The Georges Leygues was a French light cruiser of the La Galissonnière class. During World War II, she served with both the Vichy France and Allies. She was named for the prominent 19th and 20th century French politician Georges Leygues.
At the start of World War II, she was assigned to the Force de Raid, patrolling the Atlantic in response to German commerce raids. The only incident, however, was when the French submarine Casabianca was shelled in error. To pre-empt the potential Italian threat, Georges Leygues and other French warships were moved to Mers-el-Kebir (now Oran) on 24 April 1940.
The 3rd and 4th Cruiser Divisions, including Georges Leygues avoided the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir and eventually put into Toulon. On 9 September 1940, she left Toulon with her sister ships Gloire and Montcalm, and passed Gibraltar without being challenged (for which the local British commander, Admiral North, was relieved of his command). The flotilla refuelled at Casablanca and continued to Dakar, arriving on 14 September.
The three cruisers left Dakar on 18 September, intending to go south to Libreville, but they were intercepted by British forces, including HMAS Australia. The Montcalm and Georges Leygues outran the British ships and returned to Dakar, where they helped to defend the port against the unsuccessful British and Free French attack (Operation Menace) on 23 September – 25 September 1940. Georges Leygues hit HMAS Australia twice and avoided Fleet Air Arm torpedo attacks. The Gloire, slowed by mechanical troubles and, unable to escape, had been ordered back to Casablanca.
Apart from a transport of bullion to Casablanca in August 1941, the next two years were uneventful until the Allied landings in North Africa (Operation Torch) and the German occupation of Vichy France, when she joined the Allies, as did other French warships. Early in 1943, she began Atlantic patrols from Dakar, and on 13 April, she intercepted the German blockade runner Portland, which was scuttled by her crew.
The Georges Leygues was refitted at Philadelphia, from July until October 1943, removing the aircraft installations and adding light anti-aircraft weapons.
Georges Leygues' returned to Dakar based anti-blockade-runner patrols. She then supported Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944 and southern France in August. A French naval tradition says that beyond five months of campaigning, the war flag of a ship gets longer by one metre for each month spent off France; the war flag of the Georges Leygues is said to have been 60 metres when she entered Toulon on 13 September 1944.
She then bombarded the Italian Riviera coastline around Genoa until March 1945. This was her last action of the war.
She had a major refit at Casablanca from May to the end of January 1946. In 1954, along with the Montcalm, she was used for fire support in Indochina. In 1956, she took part in the Suez Crisis, during which she led a group of French warships providing fire support for Israeli ground forces in the Gaza Strip.