Torpilleur numéroté de retour au port,” a circa 1895 painting by Henri-Edmond Rudaux, shows a French coastal torpedo boat steaming back home.

National Maritime Museum in Paris.

As touched on by this week’s Warship Wednesday, the French were on the leading edge of torpedo boat tactics around the turn of the century.

They clung to the concept well into the Great War, still fielding almost 200 obsolete steam-powered “Torpilleur de défense mobile” in the 80-to-97-ton range. Carring hull numbers between 149 and 369, they had been completed between 1894 and 1909 and carried two or three tubes.

Restricted to coastal operations, French doctrine held they would be used in harbor and roadstead defense, a job for which they were well suited, as all could float in less than two fathoms. 

As detailed in Jane’s 1914 edition:

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