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French destroyer La Combattante
Career (United Kingdom, France)
Builder: Fairfields, Glasgow
Christened: HMS Haldon (L19)
Renamed: La Combattante in 1942
Fate: Mined 23 February 1945
General characteristics
Class & type: Hunt class destroyer (Type III)
Displacement: 1,050 tons standard; 1,435 tons full load
Length: 85.3 m (280 ft)
Beam: 10.16 m (33 ft 4 in)
Draught: 3.51 m (8 ft 3 in)
Propulsion: 2 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 shaft Parsons geared turbines, 19,000 shp
Speed: 27 knots (25½ kts full)
Range: 2,350 nmi (4,350 km) at 20 knots (37 km/h)
Complement: 168
Electronic warfare
& decoys:

Two radars (sea and air sentry)

One ASDIC type 144

4 x QF 4 in Mark XVI on twin mounts Mk. XIX
4 x QF 2 pdr Mk. VIII on quad mount MK.VII
2 x 20 mm Oerlikons on single mounts P Mk. III
2 x tubes for 21 in torpedoes

110 depth charges, 4 throwers, 3 racks

La Combattante ("The Fighter") was a destroyer[1] of the Forces navales françaises libres (FNFL). A British-built Hunt class destroyer, she was offered to the Free French in 1942.

History[edit | edit source]

Laid down as HMS Haldon (L19), she was damaged in a bombing in the night of the 14 and 14 March 1941. She was offered to the FNFL in 1942, and renamed La Combattante.

Escort duty and S-Boot fighting[edit | edit source]

La Combattante made her first sortie in the 23 March 1943, escorting a convoy in the English Channel. She rescued 68 sailors from the Stell Traveller, a liberty ship sunk by a mine.

On the 29 May 1943, she rescued English and Australian aircrews ; in the night of September 1943, she rescued two British airmen.

In the night of the 25 and 26 April 1944, Combattante and the frigate HMS Rowley intercepted a group of German E-boats; La Combattante managed to sink the S-147 and damage another ship. In the night of 12–13 May, Combattante destroyed S-141, killing Klaus Dönitz, Admiral Dönitz's son in the process.

In the night of the 27–28 May Combattante met Motor Torpedo Boats MTB-732 and MTB-739; the two groups mistakenly engaged each other, and MTB-732 was sunk.

D-Day[edit | edit source]

Under commandant André Patou, the La Combattante took part in Operation Neptune, providing close fire support to the landing parties during the Battle of Normandy off Courseulles-sur-Mer. She stayed 3,000 metres off the beach, in 4-metre deep waters, as she shelled shore batteries; at one point she ran aground, and HMS Venus morsed "I am happy that a French be the first to touch the ground of France". The Combattante destroyed several shore batteries, until troops started landing on the beach. She then returned to Portsmouth, escorting a landing ship dock.

Ferrying General De Gaulle[edit | edit source]

La Combattante kept escorting convoys in the Channel between France and England until 14 July 1944, when she was ordered to the King's Stairs of Portsmouth harbour; there were General Charles de Gaulle, Generals Béthouart and Koenig, Admiral d'Argenlieu, Gaston Palewski, Pierre Viénot, Pierre Billotte, François Coulet, Pierre de Chevigné, Geoffroy de Courcel, Pierre Laroque and Claude Hettier de Boislambert, waiting to cross the Channel to Normandy[2] The delegation also carried a 250-million franc treasure to counter introduction of the US occupation franc. One of the most famous photographs of De Gaulle was taken aboard during the journey,[3] before he landed at Courseulles.[4] On 25 June 1944 Combattante rescued two downed US pilots.

Fights off Normandy[edit | edit source]

La Combattante further patrolled the Channel. In the night of 25–26 August 1944, she sank four German ships ferrying an artillery unit On 23 February 1945, an explosion broke La Combattante in two and she sank quickly, with 117 survivors of her 181-man crew. Allied sources stated the ship having been sunk whilst running on a mine.

On the German side, a Kriegsmarine bulletin reported that La Combattante was destroyed at 10.28 a.m. on 24 February by two torpedoes fired by U-5330, a German midget submarine of the Seehund type commanded by lieutenant Klaus Sparbrodt, approximately 5 miles off the South-Fall Bank. Sparbrodt was decorated for his alleged success. The ship sunk by Sparbrodt was in fact the British cable layer Alert [2].

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Designed as "torpilleur", literally "torpedo ship"
  2. It seems that the proper orders had not been given, which resulted in the following conversation:

    Commandant Patou: I assume you wish to go to France, General ?
    General de Gaulle: Did you not receive your orders ?
    Patou: No General, but it does not matter, we already know the way
    Admiral d'Argenlieu: Off to Normandy! [1]

  3. photograph aboard the Combattante
  4. AFP

External links[edit | edit source]

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