The French Navy in 1885 was described by a colonial writer as being divided into three castes: the ruling class, which spent its time moving from promotion to promotion in the navy of the Seine with short voyages on battleships or honorable
positions at Cherbourg and Toulon; the servant class of older officers who had given up hope of advancement but were comfortably settled in obscure positions in the metropolitan ports; and the navigators or pariahs who served primarily
overseas. From the beginning of his active service on a gunboat in the Philippines (1843-47), Theophile Aube, born in 1826 at Toulon, had been one of the pariahs.
” (The Development of a Modern Navy, French Naval Policy 1871-1904 by
Theodore Ropp, Naval Institute Press 1987, at page 155) In the 1880s Vice Admiral Aube was a leader if not the leader of the Jeune École. Members of the Jeune École were dismissive of previous construction of building battleships to counter the
Royal Navy and believed that France had no hope of overcoming British naval superiority through building battleships. Instead, they believed that Great Britain was vulnerable in its trade routes and sought to design a fleet that would cause economic
panic in Great Britain by ruthlessly attacking the British merchant fleet. The panic would occur by not only sinking merchant ships but more importantly forcing them to take shelter in British of foreign ports and killing commerce. All of the Jeune
École were enamored with the exploits of the
CSS Alabama in the American Civil War but wanted to duplicate that in a grand scale. Instead of having large battleships, France should build ships that fell into three categories: fast commerce raiding
cruisers, a coastal defence force to guard French ports, and the torpedo boat and its gun carrying equivalent, the bateau-canon (gun boat). On January 7, 1886 Aube became the Minister of Marine and the Jeune École had its chance.
By the 1870 the state of development of French cruisers was motionless. Ever since the Crimean War there had been friendship between France and Great Britain and about the only cruisers built for France had wooden hulls. In the 1870's only
Imperial Russia gave any thought to a naval war with Great Britain, certainly neither France or Imperial Germany gave it any thought. The Russian admirals wanted to avoid a pitched naval battle with the Royal Navy. Instead, they were inspired by
the destruction wrought by the
CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah during the American Civil War. Britain’s weakness was their commerce and fast commerce raiding cruisers were the answer. Russian construction policy concentrated on
armored and protective cruisers with expectations that were expressed in a Russian alternate history volume published in 1887 entitled
The Russian Hope, or Britannia No Longer Rules the Waves. The volume described the exploits of a new
Russian cruiser in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, which easily avoided numerous slow British cruisers and at one point destroyed all of the shipping in the port of Bombay. Seeing the threat posed by Russian commerce raiding cruisers, the British
Admiralty finally started their own development of cruisers to protect their long trade routes. Across the English Channel others were thinking about the same topic.

Although the Conseil des Travaux approved the construction of 3,000-tons 16-knot protected cruisers with an armored deck. However, in another example of grabbing defeat from the mouth of victory, the final result was another four wooden hull
cruisers. The status of the French cruiser force is exemplified by the last of these four wooden cruisers, the
Dubourdieu. On her trials in 1886 she had a maximum speed of 13.7-knots. She spent two years in fitting out an admiral’s cabin, suitable
for the glory of being the flagship of the Commander of the French Pacific Station. “
There was no more fitting monument to the prestige ideas of the old French Navy. ‘To satisfy the needs of a useless station, the French navy creates a type of
warship whose inferior speed could expose it to great perils in time of war....’ Even the conservative Admiral Jules-Francois-Emile Krantz is supposed to have remarked sadly to the president of the Republic, ‘Ce n’est qu’un beau logement’
(she is nothing more than nice accommodations).
” (The Development of a Modern Navy, French Naval Policy 1871-1904 by Theodore Ropp, Naval Institute Press 1987). However, there was to be a fifth wooden cruiser to be named the
Capitaine Lucas that was just about to be laid down when naval architect Emile Bertin was finally able to open the collective eyes of the Conseil that the Royal Navy was building protected cruisers. The breaks were slammed down hard on the
Capitaine Lucas and introduced in her place the first French protected cruiser, the Sfax. The Sfax still had a full sail rig but was capable of speeding across the waves at the blinding speed of 17-knots. In 1885 two larger and faster
protected cruisers were authorized, the
Tage and Cecille, which also had a full sailing rig to supplement their steam engines.
Vice Admiral Théophile Aube (1826-1890) was a leading proponent if not the father of the Jeune École. He had served as the governor of Martinique from 1879 to 1881 and on January 7, 1886 became the Minister of Marine. He immediately
stopped construction of four battleships in order to place the theories of the Jeune École into effect. The change in construction plans introduced by the Jeune École and Vice Admiral Aube is dramatically reflected in the change in building priorities.
The 1879 Program, which ran from 1880-1895 authorized only four first class cruisers and a paltry five torpedo boats. The 1881 Program, which Aube modified, authorized twelve first class cruisers with another twelve second class cruisers and
a whopping 70 torpedo boats. Aube left office on May 20, 1887 but not before his changes in building took effect.

Admiral Aube, one of the most fanatical of the original Alabama school, favored a ruthless attack on English trade. ‘The present power of England is greatly exaggerated....Never was the comparison more true than that of the ‘colossus
with feet of clay’ as applied to that immense empire....Twenty cruisers of superior speed, thrown onto the world’s trade routes and commanded by men resolved to wage merciless war - true war - would be sufficient to strike her to the heart
The Development of a Modern Navy, French Naval Policy 1871-1904 by Theodore Ropp, Naval Institute Press 1987, at page 127)
In 1887 three protected cruisers were laid down, known as the Alger Class. Isly was laid down at Brest in August 1887, followed a month later by Jean Bart at Rochefort and in November Alger at Cherbourg. Aube ordered the Jean Bart first in
September 1886 and ordered the other two on March 1, 1887. He intended them to serve as long range commerce raiders to bring chaos to the far flung British trade routes. Oddly different designers were involved.
Jean Bart and Isly were designed
by M Thibaudier, while
Alger was designed by M. Marchal. They were all two funneled cruisers with a plough bow, steep tumblehome and two large military masts. Alger was completed with an overhanging stern. The Naval Annual 1888-9 picked
up this construction with a simple, “
Three unprotected first-class cruisers have also been begun, the Isly at Brest, the Jean-Bart at Rochefort, and the Alger at Cherbourg. Each is of 4162 tons displacement, will steam at a speed of 19 knots, and
will carry four 6½-in., six 5½-in., and ten machine guns.
” (The Naval Annual 1888-9 by Lord Brassey, j. Griffin and Company 1889, at Page 42) The plan and profile of the ship in the volume incorrectly showed a full sailing rig, like previous
French protected cruisers. In that same volume Chapter X was entitled “
The Defences of the British Empire and its Commerce”, which examined the French threat. It was stated, “The real danger to England in the event of war is not invasion,
but the interruption of her commerce. Unguarded wealth offers irresistible temptations to unscrupulous adversaries. We must show ourselves prepared in case of need to deal the first blow with crushing power. We must show ourselves prepared
to sweep hostile cruisers from the seas. We must have commanding strength for the line of battle....When we pass from ironclads to cruisers, it is not easy to fix a standard of strength which we can accept as adequate. In a recent leader the
Times, after citing the statistics of the mercantile tonnage, remarked that, ‘if protection of commerce were taken as the sole basis of comparison, the British fleet ought to be six or seven times as strong as the French, even without taking into
account the fact that the imperial and transmarine duties of England are far greater than those of France. It is not twice as strong nor anywhere near, it.
” (The Naval Annual 1888-9 by Lord Brassey, j. Griffin and Company 1889, at Pages 224-
In the next year The Naval Annual 1890 specifically examined and contrasted British cruisers designs with the Jean Bart and her sisters. “We may compare the armament of our British ships with that of their French contemporaries. The Merseys
have a displacement of 4050 tons. The cruisers nearest in dimensions now building in France are the Alger, the Isly, and the Jean Bart. On a displacement of 4160 tons, the French cruisers carry four 5-ton and six 3-ton guns, giving a total
weight of 38 tons. The Merseys carry two 15-ton breech-loaders and ten 6-inch 5-ton and six 3-ton guns, giving a total weight of the guns is 80 tons. In addition to the main armament our ships bristle with machine and quick-firing guns. The
French naval authorities are less exacting in their requirements as to armament, and their constructors are able to adopt forms more favorable to speed, especially to speed in a sea-way than we find in the British cruisers. The Isly and her
consorts have a length of 346 feet, as against the 300 feet of the Mercury, Arethusa, and Mersey. The French beam is 43.6 feet, to the 46 feet of the British ships. In the French ships the coefficient of fineness is more developed than in the
British ships. It is not possible to combine the British armament with the French speed within the limits of tonnage of a second-class cruiser. While accepting without question the decision of our Admiralty to give heavy armaments to the
Arethusas and Merseys, it is certain that speeds largely in excess of those reached in our second-class cruisers are necessary for the service of a fleet. Higher speeds can only be reached by reducing the weight of armaments and adopting forms
such as we find in the French Navy. Deficiency of length is a fault common to all save the most recent ships of the cruiser class in the British Navy."
(The Naval Annual 1890 by Lord Brassey, J. Griffin and Company 1890, at Pages 163 and
164) Lord Brassey seems to insult both the French Ministry of Marine and the Royal Navy Admiralty in this one passage. First, the
Jean Bart and sisters will be fast because French contractors have the liberty of adopt forms that increase the ships
speed, due to the less exacting requirements of French naval planners. Second, hey British Admiralty, your cruiser designs are crap, follow the example of the French with their
Jean Bart. In emphasizing the gun strength of the British protected
cruisers, he apparently lost sight that the mission of the
Jean Bart was long large commerce raiding with a design that emphasized speed to avoid entanglements with British cruisers and with armament more than suitable to make swift work of British
Displacement on Jean Bart was 4,044-tons but Isly and Alger were heavier at 4,406-tons and 4,313-tons respectfully. The length was 346-feet, 344-feet 6-inches (105m) between perpendicular bulkhead, with a beam of 42-feet 7-inches (12.98m),
and draught of 21-feet 2-inches (6.45m) maximum. They carried four 6.4-inch/28 guns mounted in sponsons on the upper deck with two abreast of the forward funnel and two abreast of the main mast. Secondary armament was six 5.5-inch/30
guns amidships, one under the forecastle as a bow chaser and one open gun on the quarterdeck. As completed the
Isly had 2-inch armored shields protecting the 5.5-inch guns and these shields were soon added to the guns of Jean Bart. As protected
cruisers, armored was limited to a 3 to 2-inches of armor on the conning tower and the armored protective deck with slopes of 4-inches and a crown of 2-inches. To enhance survivability a cofferdam of cellular material 2-feet 7-inches deep was
added on top of the armored deck. Originally five 14-inch above water torpedo tubes were fitted, which were later reduced to two or three tubes. A mixed bag of light QF guns were also fitted, two 9pdr, eight to twelve 3pdr, and eight to ten 1pdr
revolvers (machine guns).
Alger had vertical triple expansion (VTE) engines to power the two propeller shafts, while Isly and Jean Bart had horizontal triple expansion engines. Alger was an early user of Belleville boilers with 24 of them, while the
other two carried eight more conventional boilers. Maximum coal stowage was 860-tons. The ships developed 8,000 horse power, giving them a maximum speed of between 19 to 19.5-knots, which was a good speed for the time. Complement
ranged from 405 to 387.
For the first two years in her career the Jean Bart was assigned to duties in the Mediterranean. After that she was assigned to the Northern Squadron with duties in the Atlantic. She went to the dockyard in 1897 for a refit, which among other items
added new masts and electric searchlights.  In 1898
Jean Bart was sent to the Pacific for duty in French Indo-China. She was there when the Boxer Rebellion broke out and than was sent to northern China as part of the French contingent to fight
the Boxers and subsequently the Imperial Chinese forces. In 1903 the
Jean Bart underwent another refit and received eight new water tube Niclausse boilers, which developed 10,000 horsepower and increased maximum speed to 20-knots. In spite
of the refit, her use fell off after the refit. On February 11, 1907 the
Jean Bart was wrecked on the western African coast. She had run aground and could not be refloated.

(History from:
Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905, Conway Maritime Press 1979; The Development of a Modern Navy, French Naval Policy 1871-1904 by Theodore Ropp, Naval Institute Press 1987; The Naval Annual
by Lord Brassey, J. Griffin and Company 1889;  The Naval Annual 1890 by Lord Brassey, J. Griffin and Company 1890 )
The Combrig 1:700 Scale Jean Bart 1891, French Protected Cruiser - This is a fabulous kit. It is significant not for the actions that she undertook during her lifetime but for her place in warship history. She was one of the three Protected
cruisers built expressly on the theories of warfare of the Jeune École and Vice Admiral Théophile Aube to ruthlessly attack British merchant shipping. Any French warship constructed at the end of the 19th Century is guaranteed to have unusual
features in her appearance. Some my describe these features as hideous but some describe them as lovely. I am in the second group. The
Jean Bart has an abundance of these features such as the steep tumblehome, huge plough bow, armament
sponsons and square windows lining the sides of the hull. The
Combrig Jean Bart has dome a marvelous job at capturing these features. Combrig resin casting is sharp and clean. In my copy purchased from Free Time Hobbies, there were no
casting errors or broken parts.

Starting at the bow a cornucopia of French design features are present. The large and distinctive plough bow has a lovely curve, terminating at the top in a recessed bow chaser position. Watch out British merchantmen, this baby is coming for you!
On both sides of the bow are two small hull anchor hawse fittings. Further back there is an odd veranda/platform with access door of some sort near the deck edge and doors for one of the five above water torpedo tubes. There are no round
portholes but instead two rows of square windows ending with the deck break. A horizontal strake is present separating the raised forecastle from the main hull. At the deck break both fore and aft are sponsons for 6.4-inch/28 open guns. Between
these forward and aft positions there is just a single row of hull windows. Between the two 6.4-inch gun sponsons are two more sponsons for two 5.5-inch/30 open guns. On each side are two vertical strakes of waste water discharge chutes are
present. Another door for a torpedo tube is just below and in front of the aft 6.4-inch/28 gun sponson. At the deck break the forecastle deck extends a short distance aft and the bulkheads have more lovely square windows. Also at the deck break the
forecastle deck extends on the sides a short distance with platforms with supports underneath the platforms. The casting of these platforms is outstanding with very thin platforms. Rising above the main deck are three well cast splinter shields. The
quarterdeck is raised back to the level of the forecastle. Again the horizontal strake makes its appearance separating the raised quarterdeck from the main hull. The second row of square windows again makes its appearance. Although the entire hull
has a nice tumblehome, it is especially noticeable and graceful at the stern. The stern itself has lovely curves with door openings for the sternwalk and the door for the fifth above water torpedo tube facing directly aft, just to discourage any slow
lumbering British turtle cruiser with hopes of fantasy to catch the speedy
Jean Bart.
Deck detail is plentiful but does not have the riveting appearance of the detail on the sides of the hull. The forecastle starts with plates and locater holes for light QF guns followed by plates for the anchor davits. Apparently coal storage started underneath
the forecastle, as there are a number of what appears as coal scuttle lids starting there and continuing the length of the ship. Unusually, there is a skylight at the bow and aft of that a well for a double inclined ladder. The ladders are solid but rather than
removing them to use brass inclined ladders, I would prefer to just add photo-etch safety railing to the sides of the ladders. Just aft of the deck access coaming is the locater outline and slot for attachment of the conning tower and chart house, which is
well forward than on most ships. Right behind the conning tower location is a well for the heavy forward military mast followed by a locater hole for a mushroom ventilator. Aft of this there is a shallow depression for attachment of a deck house
followed by a circular rise for attachment of the forward funnel. Four raised plates at this position are for placement of large cowled ventilators. Amidships starts at the deck break and on each side there are four plates with locater holes for the main and
secondary guns with the 6.4-inch/28 main guns in the most forward and most aft positions and 5.5-inch/30 positions in the center. All of these positions are on sponsons overhanging the sides of the hull. Down the centerline are four raised positions for
ventilator grids, each of which has a photo-etch grid top. Aft of the first such fixture is the base circle for the aft funnel with posts on either side for the bases of cowled ventilators. Coal scuttles are scattered across the deck. At the end of the amidship
main deck is the well for the main mast, which is another heavy military affair, followed by another double ladder deck access well. The raised quarterdeck is fairly short but does have a couple of coal scuttles, two large skylights and shallow locater
wells for centerline aft conning tower and aft 5.5-inch/30 open gun.
The smaller resin parts come on one wafer for decks and platforms and nine resin runners. The wafer has ten thin parts.  The two largest parts on the wafer are two flying decks with wood planking, although the seams between the planks are far
wider than those found on the hull planking, so it may be steel deck features. This deck covers both pair of 5.5-inch/30 gun positions. This deck has a narrow flying deck passageway running forward on the centerline to the forward superstructure.
This deck part has plenty of other features. The sections covering the guns are raised with ventilation grids on the centerline portion of the positions. To the rear of the forward walkway is a shallow well for the aft funnel flanked by base plates for
cowled ventilators. On each side, between the gun positions are fittings with slots for photo-etch boat cradles. Other raised fitting are inboard of the boats with locater holes for the boat cradles. Two locater holes are aft of the funnel are for pipes
fabricated from plastic rods. The other large part is in the form of a cross. The arms of the cross end in raised positions covering the aft pair of 6.4-inch/28 gun positions with a crescent shaped ventilation grid. A long narrow walkway extends forward
to the amidships flying deck and a short walkway extends aft to the quarterdeck. A large horseshoe shaped opening is present through which the mainmast passes. Each mast has three parts on the wafer. These are lovely tear drop shaped lower
platforms that get photo-etch covers, large circular fighting tops that get loaded with machine guns and small top platforms. The last two parts are covers for the forward pair of 6.4-inch/28 gun positions.

The resin runner with the largest parts has both lower mast tubes, both masts middle mast tubes, both funnels and two deck houses with recessed panels. The mast parts have recessed slots for attachment of brass support gussets, supporting mast
platforms. The funnels have a thicker lower casing with fine aprons at the top of the lower casing and funnel top and a horizontal reinforcing band halfway up the upper portion of the funnels. The muzzle tops are hollowed sufficiently, especially
considering the brass covers/ears that fit on top of the funnels. Four runners contain armament. The four 6.4-inch/28 guns along with four anchors share one runner. Another runner has the five open 5.5-inch/30 guns (the 6th gun was in the bow
chaser forecastle position) and the two 9pdr QF guns. A third runner has nothing but the ten 3pdr QF guns and the fourth runner has nine 1pdr revolvers (machine guns). This last runner also has the stream anchors, compass fittings, binnacles and
other fittings. Each of the guns are one-piece but have great detail. An exception are the machine guns that get thin brass barrels from the fret. One fret has the deck fittings with six large cowled ventilators, one twin medium cowled ventilator, boilers
and engines for the steam launches, and two deck houses with recessed panels. Smaller deck fittings are on a runner which also includes two dinghies. These fittings include a windlass, two small cowled ventilators, steam pipe siren, two other steam
pipe caps, running light fixtures, and four detailed lockers. The last two runners have ship’s boats. One has two open steam launches with excellent cockpit detail and a large whaler. The other has three medium sized open oared boats and two small
ones. Each oared boat has floor and thwart detail.
For a fairly small model, the Combrig Jean Bart has a large brass photo-etch fret. There is a small amount of relief-etching. Even though the Jean Bart carried no sails, each military mast gets two brass ratlines. Other parts for the masts are support
gussets for the platforms, lower platform overheads, and machine gun barrels. The sternwalk with relief-etched planks, the sternwalk railing and the sternwalk awning decorate the stern. Each funnel gets two-piece covers/ears that can be posed from
fully open to fully closed. There is also a cap for a free standing steam pipe of galley exhaust. Guns get shoulder rests, bottom deck fittings and multiple leg bases, gun shields, gun traversing mechanisms and gun mount fittings. Even the anchors get
three brass pieces for each, along with anchor davits. Brass detail for the ship’s boats include oars, propellers, and  rudders/keels. The navigation platform is another relief-etched part with further bridge fittings of running light shields, specifically
shaped railing, and inclined ladders. The gun sponson hull fittings get open position rectangles and gun shutters. Ventilation gratings are provided for the centerline fittings. Each of the square hull windows has a relief-etched cover with port hole. At the
bow other detailed parts are two for the bow chaser position, railings for the veranda platforms, anchor davits, and anchor rest brackets. The double stair deck access wells are equipped with top frames. Other brass parts include: accommodation
ladders, ladder platforms, deck entrance doors, gun position top railings, boat cradles, boat davits, inclined ladders with safety railing and trainable treads, relief-etched anchor chain, various hatches,and other deck railing. To see how all of these parts
go together, take a gander at
Bob Cicconi’s beautiful build of the Combrig 1:700 scale Jean Bart (Bob Cicconi’s Jean Bart).                

The instructions are in the new color coded
Combrig format with resin parts shaded green, photo-etched parts in orange and 3rd party plastic or brass rods in blue.  They are on six sheets, five of which are back-printed. Page one feature nice profile
and plan views of the Jean Bart. The profile is specifically informative as it shows the rigging. Also on the page is a ship’s history in Russian. Page two has a resin parts laydown with every part numbered with the same number used in the assembly
modules. Page three has the brass fret laydown and template for cutting plastic or brass rods for pieces to be supplied by the modeler. These templates show length and width measurements. Page four is the start of the assembly modules. This page
has two modules on the anchors and guns and another two on ship’s boats. Page five has another four modules with two on the funnels and two on the masts. Page six has two modules on bridge assembly and a third module that is somewhat
confusing. It seems to show modification of the overhead of the gun positions with the text “Cut off 0.5 mm” at the positions but also has width arrows showing a deck width of 0.50mm. To me it seams to indicate that the outside edges of the gun
position overheads are half a millimeter too wide. That is such a small measurement that I doubt that I would go to the effort. Page seven has two isometric views of the starboard bow quarter, as well as a detailed drawing of the forecastle. These
show attachment of hull fittings, deck fittings, sternwalk, and anchor fittings. Page eight gives the same treatment amidship with two drawings. Page nine has two drawings for final assembly of the forecastle. Page ten has four drawings which show
final assembly of the amidships. The single sided page eleven has another four modules with final assembly of the aft amidships area and quarterdeck. I like these instructions and find them clear, except for the one drawing about reducing the width of
the decks of the gun position overheads.
When Vice Admiral Théophile Aube became Minister of Marine, this pariah of the French naval establishment and fire-breathing leader of the Jeune École immediately suspended construction of four battleships and initiated construction of swarms of
torpedo boats and his beloved fast commerce destroying protected cruisers of the
Alger Class. The Jean Bart was one of these three, designed to send British merchantmen screaming into safe ports with a severe case of the willies. Even Lord Brassey
in his
Naval Annual 1890 stated that the Royal Navy should build cruisers like the Jean Bart. Now, thanks to the magnificent Combrig 1:700 scale Jean Bart, you can become the scale terrorist of British commerce and bête noire of the Royal Navy.

Steve Backer
Huntsville, Alabama