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  • The Danton, 1917. A symbolic wreck from the Great War

A French warship constructed in Brest between 1906 and 1911, the Danton was torpedoed by German submarine U-64 in March 1917, off the south coast of Sardinia. Its wreck was located on 18th January 2008 at a depth of over 1000 metres, during an electronic survey conducted on behalf of the Galsi project to lay a gas pipeline between Algeria and Italy. Follow-up inspections by divers revealed the wreck to be in a remarkable state of preservation, so much so that identifying the vessel proved to be easy.

The Danton was the first, eponymous vessel in a series of six semi-Dreadnoughts. Made of reinforced iron and steel, it was also the first French battleship to be fitted with a turbine engine. Based in the Mediterranean, the Danton, escorted by torpedo boat Massue, set sail from Toulon on 18th March 1917 headed for Corfu. Warned by the intelligence services of an enemy naval presence along the route, the commander of the Danton, Captain Delage, took the necessary precautions. But these precautions were not enough to avoid the two torpedoes which struck the Danton at 13:17 the next day, fired by German submarine U-64. Hit once in the bow between the galley and the command turret of the 10-inch gun, and again by the boiler house, the Danton went down in under 30 minutes. A third of the crew were lost along with the wreck, as were a good deal of the officers who, following the example set by Captain Delage, refused to abandon ship and remained on the bridge. A total of 296 men went down with the Danton.