French destroyer Bisson


Bisson was the name ship of her class of destroyers built for the French Navy during the 1910s, entering service in 1913. She served in the Mediterranean Sea during the First World War, sinking the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-3 on 6 July 1915 and took part in the Battle of Durazzo in December 1915 and the Battle of the Strait of Otranto in May 1917. She was stricken in 1933 and scrapped in 1939.

Bisson french destroyer.jpg
Bisson in harbor
BuilderArsenal de Toulon
Laid downJanuary 1911
Launched12 September 1913
StrickenJune 1936
General characteristics
Class and typeBisson-class destroyer
Displacement768–804 t (756–791 long tons)
Length78.1 m (256 ft 3 in) (p/p)
Beam8.6 m (28 ft 3 in)
Draft3.1 m (10 ft 2 in)
Installed power
Propulsion2 shafts; 2 Breguet steam turbines
Speed30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Range1,950 nmi (3,610 km; 2,240 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)

Construction and designEdit

Bisson was laid down at Toulon naval dockyard in January 1911 as the lead ship of a new class of six "800-tonne" destroyers ordered for the French Navy under the 1910 and 1911 construction programmes as a follow-on to the earlier Bouclier-class. She was launched on 12 September 1912 and was completed in 1913.[1][2]

The Bisson-class were 78.10 metres (256 ft 3 in) long between perpendiculars, with a beam of 8.63 metres (28 ft 4 in) and a draught of 3.1 metres (10 ft 2 in). The machinery powering the ships differed in detail between the ships of the class. Bisson was fitted with four Indret boilers which fed steam to two set of Bréguet steam turbines, with the machinery rated at 15,000 shaft horsepower (11,000 kW), giving a design speed of 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph). Four funnels were fitted. Bisson reached a speed of 31.05 knots (57.50 km/h; 35.73 mph) during sea trials, although operational sea speeds were lower.[1][2]

Armament consisted of two 100 mm (3.9 in) Modèle 1893 guns, four 65 mm (2.6 in) Modèle 1902 guns and four 450mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes in two twin mounts. This was modified during the First World War by the addition of a 47 mm or 75 mm anti-aircraft gun, two machineguns and provision for up to ten depth charges.[2][3] The ship had a crew of 5–7 officers and 75–77 other ranks.[1]


First World WarEdit

On 6 May 1915, Bisson and the French cruiser Jules Ferry spotted the Austrian light cruiser Admiral Spaun between Cephalonia and Calabria and chased the Austrian ship, but Admiral Spaun outpaced the two French ships and escaped.[4][5] On 23 May 1915, Italy declared war on Austro-Hungary, and Bisson was one of 12 French destroyers deployed in support of the Italian Fleet, joining the 1st Flotilla based at Brindisi.[6][1]

Regular duties included escorting ships to Montenegro and supporting Franco-Italian patrols aimed at stopping Austro-Hungarian surface ships and submarines from passing through the Straits of Otranto.[1][7] On 8 June, Bisson formed part of a force of four Italian destroyers and three French destroyers escorting the British light cruiser Dublin on a patrol off the Albanian coast intended to destroy Austro-Hungarian light naval forces. Despite the strong escort, the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-4 managed to torpedo Dublin, killing 13 of the British cruiser's crew, but the escort managed to drive away several more suspected submarine attacks, and Dublin successfully reached Brindisi without further damage.[8]

On 12 July, Bisson and sister ship Magon raided the island of Lastovo off the Austrian coast of the Adriatic (now part of Croatia), destroying oil stores and the telegraph station. This attack was simultaneous with the Italian occupation of Palagruža.[9] On 5 August the Austrian submarine U-3 made an unsuccessful attack on the Italian armed merchant cruiser Citta di Catania. Several destroyers, including Bisson, were sent to intercept the Austrian submarine, and on the next morning Bisson spotted U-3 on the surface and opened fire, sinking the submarine. Twelve of U-3's crew were rescued.[10]

Battle of DurazzoEdit

On 29 November 1915, the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Helgoland and five destroyers attacked the port of Durazzo, Albania, where two Austro-Hungarian destroyers struck mines, with one (Lika) sinking and the second (Triglav) being taken under tow. Allied naval forces sortied from Brindisi in response, including five French destroyers (Bisson, Casque, Commandant Bory,Commandant Lucas and Renaudin), two British cruisers (Dartmouth and Weymouth), two Italian cruisers (Quarto and Nino Bixio)and four Italian destroyers. Dartmouth and the French destroyers intercepted the slowly retreating Austro-Hungarian force, with the destroyers being sent against Triglav while Dartmouth engaged Helgoland. The approach of the French destroyers forced the Austrians to scuttle Triglav, but Helgoland and the remaining Austrian destroyers managed to escape.[11]

On 2 August 1916 Bisson, Commandant Bory and the Italian destroyers Ardito and Impavido were returning from supporting a raid by Italian MAS boats (motor torpedo boats) on Durazzo when they encountered the Austro-Hungarian destroyers Warasdiner and Wildfang, which were returning from bombarding the Italian city of Molfetta. The French and Italian destroyers set off in pursuit of the Austro-Hungarian ships, but broke off the chase as they neared the Austrian base of Cattaro (now Kotor). After turning back, the Franco-Italian force was unsuccessfully attacked by the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-4.[12]

Otranto StraitsEdit

On the night of 14/15 May 1917, the Austro-Hungarian fleet carried out an attack on the Otranto Barrage. The cruisers Novara, Saida and Helgoland attacked the drifters of the Otranto Barrage, while the destroyers Csepel and Balaton mounted a diversionary attack against shipping off the coast of Albania. Bisson was part of a group of four Italian and French warships patrolling North of the Barrage line to protect it against attacks.[13][14][a] On hearing reports of the attacks, Rear Admiral Alfredo Acton, the Allied commander, ordered Mirabello's group to steer south to intercept the Austrian forces, while more powerful forces, including the light cruisers Dartmouth and Bristol set out from Bridisi.[15][16] The Mirabello group, including Bisson encountered the Austro-Hungarian cruisers on the morning of 15 May and as their guns were outranged by those of the cruisers, shadowed the Austro-Hungarian ships until more powerful forces could engage, but the slower French destroyers could not keep pace with the Austro-Hungarian ships and fell astern of Mirabello.[17]

Bisson rescued the crew of an Italian flying boat, that had forced to ditch by engine trouble, before she, together with the rest of the Mirabello group, was ordered to join up with Dartmouth and Bristol. However, first Mirabello briefly lost power owing to contamination of fuel, then Commandant Rivière suffered engine failure. Mirabello took Commandant Rivière under tow while Bisson escorted the two ships on their voyage home.[18]

In June 1918, in response to the threat posed by the potential seizure of ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet by the Germans following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the German advance into Ukraine, Bisson formed part of the escort for four French Pre-dreadnought battleships deployed to Mudros in the Aegean Sea.[1][19]

Post warEdit

In 1919, Bisson was deployed to the Black Sea. She was stricken in June 1933 and scrapped in 1939.[1]


  1. ^ The force was led by the Italian scout (or destroyer leader) Carlo Mirabello and consisted of Mirabello, Bisson, Commandant Rivière and Cimeterre.[13][14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Couhat 1974, p. 111
  2. ^ a b c Gardiner & Gray 1985, p. 203
  3. ^ Couhat 1974, p. 101
  4. ^ Naval Staff Monograph No. 21 1923, p. 141
  5. ^ Corbett 1921, p. 385
  6. ^ Naval Staff Monograph No. 21 1923, pp. 143–144
  7. ^ Naval Staff Monograph No. 21 1923, p. 147
  8. ^ Naval Staff Monograph No. 21 1923, p. 152
  9. ^ Naval Staff Monograph No. 21 1923, pp. 176–177
  10. ^ Naval Staff Monograph No. 21 1923, pp. 179–180
  11. ^ Naval Staff Monograph No. 21 1923, pp. 215–225
  12. ^ Halpern 1987, p. 277
  13. ^ a b Halpern 1987, pp. 358–359
  14. ^ a b Halpern 2004, p. 52
  15. ^ Halpern 1987, pp. 359–360
  16. ^ Halpern 2004, pp. 70–72
  17. ^ Halpern 2004, pp. 74–75
  18. ^ Halpern 2004, pp. 84–87
  19. ^ Halpern 1987, p. 498


  • Corbett, Julian S. (1921). History of the Great War: Naval Operations: Volume II. London: Longmans, Green & Co.
  • Couhat, Jean Labayle (1974). French Warships of World War I. London: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0445-5.
  • Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal (1985). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
  • Halpern, Paul G. (2004). The Battle of the Otranto Straits: Controlling the Gateway to the Adriatic in WWI. Bloomington, USA: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34379-8.
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1987). The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1914–1918. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-448-9.
  • Monograph No. 21: The Mediterranean 1914–1915 (PDF). Naval Staff Monographs (Historical). Vol. VIII. The Naval Staff, Training and Staff Duties Division. 1923.