To better understand the usefulness, power and evolution of the French navy across the globe, you must explore the garden level of the Maritime Museum. This story begins with absolutism, with the awakening of the royal fleet materialized by a portrait of Richelieu and a bust of Colbert. A late wake-up call compared to Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch capabilities. But with remarkable speed and scale.
In the center of the gallery, models show the progress made. From Rochefort to Toulon, from Brest to Cherbourg, kings, emperors and republics worked to build ever more efficient ships. And to encourage training of competent sailors. For this, most of the scale models that we admire were useful. Their dimensions, cuts and curves served as standards for carpenters working on scale 1. They also allowed students to learn the names of all the parts, from sails, rigging, to anchors and knots. And, for strategists, they summarized the state of resources at a glance. Such as the model of L’Artésien, which contributed to the naval training of the future Louis XVI. Later, Napoleon included it in his collection at Trianon.
Other wonders: the machines. Like that, in length, of rope. Or the one allowing the masts to be erected by manpower. Complex and ingenious games of hoists, cables and hooks. As for the copper or steel cogs allowing us to understand how the force of the steam, therefore of the paddle wheel or the propeller, can be increased tenfold, they shine as on the first day. Also detailed are the attack techniques, including boarding, and the weapons that go with them. Pictures of titanic battles depict the chaotic and frightening consequences. Not far away, a cast iron plate lists the force of the cannonballs according to their caliber. Shortly after, the latter point the shells with their new, ever more deadly cannons. From then on appears this other colossus: the battleship. Le Hoche, for example, whose disturbing silhouette worthy of modern times can be discovered. Its notice states that it was nicknamed “Grand Hôtel” by the French because of its elegant cascade of balconies. But also “Belle Cible” by the Germans of William II. Note its torpedo nets at its stern. Because the reign of submarines began a little before the American Civil War. And the story of these formidable mechanical whales is also told, along with those from aircraft carriers to nuclear ones.
You can even imagine yourself lying down in one of the narrow and ergonomic berths at Suffren. Another life-size reconstruction: the bedroom of the second in command of the destroyer Mogador. This austere but elegant and comfortable setting, tobacco leather and Art Deco aluminum, is the original furniture. It did not have time to be assembled before the building perished. It was during the scuttling of the fleet at Mers el-Kébir in 1942. Fortunately, there are not only dramas at sea under the flags. There is also life. And that of every day, from hammocks to the languages of shifts to take, is similarly evoked.