the full hull kit provides the lower hull and propulsion gear. In this case my final decision was to get the waterline version. If you have any of the
previous 1:350 classes, you will be familiar with their hull casting technique. The interior of the hull casting is hollow with a resin casting ridge that needs to be
removed before the two hull halves can be joined for full hull or before the upper hull can be attached to a base board. Invariably this involved finesse, sanding and
filling with more sanding. With the
Dupuy de Lôme Combrig departed from that format and provides a smooth clean bottom of the solid upper hull casting, so
there is no ridge to remove. I also looked at the lower hull from a full hull version and the lower hull was also solid and smooth across the top. It is now lightyears
easier to mate the two hull halves together than earlier kits.
With this new technique the hull is very clean. At most all the upper hull needs is a very light sanding along the waterline. The lines of the hull are lovely from the
raven’s beak ram bow to the gracefully tapered stern. The curving tumblehome of the hull sides add further to the delight. Each side at the bow has a detailed large
and a small anchor hawse fitting. A single row of portholes run along the hull. Each side has two hinged doors for the above water torpedo tubes. Other hull side
detail includes two vertical strakes, overhanging sponsons for the main guns, and the outline of anchor chain locker doors at the bow. At the top of the cutwater,
where it joins the forecastle there are large doors with hinges for a bow chaser QF gun. The 01 level is cast as part of the hull. This is natural as the cutwater of the
ram runs to the top of the 01 level. There are a couple of portholes at the bow of the 01 level but the bulkheads of this level are dominated by large square windows,
which was common in French designs. The bulkheads also have two detailed doors on each side and two equipment boxes.

The overhead plan emphasizes the unique armament placement of the ship. Behind the knife edge cutwater of the ram is a narrow forecastle, which is on top of the 01
level at the bow. The main deck runs from either side of the higher forecastle to the stern. The 01 level runs from the cutwater to end just forward of the aft
secondary turret positions. The main deck was mostly a metal deck as its surface is smooth. Amidships there is a well in the 01 level where the main deck has
wooden planks. At the bow deck detail includes recesses for the secondary turrets, open chocks, flared twin bollard fittings and a couple of small fittings at the
junction of the deck and 01 bulkhead. Amidships the main deck detail includes recessed positions for the main gun turrets and a plate behind each one. Quarterdeck
detail includes recesses for the three stern secondary turrets, another couple of open chocks, more twin bollards and a small skylight at the very stern. The forecastle
detail on the 01 level includes a recess for the centerline secondary turret, which is a level higher than the two turrets on the main deck in contrast to the three
secondary turrets on the quarterdeck, which are all on the same level. The only other forecastle features are a deck access coaming on the port side and two half
moon overhangs above the main deck. After the forecastle there are locater outline along the centerline for the conning tower, forward superstructure, a large
windlass and the forward funnel, Also locater holes are present for various sized J-shape ventilator cowlings, location holes for open QF guns and position lines for
boat skids. The deck in the well has fine wooden plank detail but it lacks butt ends. On this deck has the locater hole for the aft funnel and smaller holes for more
ventilators. There are two plates in front of the funnel upon which are attached curious fittings that could be ventilators or could be mess exhaust pipes. There are
also rows of coal scuttles on each side of the funnel. The aft portion of 01 level has more locater holes for ventilators and QF guns. Centerline are a large and small
deck access well. The locater circle for the mainmast and square for a deck house are found at the rear of this deck.
Following their standard practice, Combrig produces the smaller resin parts in three formats, single parts on a pour stub, parts on a thin wafer sheet and parts on
runners. For the
Dupuy de Lôme there is only one part cast by itself on a pour stub. This is the forward funnel, which is the largest of the two funnels. The funnel is
half cased with fine aprons at the top of the funnel and at the top of thicker casing below. Other funnel detail are two reinforcing bands on the upper funnel, locater
holes for brackets for funnel fume deflection wings and locater holes for steam pipes. Of course, the casting stub will have to be removed with a Dremel and the
bottom sanded smooth. The casting sheet has eleven parts. All eight turrets are present. The turrets appear to be identical except for one. The turrets also vary in the
location of the command cupola. Five have the cupola on the starboard side of the crown and three on the port side. The three with the cupola are for the locations of
the port side wing turrets, as the cupola is outboard on the turret crown. Both 7.6-inch and five of the six 6.5-inch turrets are on a tall barbette, which fits in the
recesses found on the main deck. The turret that is the exception has a much shorter barbette because it is the centerline bow secondary turret that rest in a recess on
the 01 level where most of the barbette is hidden by the hull. The turrets have extensive detail on the crown, including cupola and entrance door. There are also thin
aprons where the turrets meet the slightly wider barbettes. There are also three superstructure parts on the sheet. One is the 02 level forward superstructure base,
which has a locater square for the fore mast on its top. The 03 level navigation chart house is also on the sheet. This part has a half moon cut out where it attaches to
the rear face of the fore mast and detail window shutters on each side. The third superstructure part is the deck house that fits on the forward face of the main mast.
It too has a half moon cut out where it joins the thick tube that is the main mast and a detailed door with two square windows. There are eighteen resin runners
containing the other resin parts. One runner has fairly large parts. The aft stack is taller than the forward funnel because it fits on the main deck level in the well. It is
also half cased with the thicker case starting half way down the funnel with an apron at the junction. Unlike the forward funnel, there is no apron at the top of the
funnel. The aft funnel also has two reinforcing bands on the funnel top half, locater holes for brackets for the funnel fume deflection wings and locater holes for
steam pipes. The other two parts on this runner are the thick tubes of the bottom of the military masts. They are of different heights with the tall one for the main
mast and the shorter one for the forward mast, since it sits on top of the forward superstructure.

Four runners have the gun barrels. One has the primary and secondary barrels. They are all of the same pattern in that there is no difference between the primary and
secondary gun barrels. All of these barrels have hollow muzzles and multiple barrel reinforcing bands. The tertiary guns are on another runner. They come in three
shapes. The 65mm/50 guns are apparent because of their much larger size. Even though the
Dupuy de Lôme carried only four of these, Combrig provides six on the
runner. Eight very fine pieces with gun block integral with the barrel are present for the 37mm/20 guns. There are also six gun barrels. Two identical runners have
the one-piece 47mm/40 guns. Eight per runner so you get plenty of spares. Each gun has the conical base, gun block with sights and barrel. Detailed mast platforms
are on a runner. These are very detailed with top and bottom detail and two platforms per mast. A fifth part is the conning tower crown. The conning tower, large
windlass, small galley funnel and the two unique structures on the plates of the well deck are on a runner. The solid bottom part of the conning tower and the open
back part of the conning tower are separated by a photo-etch platform. The top conning tower part has crenellations for the vision slits. The windlass is
extraordinarily detail for such a small part. What I take to be the galley funnel has a cap overhang. Three runners have ventilator fittings. There are nineteen J-shape
funnel cowlings in thirteen different patterns based on size and height. Two have curved bases. The ventilator cowls have fairly deep openings. There are also two
straight pipe ventilators with top cap. The anchor runner has five anchors, three large and two small anchors. Very good detail is found on the anchor heads and
flukes. A runner has QF gun pedestals, military mast ammunition lockers, brackets for funnel fume deflectors and two curved shields placed on the superstructure in
front of the wing forward turrets. Six detailed 65mm gun base mounts, five searchlights, a binnacle, a compass, two small ventilators and a platform coaming for the
fore mast are on a runner. Four runners have the ship’s boats. Two steam launches are on a runner with each launch of a different size. Each launch has a different
shaft and rudder design and interior. The interiors have coal scuttles and detailed engines. Separate boilers are provided with superb boiler door, exhaust funnel and
dome detail. The other three runners have open oared boats. They are in four sizes with open hulls because they use brass thwarts and planked decks. The last runner
included in my kit is the hull bottom running gear. You certainly can’t use it with the waterline version but if you have the full hull version you will. Three propellers
are in two patterns with the two outboard propellers of one pattern and the centerline platform of the other. The propeller blades are of a thin crescent shape. Other
parts on this runner are the rudder, support struts, and keel extension.
There are two brass photo-etch frets with this kit. In other words, there is a lot of brass for a model of this size. Some of the most unique items on the large fret
are the “Mouse” half moon ears that are fume deflectors at the top of both funnels and uses resin brackets. These deflectors can be assembled closed, covering the
top of the funnels or open, pivoted to the sides of the funnels. All of the square window openings on the sides of the 01 level get brass frames. This allows painting
the window recess black and use Micro-Klear to glaze the window frames. Other hull side brass details are a two-level platform on each side, small leadsman
platforms at the bow with supports, anchor crane kingposts at the bow, and propeller guards at the stern. The bulkheads of the military fighting tops are on this fret
and are curved around the mast platforms. The crenellated open bulkheads for the upper mast platforms are also brass strips that are curved around the platforms.
The bridge face has open square windows and side deck railing with relief-etched dodgers, another opportunity for window glazing. Other ship specific parts are
numerous boat chock base plates and chocks, searchlight platforms at the top of each mast, seven-part ship’s wheel, gussets, accommodation ladders and railing,
QF gun shoulder rests, deck access overhead frames, gun barrel rest frames, and turret opening brackets. The ship’s boats brass detail is also on the large fret. The
large steam launch gets eleven brass parts, almost half of which are relief-etched. Parts include different deck planking, a metal mesh aft decking, forward window
screen, wheel and wheel post, propeller, tiller and aft thwart. There are seven parts for the smaller steam launch with three parts wood planking, two thwarts,
rudder/tiller and propeller. The open boats get bottom planking, thwarts and rudder/tillers. Lastly vertical ladders, inclined ladders inside the ladder wells and railing is
on this fret. The railing has open stanchions instead of a bottom gutter/scupper and is custom fitted for each location. Two of these railings has relief-etched canvas
dodgers. The medium sized photo-etch fret is thicker. The larger parts on this fret are a flying boat skid/deck over the amidships well, bridge deck, amidships gun
platform, conning tower deck, and open bridge overhead. Among the relief-etched parts on this fret are superb name plates for the stern, the 65mm QF gun upper
mounts, anchor chain, and anchor crane davits. Ship’s boat davits come in three sizes. The two sides fold together and there is relief-etching present. There are
davit bases/brackets for the largest and smallest of the davit patterns. The medium sized brackets get separate bottom hinge brackets. Other parts are turret barrel
rests, stern davits, amidships supports and lower bulkheads,  65mm QF shoulder rests, and hull side brackets.

The instructions are in the newer
Combrig format. They don’t excel but are still much better than the initial Combrig format. They consist of nine single sided
pages. Page one is the traditional profile and plan, a history in Russian and specifications in English. Page two is a parts laydown. It is fairly easy to find the
attachment location for the brass parts because they are numbered on the frets and the instructions use the same number. However, I wish that
Combrig would
number the resin parts in the part’s laydown to make the attachment location easier to find. Page three has lower hull assembly and a template of parts that need to
be cut from plastic or brass rods. These include steam pipes, top masts, yards, posts/pillars, propeller shafts and a couple of other items. The template shows the
items in scale with the length in millimeters. Some also have the radius. Page four is the initial hull construction concentrating on attaching parts to the hull sides.
There is also a separate inset on assembling the eight-piece ship’s wheel. Page five has the initial deck assembly. There are separate detailed insets for all three types
of QF guns, and the three types of turrets. Page six has the second stage of deck assembly concentrating on davits and ventilators. There are three separate insets
on davits and two on anchor cranes. Page seven covers railing placement with separate insets on anchor and accommodation ladder assembly.  With page eight you
come to the superstructure. There are six detailed insets. Insets include assembly of the main mast, an even more complicated inset on assembly of the fore mast,
an inset for each funnel assembly, an inset for the amidships gun platform and an inset of the conning tower position. I found that these were easy to follow. Final
assembly is on the ninth and last page. This covers attachment of the superstructure subassemblies, funnels, ship’s boats, anchors, and a few other fittings. Five
separate detailed insets cover the assembly of the various patterns of ship’s boats.
The Combrig Dupuy de Lôme in 1:350 scale is a glorious model. This assessment is based on two factors. First is the inherent quality and cleanness of the Combrig
resin and brass parts. The second factor is the architectural features of
Dupuy de Lôme. All of the characteristics of French warship design in the last part of the 19th
Century are on display in spades. Whatever you like, from enormous rounded ram, to heavy fierce face military masts bristling with light guns, to graceful curved
tumblehome hull with square windows, to the mouse ear funnel fume deflectors, its all there in glorious excess.
Steve Backer