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The four vessels of the Suffren-class were based on the Duquesene-class, though each was built to slightly different standards as lessons were learned from the preceding ship. Their hull form was sleek and graceful, taking a classic cruiser form. While the Duquesne-class lineage was apparent, the Suffren-class had a much more modern look about them. Armour protection was somewhat better than the preceding class, though speed was reduced as a consequence. Suffren remained at Alexandria from 1940 to 1943, when she joined the Allied cause.
Suffren, lead ship in her class, operated in the Dodecanese Islands early on in the war before peacefully surrendering to the Royal Navy - in sharp contrast to the fate of many French vessels at Mers-el-Kebir. Refitted she would join the Allied cause in 1943.