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France's Bretagne class Battleships

Photos

Bretagne in Toulon on October 23, 1916:
Bretagne in Toulon on October 23, 1916
Imperial War Museum, Q-58294
La Provence at Dolma Baghtche on November 1, 1919:
La Provence at Dolma Baghtche on November 1, 1919
Imperial War Museum, Q-20295
Lorraine in dry dock on December 27, 1916:
Lorraine in dry dock on December 27, 1916
Imperial War Museum, Q-69694
Lorraine in Alexandria Harbor on April 24, 1942:
Lorraine in Alexandria Harbor on April 24, 1942
Imperial War Museum, A-9852
Lorraine in Alexandria Harbor on April 24, 1942:
Lorraine in Alexandria Harbor on April 24, 1942
Imperial War Museum, A-9853

Design

The Bretagne class was the first French battleships to carry a 13.5" gun. The design was inhibited by not having large docks available for construction.

To allow for a larger gun size it was decided by the Counseil Supérieur de la Marine to not have the wing turrets that were in the Courbet class but a single Q turret amidships and also the armor belt was made thinner.

The Bretagne and la Provence were ordered on May 1, 1912, and the Lorraine on July 15, 1912. The Lorraine was to replace the Liberté as it had blown up on September 25, 1911.

Armament

The 13.4" L/45 (34 cm) M1912 could fire a 1,268 lb armor piercing shell out to 29,090 yards at 2,559'/sec. The maximum elevation was 23°.

There were two 75 mm War Model anti-aircraft guns.

A total of seven 47 mm L/40 QF Hotchkiss M1885 guns were mounted.

Ships

Bretagne

  • Manufacturer: Arsenale de Brest
  • July 22, 1912: Laid down.
  • April 21, 1913: Launched.
  • February 10, 1916: Completed.
  • 1916: Member of 1st Division, 1st Battle Squadron.
  • Late 1916: Moved to Adriatic.
  • November 1918: Arrived in Toulon.
  • June 12, 1919 - October 1920: Refit at Toulon. 13.4" gun elevation increased to 18°. Four 5.4" guns, all the 75 mm guns, and two 47 mm guns removed. Four 75 mm M1897 guns added.
  • June 1921: Member of naval review at Le Havre.
  • September 1921: Arrived in Toulon.
  • May 1, 1924 - September 29, 1925: Refit at Toulon. Bow armor redone. Four boilers converted to oil firing. 13.4" gun elevation increased to 23°.
  • Mid-1927: 24 8 mm Hotchkiss machine guns added.
  • November 1927: Machinery repairs.
  • Refit. Old boilers replaced by Indret oil fired. Direct-drive turbines replaced by Parsons geared. Four 5.4" guns and all 75 mm guns removed. Eight 75 mm anti-aircraft M1922 guns and four 13.2 mm L/76 Hotchkiss quad mounts added. Torpedo tubes removed.
  • 1934: Member of 2nd Squadron in the Atlantic.
  • 1936: Cruised to Africa.
  • August 1936 - April 1937: Member of Spanish Civil War Non-Intervention Patrol.
  • September 1939: Member of 2nd Squadron of the High Seas Fleet in Toulon.
  • December 2, 1939 - March 3, 1940: Refit.
  • March 10, 1940: Left Mers-el-Kebir for Halifax, Nova Scotia with shipment of gold.
  • March 29 - April 10, 1940: Sailed to Toulon escorting convoy of aircraft.
  • April 18, 1940: Joined Force X in Oran.
  • May 3, 1940: Arrived in Alexandria to work with the Royal Navy.
  • May 20 - 27, 1940: Sailed to Mers-el-Kebir.
  • July 3, 1940: Sunk. Hit by four 15" shells from HMS Hood, HMS Barham, and HMS Resolution and blew up. Over 1,000 crewman died.

La Provence, Provence

  • Manufacturer: Arsenale de Lorient, Lorient
  • May 21, 1912, June 1912: Laid down.
  • April 20, 1913: Launched.
  • March 1, 1916, July 1916: Completed.
  • 1916: Fleet flagship.
  • Late 1916: Moved to Adriatic.
  • 1919: Four 5.4" guns removed.
  • April 1919: Arrived in Toulon.
  • June 1919: Mutiny prevented her from going to the Black Sea to fight the Bolsheviks.
  • October 1919 - July 1921: Member of Eastern Mediterranean Squadron based in Constantinople.
  • June 1921: Member of naval review at Le Havre.
  • September 1921: Arrived in Toulon.
  • 1922: Became reserve.
  • February 1, 1922 - July 4, 1923: Refit at Toulon. 13.4" gun elevation increased to 18°. Two 75 mm guns removed. Four 75 mm M1897 guns added.
  • December 12, 1925 - July 11, 1927: Refit. 13.4" gun elevation increased to 23°. Half of boilers converted to oil-firing.
  • September 30, 1931 - August 20, 1934: Refit at Brest. Rest of coal boilers replaced by six Indret oil firing boilers. 13.4" guns replaced. Eight 75 mm anti-aircraft guns added.
  • 1934: Member of 2nd Squadron in the Atlantic.
  • 1936: Cruised to Africa.
  • August 1936 - April 1937: Member of Spanish Civil War Non-Intervention Patrol.
  • September 1939: Member of 2nd Squadron of the High Seas Fleet in Toulon. Flagship of Vice-Amiral Ollive.
  • October 21 - December 2, 1939: Maintenance.
  • January 24, 1940: Joined Force Y at Dakar.
  • April 11 - 16, 1940: Sailed to Oran.
  • 2nd Quarter of 1940: Three 13.2 mm Hotchkiss quad mounts added.
  • July 3, 1940: Hit by British forces and settled to bottom at Mers-el-Kebir.
  • November 6 - 9, 1940: Moved to Toulon after repairs.
  • January 1, 1942: Became flagship of Training Division.
  • November 27, 1942: Scuttled when German forces attempted to take her.
  • July 11, 1943: Italians raised ship and Germans used 13.4" guns in shore batteries near Toulon.
  • 1944: Scuttled as a blockship.

Lorraine

  • Manufacturer: Penhoet at St-Nazaire, Penhoet
  • November 1912, November 7, 1912: Laid down.
  • September 30, 1913: Launched.
  • March 10, 1916, July 1916: Completed.
  • 1916: Member of 1st Division, 1st Battle Squadron.
  • Late 1916: Moved to Adriatic.
  • January 1919: Moved to Cattaro to watch over the Austro-Hungarian fleet.
  • June 1919: Arrived in Toulon.
  • October 1919 - July 1921: Member of Eastern Mediterranean Squadron based in Constantinople.
  • November 10, 1921 - December 4, 1922: Refit.
  • 1922: Became reserve.
  • 1923: Member of 1st Battleship Division, Mediterranean Squadron.
  • November 15, 1924 - August 4, 1926: Refit.
  • 1927 - 1936: Member of 1st Squadron.
  • November 17, 1929 - June 6, 1931: Refit.
  • September 18, 1934 - November 20, 1935: Refit at Brest. Q turret replaced by catapult and hanger. Three aircraft carried. Four 3.9" (10 cm) M1930 twin mounts and two 13.2 mm Hotchkiss quad mounts added. Torpedo tubes removed. Funnels moved to allow for addition of aircraft equipment.
  • 1936 - September 1939: Member of Atlantic Squadron.
  • January 1, 1940: Member of 1st Squadron, 2nd Battleship Division.
  • February 1940: 3.9" guns removed to go to Richelieu. Eight 75 mm M1922 added.
  • May 1940: Arrived in Alexandria.
  • June 21, 1940: Bombarded Bardia.
  • 1940 - December 1942, June 1940 - May 1943: Demilitarized in Alexandria.
  • July 3 - October 12, 1943: Sailed from Suez to Dakar to join Free French. Became training ship.
  • December 2, 1943: Arrived in Oran. Started refit to become operational.
  • March - May 1944: Refit at Oran. Aircraft and equipment removed. 3.9" guns and 13.2 mm quads removed. Eight 75 mm guns, fourteen 40 mm guns, and 25 20 mm guns added. Radar added.
  • August 15 - September 17, 1944: Member of TF86 supporting Operation Dragoon, the landings in southern France.
  • December 1944: Arrived in Cherbourg.
  • March 1945: Bombarded fortresses on French coast as part of Operation Vermeille and Vénérable.

Specifications

  Bretagne class
Crew 1,133
Displacement 21,838 tons, 22,189 tons
Displacement - Loaded 26,600 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 544' 6"
166 m
Length - Water Line  
Length - Between Perpendiculars 541' 3"
165 m
Beam 88' 9"
27 m
Draft / Height 29' 9"
9.2 m
Performance  
Speed 21 knots
Range  
Range at 10 knots 4,200 nautical miles
Armament 13.4" twin turrets: 5
5.5": 14
Anti-Aircraft 47 mm: 4
Torpedo Tubes - Below Waterline 17.7": 4
Armor  
Barbettes 27 cm
Belt - Bow and Stern 18 cm
Belt - Main 27 cm
Belt - Upper 18 cm
Control Tower 30 cm
Deck - Forecastle 3 cm
Deck - Main 4 cm - 7 cm
Deck - Upper 4 cm - 4.8 cm
Turrets 25 cm - 40 cm
Engines  
Boilers Niclausse: 24
Shafts 4
Turbines Parsons geared
HP 29,000
Coal 900 tons
Oil 300 tons
  Lorraine
Crew 977
Displacement 22,189 tons
Displacement - Loaded  
Physical Characteristics  
Length 544' 6"
Length - Water Line 541' 6"
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Beam 88' 6"
Draft / Height 32'
Performance  
Speed 21 knots
Range  
Armament 13.4": 8
5.5" L/55: 14
Anti-Aircraft 3": 8
40 mm: 14
20 mm: 25
Aircraft  
Armor  
Belt - Bow and Stern 7"
Belt - Main 10.75"
Control Tower 12.5"
Deck 3.5"
Deck - Lower 6" - 10"
Turrets 10" - 17"
Turret Bases 11"
Engines  
Boilers Belleville: 24
Indret: 6
Shafts 4
Turbines Parsons
HP 43,000
Oil 2,600 tons
  la Provence, Provence
Crew 1,133
Crew - Flagship 1,190
Displacement 22,189 tons
Displacement - Loaded  
Physical Characteristics  
Length 544' 6"
Length - Water Line 541' 6"
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Beam 88' 6"
Draft / Height 32'
Performance  
Speed 20 knots
Range at 10 knots 7,000 nautical miles
Armament 13.4" L/45: 10
5.5" L/55 M1910: 14
Anti-Aircraft 3" L/60: 8
47 mm: 7
13 mm: 16
Aircraft  
Armor  
Belt - Bow and Stern 7"
Belt - Main 10.75"
Control Tower 12.5"
Deck - Lower 6" - 10"
Turrets 10" - 17"
Turret Bases 11"
Engines  
Boilers Guyot du Temple: 18
Indret
Shafts 4
Turbines Parsons
HP 29,000
Oil 2,600 tons

Sources:

  1. Battleships of World War Two An International Encyclopedia, M. J. Whitley, 1998
  2. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Robert Gardiner, 1987
  3. Janes' Fighting Ships of World War II, 1989
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site