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"Need French Warship Stats for Dahomey Wars Project at TVAG" Topic

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Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Jun 2024 1:35 p.m. PST


I am well underway on the edit and layout of the latest TVAG publication, Andrew Preziosi's history ms under the working title, "On To Abomey! A Wargamers Resource Book on the Franco-Dahomey Wars--1890, 1892-94."

As ever, Andrew has provided detailed OB's for the work, as well as other research, and I have been successfully excavating the Internet for period maps and remarkable illustrations. Special sections on the weaponry of both combatants will be included, and plenty of information on the "Agojie"--the Amazon warriors of legend and fact--but one subject has me stumped.

In both wars, the presence and firepower of a number of small French warships and river gunboats was crucial to the outcome, and these deserve specific details such as wargamers are wont to have.

However, despite my best efforts to date, very little has turned up on those specifically involved. Indeed, online sources and such volumes as I have or found, don't even admit to their existence outside their presence in the wars. "Conway's All The World's Warships" provides stats and a single broadside line drawing of the "Sane" (accent on the "e"), but no others.

Specifically, the vessels in question are "L'Emeraude," "Topaze," "Corail," and "L'Opale." I have found two period views of the latter, but no other information. And I'm by no means satisfied with the sole illo of the "Sane," either.

For all I very much need the following: Armaments, Dimensions, Complement, Draft, top speed, and (ideally) multiple views as deck plans, plus whatever else is available.

Perhaps helpfully, all four bear the names of gemstones, and certainly all were built prior to at least 1890, possibly as far back as the 70's.

To the River Gunboat Nerd(s) who can provide as much as possible of what is needed, I promise credit within the book and a gratis copy upon publication. If warranted, multiple credits and copies are promised if more than one of you come through.

Like everything else, this information is needed "yesterday," so please get on this and back to me soon by E-mail at or PM me through TMP.

Any fan, or would be fan, of the Dahomey Wars will find this work the last word for a wargamer's needs (color plates and maps, OB's, weapon stats, outline history, etc), and the plan is to have it ready by later this Summer.

Hoping to find a flood of fabulously esoteric STUFF crowding my Inbox soon is

A Very Grateful,

HMS Exeter10 Jun 2024 3:07 p.m. PST

It's a start…


HMS Exeter10 Jun 2024 3:20 p.m. PST

It's comparatively costly, but can be obtained quickly. In its index it has listing for Opale and Topaze, albeit very brief


Grelber10 Jun 2024 4:13 p.m. PST

My goodness, a French gunboat built by Yarrow on the Clyde!
Poking around on internet lists of ships built by Yarrow, I didn't find any French ships, but I did come across a list on the Portuguese or Brazilian version of Wikipedia that my malware program wouldn't let me go to. If you have a better program than I do, researching from the perspective of Yarrow might yield some information.


Ferd4523110 Jun 2024 5:08 p.m. PST

You might look at Piotr Olender's book. Sino-French Naval War 1884-1885.While none of your ships are listed he does list machinery, displacement, speed and armaments that may help in determining something close to what you re looking for.
it includes scaled line drawings o many ships. Thanks for all your help through the years H

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP10 Jun 2024 5:46 p.m. PST

A few things hope it helps will keep looking

link shows a displacement of 60T, armament of 2 x 1 37/20 M1885 and crew of 34

Found Topze came into french services in 1890, Corail in 1892, Opale in 1892, and Emeraude in 1890 – most were out of french naval service by 1895.

Shows some detail about Opale and Corail but hard to read section is narrow so over 2 sections first has River Gunboats Name, Length, Beam, Speed and Armament along with some other numbers Opale is shown for example to be 100 feet long with Armament of 7 1-pdrs while Corail is shown to be 128 feet with 6 1-pdrs Note lots of other numbers there but dont want to misquote recommend looking at River Gunboat first and create columns and then look at Opale and Corail and see how there numbers fit (note multiple named ships are in the book make sure you get the ones with 92 for year.

Not sure this is helpful from link but mentions classes, names and dates
DIAMANT RIVER GUNBOAT CLASSE RUBIS Shipyard : Dyle et Bacalan, Bordeaux Laid down : 1885 Launched : 1886 Rochefort 09/11/1886 Nantes 05/01/1887 Nantes- Brest 12-25/01/1887 via la canal de Bretagne 01/03/1887 on board ARIEGE 1887 LIBREVILLE 1888-1893 : Station du S�n�gal 1892 : naufrag�e et perd son h�lice 1893 : sold gouverneur de la colonie de C�te d'Ivoire pour 16000 francs EMERAUDE RIVER GUNBOAT CLASSE RUBIS Shipyard : Toulon Laid down : 1885 Launched : 1886 1886 : de Toulon � Bordaeaux via le canal du Midi avec DIAMANT 05/11/1886 : Rochefort 31/12/1886-04/1/1887 de Rochefort � Nantes 03/09/1887 : on board ARIEGE 1888-1892 station du S�n�gal 1892 : op�ration du capitaine Dodds contre Behanzin (flottille du B�nin) 1893 : annexe du CORAIL 1894 : annexe de l'OPALE Stricken : 30/04/1894 Sold : 1895 for BU

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP10 Jun 2024 6:18 p.m. PST

Roberts Book French-Warships-Age-Steam-1859-1914 has a lot of detail in this Google preview of
link page 285, 288, 289, and 290 – not sure if there is more you can use – but copied some details

Will send to you by pm

Grelber10 Jun 2024 7:24 p.m. PST

The book Wars of the 'Nineties by A. Hilliard Atteridge mentions three boats:
"a shallow draft gunboat, the Topaze"
"an armed launch, the Eclaireur" (French for "Scout")
"a stern wheeler built by Messrs. Yarrow and named the Opale."

When war broke out, in 1892, Topaze was already on station at the lagoon behind Cotonou. The other two ships joined her later, in time for the Dobbs expedition.

Launches were used to tow barges of supplies across the lagoon and up the lower Oueme River.

Do any of the libraries in your area carry the Illustrated London News? It sometimes has interesting and unusual pictures.


Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jun 2024 10:39 a.m. PST

Oh my goodness!

My Faith in the collective mastery of "invaluable trivia" has once again been fully affirmed.

So many links and so many excellent suggestions, all of which I will begin to track down like a starving anteater on an anthill. (How's that for a metaphor?)

Regarding the ILN for period illustrations, it's definitely worth checking given that at least one of the boats seems to be a Yarrow build. But "Le Petit Journal's" color supplements have already turned up some very useful bits for the wars in general, and at least one great one of what I take to be the "Opal."

Thank you, one and all (and not least you, Dave), but if anyone comes to this thread late, and you think you have anything to offer, please don't assume I have all that's needed/desired. It's never too late to add something, particularly if it leads on to even more.

If I'm not careful, there may be several gratis copies of
"On To Abomey!" needing to go out!

A Most Gratified


JMcCarroll11 Jun 2024 2:58 p.m. PST

Do the Jane's naval books go back that far?

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jun 2024 3:11 p.m. PST

No. The first "Janes" was in 1898, and it was barely more than a collection of thumbnail descriptions of vessels with lithographs for illustrations--in short, not of much use even then.

But like the would be witch burner of MPATHG, "I got better."

"Janes" became serious resource material in time for the Russo-Japanese War and after, but their a "no-go" for this project.

Participation is still appreciated.


Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jun 2024 3:18 p.m. PST


Followed your links--thank you!--but already have the "Opale" photo and listed info, and the book… well, it would cost me dearly just now, and without someone else being able to comment, I can't be sure it would cover what I need.

Other lists of French Naval Vessels online and elsewhere simply don't have anything on the Gunboats in question, so until I know better about this title, I'm going to hold off.



Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jun 2024 3:30 p.m. PST

Disaster Wargamer!

Have received your astonishing info via your E-mail--Merci Beaucoups!

The other links provided were fine, but totally eclipsed by what you sent.



Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jun 2024 3:35 p.m. PST

And, not least, Grelber!

Let me look up the book you mentioned--maybe it's as a PDF somewhere.

Otherwise, a couple of other nuggets are also appreciated.

Again, my thanks to you and the other Gentlemen Scholars who have so generously pointed me the way.


Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jun 2024 3:40 p.m. PST

BookFinder has a copy of "Wars of the 90's," but the cheapest is used for $52.00 USD--a bit pricey for this Old Gomer.

Then again, other copies go for up to $300.00 USD+, so I know which one is the bargain.

I'll try for Project Gutenburg or the like and see if I'm lucky….


T Labienus15 Jun 2024 9:05 a.m. PST


marco56 Supporting Member of TMP16 Jun 2024 6:05 a.m. PST

When will "On To Abomey" become available?

Nine pound round25 Jun 2024 3:21 p.m. PST

I would second Exeter's recommendation. Roberts' book is remarkable for the sheer depth of the individual entries, with even comparatively minor vessels getting longer entries (and frequently reproduced diagrams) than you would typically find in the "Conway's" series. I have never seen a single fleet treated in such detail in one book, particularly for such a long period. He really knows his stuff- he wrote the forward for Theodore Ropp's classic book on the Victorian French Navy back in the 1980s, and the depth of his familiarity really shows in the individual class entries.

TVAG, you're right about the original "Jane's," but the 1898 edition in particular really shows its origin as a source book for a war game. One thing it is helpful for is establishing which ships were still serviceable- a big challenge for an era when major combatants had such short service lives. It's amazing to compare the 1898 and 1904/5 reproductions- a heck of a lot of change in a very short period of time.

marco56 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2024 7:50 a.m. PST

Any updates.?

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