1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Toulon

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TOULON, a seaport and first-class fortress and naval station of France, department of Var, capital of the arrondissement of Toulon, on the Mediterranean, 42 m. E.S.E. of Marseilles. Pop. (1886), 53,941; (1901), 101,602. The bay, which opens to the east. has two divisions, the Grande Rade and the Petite Rade; it is sheltered on the north and west by high hills, closed on the south by the peninsula of capes Sicié and Cépet, and protected on the east by a huge breakwater, the entrance, 1300 ft. wide, being defensible by torpedoes. A ship coming from the open sea must first pass the forts of St Marguerite, of Cap Brun, of Lamalgue and of St Louis to the north, and the battery of the signal station to the south; before reaching the Petite Rade it must further pass under the guns of the battery of Le Salut to the east, and of the forts of Balaguier and L'Aiguillette to the west. The Bay of La Seyne lies west of the Petite Rade, and is defended by the forts of Six-Fours, Napoléon (formerly Fort Caire), and Malbousquet, and the batteries of Les Arènes and Les Gaus. To the north of Toulon rise the defensive works of Mont Faron and Fort Rouge, to the east the forts of Artigues and St Catherine, to the north-east the formidable fort of Coudon, and to the south-east that of Colle Noire, respectively dominating the highway into Italy and the valley of Hyéres with the Bay of Carqueiranne. The town, enlarged to the north under the Second Empire, has on that side a fine modern quarter; but in the old town the streets are for the most part narrow, crooked and dirty, and to their insanitary state the cholera epidemic of 1884 was attributed. The chief buildings are the former cathedral of St Marie Majeure (from the 5th century Toulon was a bishop's see till 1801, when it was annexed to that of Fréjus), the church of St Louis, the naval and military hospital, with a natural history collection and an anatomical museum attached, a naval school of medicine, a school of hydrography, and large barracks. In 1883–1887 a handsome Renaissance building was erected to accommodate the picture gallery and the town library. The monument in commemoration of the centenary of the French Revolution was erected in 1890 in the Place de la Liberté, the finest in the new town. The imports are wine, corn, wood, coal, hemp, iron, sugar, coffee and fresh fish; the exports are salt, copper ore, barks for tanning and oils. The principal industries, apart from the arsenal, are shipbuilding, fishing, lace-making and wine-growing. Toulon possesses an observatory and a botanical garden. The interesting buildings and gardens of the hospital of St Mandrier stand on the peninsula of Cape Cépet, and near them is the lazaretto.

Toulon is the most important of the French dockyards, and is the headquarters of the Mediterranean fleet. The arsenal, which was created by Louis XIV.—Vauban being the engineer of the works—lies on the north side of the Petite Rade. This is approached from the Grande Rade by passages at the north and south ends of a long breakwater which extends from the direction of Le Mourillon towards the Cépet Peninsula. The water space within the moles amounts to about 150 acres, while the quays approach 4 m. in length. Outside in the Petite Rade is a splendid protected anchorage for a great fleet, the whole being commanded by many forts and batteries. There are four great basins approached from the Petite Rade—the Vielle Darse, to the east, on the side of Le Mourillon; the Darse Vauban, next te it; and the Darse de Castigneau and the Darse Missiessy, farther to the west. In the Darse Vauban are three dry docks, two of them 246 ft. long, with a depth of water on the sill of about 20 ft.; while the third is 283 ft. long, with a depth of over 24 ft. Three other dry docks are in the Darse de Castigneau, of which one is in two sections. The largest of the docks is 385 ft. long, and the depth of water on the sill in all these docks averages 30 ft. In the Darse Missiessy are two dry docks, 426 ft. long, with a depth on the sill of over 32 ft. There are several building slips, and the yard is supplied with a gun foundry and wharf, fitting-shops, boiler works, victualling and other establishments, rolling mills and magazines. Le Mourillon is a subsidiary yard at Toulon, devoted chiefly to ship-building, and possessing large facilities, including five covered slips.

The Roman Telo Martius is supposed to have stood near the lazaretto. The town was successively sacked by Goths, Burgundians, Franks and Saracens. During the early middle ages, and till conquered by Charles of Anjou in 1259, it was under lords of its own, and entered into alliance with the republics of Marseilles and Arles. St Louis, and especially Louis XII. and Francis I. strengthened its fortifications. It was seized by the emperor Charles V. in 1524 and 1536. Henry IV. founded a naval arsenal at Toulon, which was further strengthened by Richelieu, and Vauban made the new dock, a new enceinte, and several forts and batteries. In 1707 the town was unsuccessfully besieged by the duke of Savoy, Prince Eugene and an English fleet. In 1720 there was an outbreak of the plague. In 1792 after great and sanguinary disorder, the royalists of the town sought the support of the English and Spanish fleets cruising in the neighbourhood. The Convention having replied by putting the town “hors la lei,” the inhabitants opened their harbour to the English. The army of the republic now (1793) laid siege to the town, and on this occasion Napoleon Bonaparte first made his name as a soldier. The forts commanding the town having been taken, the English ships retired after setting fire to the arsenal. The conflagration was extinguished by the prisoners, but not before 38 out of a total of 56 vessels had been destroyed. Under the Directory Toulon became the most important French military fort on the Mediterranean; here Napoleon organized the Egyptian campaign, and the expedition against Algiers set out from Toulon in 1830. The fortifications have been strengthened by Napoleon I., Louis Philippe, Napoleon III., and since 1870.

Battle of Toulon.—This naval battle took place on the 11th of February 1744, near the port of Toulon. A British fleet of thirty sail of the line under command of Thomas Mathews, who combined the offices of naval commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean and envoy to the courts of Sardinia and the Italian princes, engaged a combined force of Spaniards under Don José Navarro and French under M. de Court. They were in all twenty-seven sail. The allies left Toulon on the 9th of February. Mathews was at anchor in Hyéres Bay to watch them, for though France and Great Britain were already engaged as allies on opposite sides in the War of the Austrian Succession, there had been no declaration of war between them. It was known that the allies meant to transfer Spanish troops to Italy to serve against the Austrians, and Mathews had no hesitation in attacking them, Great Britain being at war with Spain. He left Hyères in very light wind with a heavy westerly swell, and with his fleet in confusion. The British ships were straggling over a distance of ten miles, but he put himself between the enemy and Toulon. Mathews was on bad terms with his second in command, Lestock, who commanded the rear division and showed little disposition to support his superior. By the morning of the 11th the interval between the van and centre of the British fleet and its rear had increased in the light breezes, and also through the voluntary or involuntary misapprehension of Mathews's orders by Lestock. The allies were in a fairly well-formed line, heading to the south, and southward of the British. Mathews pursued, and at 1.30 p.m., when his leading ship was abreast of the centre ship of the allies, he attacked. Some hot fighting took place between Mathews and the Spaniards who formed the allied rear. The action was notable as the last occasion on which an attempt was made to use a fireship on the open sea. One was sent against the “Real” (114), the Spanish flagship, but she was reduced to a sinking state by the fire of the Spaniards, and blew up prematurely, with the loss of all on board. At about five o'clock, the French in the van turned back to support the Spaniards, and Mathews drew off. One Spanish ship, the “Poder” (60), which had surrendered was recaptured, and then set on fire by the allies. Mathews made only a feeble attempt to renew the battle on the following days, and on the 13th returned towards the coast of Italy, which he said he had to defend. The British rear division had not come into action at all.

The battle, though a miserable affair in itself, is of great importance in naval history because of the pronouncement of doctrine to which it led. Mathews, who was dissatisfied with his subordinate, Lestock. suspended him from command and sent him home for trial. Several of the captains had behaved ill, and the failure of a superior British fleet to gain a success over the allies caused extreme discontent at home. A parliamentary inquiry was opened on the 12th of March 1745, which on the 18th of April, after a confused investigation, ended in a petition to the king to order trials by court-martial of all the officers accused of misconduct. A long series of courts-martial began on the 11th of September 1745, and did not end till the 22nd of October 1746. Several captains were sentenced to be dismissed the service. Lestock was acquitted, but Mathews was condemned and sentenced to dismissal. The finding of the court, which blamed the officer who actually fought, and acquitted the other who did not, puzzled and angered public opinion. The technical points were not appreciated by laymen. The real evil done by the condemnation of Mathews was not understood even in the navy. Mathews was blamed on the ground that he had not waited to engage till his van ship was abreast of the van ship of the enemy. By this declaration of principle the court confirmed the formal system of naval tactics which rendered all sea-fighting between equal or nearly equal forces so ineffective for two generations.

See Beatson, Naval and Military Memoirs, i. 197 seq. (London, 1804), a full and fair narrative.  ( D. H.)