FS Armide (1870)
The Armide ironclad found her fate as a gunnery trials target ship in 1886 after a short career beginning in 1870.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The Armide formed one of the six-strong Alma-class group of French Navy ironclads joining sister ships Alma (lead ship), Atalante, Jeanne d'Arc, Montalm, Reine Blanche and Thetis. All were designed around a "central battery" approach in which all main armament was concentrated in centralized batteries about her hull. As ironclads, the vessels were constructed primarily of wood with wrought iron covering acting as armor. Such vessels exploded in popularity throughout the mid-to-late 1800s before being overtaken by true steel-hulled ships leading into World War 1 (1914-1918).
Armide was developed for deep ocean service to patrol distant French colonial holds as larger French naval ships were becoming too expensive to maintain at such ranges as well as becoming too expensive to construct - such vessels best left for service close to home. She saw her keel laid down in 1865 in Rochefort in Western France and launched on April 24th, 1867, formally commissioned on July 20th, 1870.
As completed, Armide displaced at 3,600 tons (long), given a running length of 226 feet, a beam of 46 feet and a draught of 21 feet. Her protected hull exhibited a downward slant at the bow for ramming (still a proven tactic for the period) while, when viewed in her top down profile, she was tapered at the bow and stern forcing her midships to bulging at port and starboard - making for a wide surface deck. Along the deck were two smoke funnels just ahead of midships and space for several boats while additional boats hung over the sides. Armor protection included 5.9" of wrought iron at the belt, 4.7" at each gun battery, 4" at each gun barbette and 4.7" at the bulkheads. The crew totaled 316 personnel.
Armide's propulsion revolved around a hybrid arrangement of steam engine and sail plan. Her machinery included a 3-cylinder, horizontal compound steam engine driving a single shaft. Her sail plan was of a barque-rigging across three main masts and jib (the angled, forward-most mast over the bow). Maximum speed was 10 knots in ideal conditions and range became essentially unlimited due to the sail arrangement - though at drastically reduced speeds without engine support. Officially, the Armide was listed with a maximum range of 1,460 nautical miles. Her class was noted for their relatively good turning radius, able to manage this in under 360 yards.
As a central battery ironclad, Armide's primary arms were located along the center of the design, exposed along the surface deck in circular barbette emplacements. In all, the vessel was outfitted with 6 x 7.6" (194mm) Mle 1864 series cannon along with 4 x 4.7" (120mm) cannons. Main guns were spread about the upper deck and battery deck. The smaller 4" guns were left in exposed positions on the upper deck, two to either side of the ship and one at each corner. Of course any personal weapons carried by the crew could be brought into play during boarding actions.
Almost as soon as she was commissioned in July of 1870, Armide was sent to the North Sea via the English Channel before turning to Baltic Waters to enact a naval blockade of Prussia during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). The war spawned from the drive to unite German states with the North German Confederation, French leader Napoleon III (nephew of famous general Napoleon I) declaring war on Prussia based on a perceived insult. One of its engagements, the Battle of Sedan (September 1870), saw the capture of Napoleon III by Prussian forces which helped to evolve the Second French Empire into the Third Republic on September 4th, 1870. The war left France in a weakened state while it gave rise to the German Empire and its newly-found industrialized power. Germany also gained the territory of Alsace-Lorraine from France. The results of the Franco-Prussian War helped to lay the foundation for World War 1, providing the requisite hatred between the two nations for the upcoming bloodbath. The Armide was recalled to Cherbourg, France from Baltic waters on September 16th only to be decommissioned on November 1st, 1870.
Due to a need, the vessel was placed back into service on January 12th, 1871 and her first order proved another naval blockade of Prussian resources, this time the Prussian corvette Arcona berthing at Lisbon, Portugal. The Armide resided on station in containment of the Arcona until the end of the conflict in May of 1871. From then onwards, she served in Mediterranean waters and provided another blockade action during unrest in Cartagena, Spain along the southeast of the country into 1873 before being decommissioned for a second time on October 28th. At this time, she lost some of her armament to reduce her strength to just six cannon. The French Navy operated Armide up until 1886 to which she was then relegated for use as a gunnery trials target before being broken up for good in 1887, bringing an end to her tenure of the seas.
In the French (and English, "Armide" translates to "witch".