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Belle Poule (A650)

Schooner Training Vessel

France | 1932

"The Belle Poule training vessel of France survived World War 2 and remains in active service with the French fleet today."

Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Edited: 03/15/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The schooner Belle Poule (A650) was built and launched in 1932 as a brown and blue water training vessel for the French Navy prior to World War 2. Her design was inspired from fast offshore fishing boats used in the waters of Northern Europe. The two-masted schooner proved a sleek waterborne craft and has been in use for over two hundred years all over the globe. Drawing from this design inspiration, the Belle Poule was 123 feet (37.5 meters) long from stem to stern and her beam (width) was 24 feet, 3 inches (7.4 meters). Being a light 225 tons, she only drew in 12 feet (3.65 meters) of water under the keel. As a compact form, her crew was small with a single officer, the captain, and a crew of 12 to 15 men. While her primary role within the French Navy was in training naval cadets, her size limited participants to approximately 20 trainees at a time - tight quarters all around.

Under normal sea conditions the crew of the Belle Poule handles the sails from the main deck without having to go aloft. The sail plan used on the Belle Poule (as well as her sister ship, the Etoile A649) is seven sails. Two sails from the bowsprit connect to the yard on the foremast then a larger staysail is seen on the foremast. The foremast is shorter than the mainmast having a large foresail close to the deck and a gaff topsail above. The mainmast has a wooden pole gaff and holds the topsail on the top of the mast and the gaff mainsail below. The bottom of the gaff mainsail is also connected to a wooden boom the length of the sail. This four-sided design doubles the sail area over the triangular sail.

World War 2 began in September of 1939 with the German invasion of Poland (joined later in the month by the Soviet Union to complete the conquest). Germans then invaded neighboring France in the summer of 1940. The French Navy, feeling the pressure, started moving ships to foreign ports. The decision was made to send the Belle Poule and the Etoile to England. Once there, the British Admiralty took charge of the ships with France near capitulation to Germany. As members of the Free French Forces made it to England, they took charge of their vessels. The Germans had pushed the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French Army all the way back to the coastal town of Dunkirk and the situation looked exceedingly grim.

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For eleven days in May of 1940, 215,000 British and 123,000 French troops were evacuated from Dunkirk by both British naval ships and many privately-held vessels arriving from England. The Belle Poule and the Etoile were manned by Free Frenchmen sailors and arrived with the fleet to evacuate the cornered Allies from the shores of France to the safety of Britain. The evacuation was a stunning success for tens of thousands of souls would live to fight another day. Lost in the battle were many more as well as tanks, small arms and artillery which could not be replaced. In recognition of this service during World War 2 under the leadership of the Free French forces, the Belle Poule and the Etoile were honored with the ability to fly the French flag with the cross of Lorraine. In 1945, at the end of the war, the Belle Poule and her sister ship returned to France.

Since 1978, the tall ship Belle Poule has been sponsored by the city of Pauillac, France. Both ships continue to serve the French Navy through training of naval cadets in seamanship. The ships have sailed to many ports around the world showing the French flag. The vessel was present at OPSAIL in New York City during Fleet Week 2012.

Provided images courtesy JR Potts, AUS 173d AB.

Content ©MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one sea-going vessel design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for Belle Poule (A650).
1 x Baudouin diesel engine developing 1,285 horsepower to 1 x shaft. 2 x Masted sails.
12.5 kts
14.4 mph
Surface Speed
Essentially Unlimited
The bow-to-stern, port-to-starboard physical qualities of Belle Poule (A650).
123.0 ft
37.49 meters
O/A Length
24.3 ft
7.41 meters
12.0 ft
3.66 meters
Ships-in-Class (2)
Notable series variants as part of the Belle Poule (A650) family line as relating to the Schooner group.
Bell Poule (A650); Etoile (A649)
Global operator(s) of the Belle Poule (A650). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national naval warfare listing.
National flag of France

[ Free France; France ]
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Image of the Belle Poule (A650)
The Etoile and Belle Poule at Fleet Week 2012; image by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB
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Image of the Belle Poule (A650)
Bow view of the Belle Poule at right with sister ship Etoile at left; image by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB
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Image of the Belle Poule (A650)
Bow view of the Etoile dockside and Belle Poule port side; image by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB
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Image of the Belle Poule (A650)
Distant starboard side view of the Belle Poule; image by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB
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Image of the Belle Poule (A650)
The aft cabin on the Etoile; image by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB
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Image of the Belle Poule (A650)
Steering wheel and compass section of the Etoile; image by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB
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Image of the Belle Poule (A650)
Stern views of the Belle Poule left and the Etoile right; image by JR Potts, AUS 173d AB

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to seaborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
Belle Poule (A650) Schooner Training Vessel appears in the following collections:
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