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France's Dunkerque class Battleships

Photos

Dunkerque:
Dunkerque
US Navy Department
Strasbourg:
Strasbourg
US Navy Department

Design

Due to the Washington Naval Conference of 1921 the French Navy was limited to 175,000 tons of battleships. This would allow for five 35,000 ton battleships and discussions started in 1924 to determine what the configuration of the battleships would be.

The French Navy felt that Italy would be their opponent and because of the apparent better speed in Italian battleships it was felt concentrating the main guns forward would work as it was felt that a battle would be mostly a chase.

The London Naval Treaty allowed for France to build 70,000 tons of battleships by the end of 1936.

Authorization for building the Dunkerque was given in 1931. After the announcement by the Italians of building two 35,000 tons battleships it was decided that the second Dunkerque class would have heavier armament.

As there were no dry docks large enough the Dunkerque was built without the sterns in dry dock and they were added after being floated out of the dry dock.

Aircraft

There was one compressed-air catapult to launch the Loire 130.

The hanger had two levels with an elevator between them. One aircraft could be stored on each level.

Armament

The main armament was concentrated forward with the secondary armament aft.

The 13" L/50 M1931 guns could fire a 1,200 lb / 1,235 lb AP shell out to 45,600 yards at 35°. Could be fired at 3 rounds/minute. The turret weighed 1,473 tons and was very cramped.

The 5.1" / 13 cm L/45 M1935 guns could fir a 70.8 lb shell out to 22,820 yards at 45°. Could be fired at 10 rounds/minute. The maximum elevation was 75°.

Propulsion

There were three boiler rooms with two oil fired boilers in each.

Ships

Dunkerque

  • Manufacturer: Arsenale de Brest
  • December 24, 1932, December 26, 1932: Laid down.
  • October 2, 1935: Launched.
  • April 18, 1936: Trials.
  • April 1937: Completed.
  • May 1937: At King George VI's Coronation Review at Spithead.
  • August 15 - October 14, 1937: Refit. Searchlights increased. Six Hotchkiss 13.2 mm quad mounts added.
  • January 20, 1938: Sailed for the Antilles.
  • January 31, 1938: Arrived in Fort de France.
  • February 25, 1938: Visited Dakar.
  • March 6, 1938: Returned to France.
  • March 12 - May 2, 1938: Refit. Funnel cap added. 37 mm M1925 guns removed. Two Hotchkiss 13.2 mm quad mounts added.
  • June 9, 1938: Completed.
  • September 1, 1938: Became flagship of Atlantic Squadron.
  • November 19, 1938 - February 27, 1939: Refit at Brest. Four 37 mm M1937 guns added.
  • May 23, 1939: Went to Great Britain with Strasbourg.
  • June 21, 1939: Returned to Brest.
  • Summer 1939: 37 mm M1933 twin mount added.
  • September 2 - 6, 1939: Searched for German raiders.
  • October 1939: Escorted Atlantic convoys.
  • November 25 - December 3, 1939: Hunted for KMS Scharnhorst and KMS Gneisenau with HMS Hood. Damaged by heavy seas. Repairs at Brest.
  • December 3, 1939: Repairs finished.
  • December 11 - 17, 1939: With Gloire left for Halifax, Canada with gold for armaments purchases. On return escorted troop convoy TC2.
  • December 30, 1939: Returned to Brest.
  • January 4 - February 12, 1940: Refit. 47 mm guns removed.
  • April 2, 1940: Arrived in Mers-el-Kebir.
  • April 12, 1940: Arrived in Brest to prepare for Norway operations.
  • April 27, 1940: Arrived in Mers-el-Kebir to counter Italian moves.
  • July 3, 1940: Attacked by British Navy in Operation Catapult.
  • July 6, 1940: Attacked by British carrier aircraft.
  • September 27, 1940: Refloated.
  • December 5, 1940: Fire broke out on board.
  • April 1941: Running trials.
  • January 25, 1942: Fire broke out on board.
  • February 19 - 20, 1942: Sailed to Toulon.
  • June 22, 1942: Entered dock for repair work.
  • November 27, 1942: Scuttled by crew when Germans occupied Toulon.

Strasbourg

  • Manufacturer: A C de St-Nazaire-Penhoët, St-Nazaire, Penhoet
  • November 25, 1934: Laid down.
  • December 12, 1936: Launched.
  • June 15, 1938 - April 1939: Trials.
  • September 15 - December 15, 1938: Refit. Funnel cap added. Five Hotchkiss 13.2 mm quad mounts added.
  • December 1938: Completed.
  • April 6, 1939: Completed.
  • April 1939: Joined Atlantic Squadron, 1st Battleship Division.
  • 1st Quarter 1939: Four 37 mm M1933 twin mounts added.
  • August 1939: A Hotchkiss 13.2 mm quad mount added.
  • October 7 - 14, 1939: Sailed to Dakar with Force X.
  • October 23 - 29, 1939: Hunted for German raiders.
  • November 7 - 13, 1939: Hunted for German raiders.
  • November 25, 1939: Returned to France.
  • November 29, 1939 - January 9, 1940: Degaussing cable added. Splinter protection added to 13.2 mm guns.
  • July 3, 1940: Attacked by British Navy in Operation Catapult. Was able to escape and reached Toulon the next night.
  • January 31 - April 25, 1942: Refit. 5 m range finder removed. Three 13.2 mm Browning machine guns added. French radar added.
  • November 27, 1942: Scuttled by crew.
  • July 17, 1943: Italy refloated her for salvage.
  • September 1943: Taken over by Germans.
  • April 1, 1944: Turned over to the French Navy.
  • August 18, 1944: United States B-25s sank her in Lazaret Bay.

Usage

Early in World War II both were primarily used for convoy escorts and hunting (unsuccessfully) German raiders.

Operation Catapult

The Dunkerque and Strasbourg were at Mers-el-Kebir when the British Force H attacked on July 3, 1940.

The Dunkerque was heavily damaged by HMS Hood's guns. The Strasbourg was able to escape to Toulon.

On July 6, 1940, carrier aircraft hit the Dunkerque with several torpedoes and she settled on the bottom.

Specifications

  Dunkerque class
Crew 1,381, 1,431
Displacement 26,500 tons
Displacement - Loaded 35,500 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 702', 703' 9", 707'
214.5 m, 215.5 m
Length - Water Line  
Length - Between Perpendiculars 685' 8", 685' 9", 686'
209 m
Beam 101' 9", 102', 102' 3"
31.08 m
Draft / Height 28', 28' 6", 38' 9"
8.7 m
Performance  
Speed 29.5 knots
Range  
Range at 15 knots 7,500 nautical miles
Armament 13": 8
13" L/50 M1931 quad turrets: 2
13" L/50 M1933 quad turrets: 2
5.1" 16
5.1" L/45 M1935 quad turrets: 3
5.1" L/45 M1935 twin turrets: 2
Anti-Aircraft 47 mm: 4
37 mm: 8
37 mm twin mounts: 4, 5
13.2 mm quad mounts: 8
13 mm: 32
Aircraft 2, 4
Armor  
Belt - Main 5.75" - 9.75"
Conning Tower 10.5", 14"
27 cm
Deck 1.5" - 5"
Deck - Lower 4 cm - 5 cm
Deck - Main 11.5 cm - 12.5 cm
Torpedo Bulkhead 1.5"
3 cm
Turrets 6" - 13.25", 14"
Turrets - Side 9" - 11"
25 cm
Turrets - Secondary 3.5"
Turrets - Secondary - Front 12 cm
Turrets - Secondary - Back - Side - Top 8 cm - 9 cm
Engines  
Boilers Indret: 6
Shafts 4
Turbines Parsons geared
HP 100,000, 112,500 tons
Oil 6,500 tons
  Dunkerque
Crew  
Displacement 26,500 tons
Displacement - Loaded 35,500 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length  
Length - Water Line  
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Beam  
Draft / Height  
Performance  
Speed  
Range  
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft  
Aircraft  
Armor  
Barbettes 31 cm
Belt - Main 22.5 cm
Bulkhead - Aft 18 cm
Bulkhead - Forward 21 cm
Turret 1 - Back 34.5 cm
Turret 2 - Back 33.5 cm
Turrets - Front 33 cm
Turrets - Top 15 cm
Engines  
Boilers  
Shafts  
Turbines  
HP  
Oil  
  Strasbourg
Crew  
Displacement 27,300 tons
Displacement - Loaded 36,380 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 703' 9"
215.14 m
Length - Water Line  
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Beam  
Draft / Height  
Performance  
Speed  
Range  
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft 37 mm twin mounts: 4
Aircraft  
Armor  
Barbettes 34 cm
Belt - Main 28.3 cm
Bulkhead - Aft 21 cm
Bulkhead - Forward 26 cm
Turret 1 - Back 35 cm
Turret 2 - Back 34.5 cm
Turrets - Front 36 cm
Turrets - Top 16 cm
Engines  
Boilers  
Shafts  
Turbines  
HP  
Oil  

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