What Are Those Bloody Hatches?
Intelligence Summary 10219
Noted French Leviathan Variations
Submitted by: Lieutenant Commander Francis Marion Barker
8 May 1907
Recently increased activity within the Foreign Service has provided a wealth of new data regarding French leviathan designs and, more importantly, their variations. The French have always demonstrated significant creativity in adapting leviathan technology to new applications, and this recent trend reinforces that impression.
The following are noted changes or variants of French designs and our office’s analysis of these innovations.
The French cruiser Mistral has a different appearance than the other ships of the Pothuau class. While all share the same keel and hull, several changes to the Mistral make her appear to be a faster variant. According to a dockyard worker in our employ, her armour belt is nearly two inches thinner. Her turrets appear to be smaller than those of her sister ships, perhaps an indication of lighter armouring there as well.
A review of her engine manifests shows that she is mounted with engines larger than those of the Pothuau. It is our belief that the French have equipped the Mistral in such a manner in an effort to increase her speed by upwards of fifteen to twenty percent. This is a departure from typical French leviathan designs and may be an indication that a new class of fast cruisers is under development-with the Mistral being a practical test applied to an existing ship.
The Topaze is a destroyer, but is markedly different than other ships of her class. Her rear turret has been removed entirely. Our operatives working near the dockyards have confirmed that her lower hull has two large hatches installed in the aft under the area where the rear turret is normally mounted, each ten meters wide and eight meters high. There are also lower rolling mounts, indicating the possible installation of retractable gangways inside the hull.
Our experts believe that the Topaze has been re-equipped as a troop carrier and a destroyer. These large hatches could allow rapid debarkation of cavalry forces or infantry troops in significant numbers. It is conceivable that this could be used to insert ground artillery, as well. This is a disturbing modification; if our speculations are correct, the Topaze’s posting to the Mediterranean would allow her to fulfill a critical role in conjunction with any ground-based assault.
While the use of leviathans as troop transports is not unheard of, the use of a destroyer-class vessel specially modified for such an operation is new. It indicates that the French will have the capability to use such a vessel to disgorge a large force and support it with significant firepower during an operation.
The battleship Ardent was launched four months ago and immediately caught the attention of our intelligence services, mostly due to the security measures enforced during her construction. The Foreign Service was unable to penetrate those measures veil around the dockyard facilities, and only during her launch did we get a good look at her. Even then, her forward turret was covered with a tarp which prevented us from fully accessing her armament.
The Ardent has since taken up patrol duties along the German border, further limiting how much we have been able to ascertain about her true nature. A few well-paid informants have told us that her guns are several centimeters in diameter larger than any other battleship in the French air service. This increase in size, even if just in her forward turret, is startling. While uninformed pundits may scoff at the importance of such a small increase, the true impact is that a tiny increase produces guns which potentially have the capability to far more easily penetrate standard armour belts.
We have intensified our operations in order to validate this report. Until verification can be obtained, the Ardent is one of our primary targets for closer surveillance.
The cruiser Jester has been seen in port with an unidentified device mounted on its superstructure. This appears to be series of vertical tubes, each two meters long, with the control mechanisms that are assumed to turn and apparently aim them.
Our initial analysis indicated this might be a new smoke-generation system, but such a system would not require the capability to aim the device. Another suggestion is that it is a tube-launching mechanism for a rocket of some sort, perhaps part of an advanced signaling system or potentially an offensive weapon. Since the science of rocketry has yet to produce a weapon of a power level significant enough to damage a lev, details of this array on the Jester are highly interesting.
I trust that this report is sufficient in its clarity and substance. Should you have additional questions, please feel free to reach out to me.
Your humble and obedient servant,
Francis Marion Barker