Who's Who - Augustin Boue de Lapeyrere

French Admiral Augustin Boue de Lapeyrere (1852-1924) was a contemporary of, and in many respects as dynamic as his Royal Navy equivalent, Admiral John Fisher.  Both were energetic proponents of naval reform.

Similarly both were keen exponents of battleship construction.  Indeed de Lapeyrere, the dominant French naval figure prior to the First World War, effectively reversed French strategy in placing submarine (and anti-submarine) construction firmly secondary to the production of large shipping while Minister of Marine from 1909-11.

Upon his retirement from politics in 1911 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of France's Mediterranean forces.  By agreement with the British the French navy was concentrated in the Mediterranean while the British guarded France's Atlantic coast.

In the event war in August 1914 did not bring about the great battleship confrontation he had envisaged with either Austro-Hungarian or Italian navies, with de Lapeyrere now Commander-in-Chief of combined French and British naval forces in the Mediterranean.

Instead Italy remained neutral - eventually entering the war on the side of the Allies in May 1915 - and Austria-Hungary chose instead to maintain her force as a 'fleet in being', preferring instead to deploy light vessels in coastal raids and submarines against Allied commercial interests.

De Lapeyrere was also criticised in August 1914 for permitting the escape of the German Mittelmeerdivision into Turkish waters.

For the remainder of his tenure as Commander-in-Chief - until his sudden resignation on 10 October 1915 - de Lapeyrere found himself chiefly involved in policing the many thousands of kilometres of Allied commerce sea lanes - an outcome quite unexpected in the pre-war years.

He also provided what scant assistance he could to the Allied Dardanelles expedition, a task rendered problematic by the French shortage of escort vessels.

Consequently, frustrated and in ill health, and involved in eternal command squabbles with both British and Italian allies he chose sudden retirement in October 1915.  Such was the shock of his resignation that President Raymond Poincare was prompted to formally deny involvement in forcing de Lapeyrere out of office.  He was replaced by Admiral Gauchet.

He died in 1924.

Shrapnel comprised steel balls ejected from shells upon detonation.

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