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France's Richelieu class battleships

Photos

A damaged Jean Bart as seen from an aircraft from the USS Ranger:
A damaged Jean Bart as seen from an aircraft from the USS Ranger
US Navy
A damaged Jean Bart as seen from an aircraft from the USS Ranger:
A damaged Jean Bart as seen from an aircraft from the USS Ranger
US Navy
A damaged Jean Bart as seen from an aircraft from the USS Ranger:
A damaged Jean Bart as seen from an aircraft from the USS Ranger
US Navy
Jean Bart in January 1943:
Jean Bart in January 1943
Imperial War Museum, A-14191
Richelieu in 1939:
Richelieu in 1939
US Navy
Richelieu on November 9, 1942:
Richelieu on November 9, 1942
US Navy
Richelieu's 20 mm Oerlikons:
Richelieu's 20 mm Oerlikons
Imperial War Museum, A-20935
Richelieu in New York for repairs:
Richelieu in New York for repairs
Office of War Information

Design

After Italy announced it was building 35,000 ton battleships on May 26, 1934, the French decided to study the feasibility of building competing battleships despite not having the infrastructure to build such large ships.1,4 It was felt that the Richelieu class ships would be primarily used in the Mediterranean.4

On July 24, 1934, the requirements for a 35,000 ton battleship with 15" or 16" guns and could go 29.5 to 32 knots.1 A design that had two 15" quad turrets in front was accepted.1

Construction

In 1935 the Richelieu and Jean Bart were authorized for construction followed in 1938 by the Clémenceau and Gascogne.1,2

When the Richelieu was being constructed it was too long for the dry dock so the bow and stern sections were added after being moved out of the dry dock.1

Aircraft

There were three aircraft carried and could be launched from two compressed air catapults.1

Armament

The 15" (38 cm) L/45 M1935 could fire a 1,938 lb2 / 1,949 lb armor piercing shell out to 45,600 / 50,0002 yards at 35°.1,2 The turrets weighed 2,430 tons.1

The 154.2 mm (6") L/55 M1930 dual purpose guns could fir a 38.1 lb shell out to 28,952 yards at 45°.1 Maximum elevation was 90°.1 However, it was very hard to load the guns if the elevation was over 45°.1

Ships

Clémenceau

  • Manufacturer: Arsenale de Brest1,2
  • January 17, 1939: Laid down.1,2
  • 1942, 19432: Launched.1,2 10% complete.2
  • August 27, 1944: Sunk.1,2 Allied air attack sank the uncompleted hull.1

Gascogne

  • Manufacturer: St-Nazaire Loire and Penhoet1, A C de St-Nazaire-Penhoët2

Jean Bart

  • Manufacturer: St-Nazaire Loire and Penhoet1, A C de St-Nazaire-Penhoët2, Penhoët and Loire3
  • December 12, 1936, January 1, 19373, January 19392: Laid down.1,2,3
  • March 6, 19402,3, April 6, 1940: Launched.1,2,3
  • June 19 - 22, 1940: Towed out of harbor and sailed to Casablanca.1,2
  • November 9, 1942: Hit by two bombs from carrier planes of the United States and shells from the USS Massachusetts.1
  • 19483, January 19492, May 1, 1955: Completed.1,2

Richelieu

  • Manufacturer: Arsenale de Brest1,2, Brest3
  • October 22, 1935: Laid down.1,2,3
  • January 17, 1939: Launched.1,2,3
  • January 14 - 15, 1940: Trials.1
  • June 15, 1940, July 19402,3: Completed.1,2,3
  • June 18 - 23, 1940: Sailed from Brest to Dakar.1
  • June 25, 1940: Sailed to Casablanca.1
  • June 26, 1940: Ordered back to Dakar.1
  • June 28, 1940: Arrived in Dakar.1
  • July 6, 1940: Attacked by six Swordfish from the HMS Hermes.4 Settled to bottom of harbor from hit to the stern.4
  • September 24, 1940: HMS Barham and HMS Resolution attack at Dakar.1 No. 2 turret damaged.1
  • November 1940: Two 37 mm twin mounts added.1
  • February 1941: One 13.2 mm quad mount and one 13.2 mm single mount were added.1
  • April 24, 1941: Repairs from attack repaired.1
  • June 1941: Two 13.2 mm single mounts added.1
  • July 1941: Two 37 mm twin mounts added.1
  • September 28, 1941: No. 2 turret gun explosion.1
  • January 1943: 37 mm guns and hanger removed for refit in United States.1
  • January 30, 1943: Sailed to United States.1
  • February - August 1943: Refit at Brooklyn Navy Yard.1 Hull damage from Dakar attack repaired.1 Fourteen 40 mm Bofors quad mounts and 50 20 mm guns added.1,2 Three 15" guns taken from Jean Bart and put in No. 2 turret.1
  • October 14, 1943: Sailed for Mers-el-Kebir.1
  • November 20, 1943: Joined British Home Fleet.1
  • January 10 - 12, 1944: Operations off Norway.1
  • March 14 - April 10, 1944: Sailed from Scapa Flow to join British Eastern Fleet at Trincomalee.1,4
  • April 16 - 21, 1944: Supported Operation Transom, the TF65 carrier raid against Surabaya.1
  • June 1944: Participated in Operation Councilor and Operation Pedal.1
  • July 22, 1944: Operation Crimson, bombardment of Sabang and Sumatra.1
  • September 7 - October 10, 1944: Sailed from Trincomalee to Casablanca for refit.1
  • October 14, 1944 - January 24, 1945: Refit.1
  • March 20, 1945: Arrived at Trincomalee to join East Indies Fleet.1
  • April 8 - 20, 1945: Bombardment of Sabang with TF63.1
  • April 27 - May 7, 1945: Bombardment of Nicobar Islands with TF63.1 133 15" rounds fired.1
  • July 8 - 19, 1945: Sailed to Durban for refit.1
  • July - August 1945: Refit at Durban.1 Thirteen 20 mm guns removed.1 Four 40 mm guns added.1
  • August 10 - 18, 1945: Sailed to Trincomalee.1

Usage

British Attack French Fleet at Dakar

Carrier aircraft from the HMS Hermes damaged the Richelieu in Dakar with a torpedo.1 Her stern touched the bottom of the harbor but by July 12 she was refloated.1

Specifications

  Richelieu class
Crew 1,5501, 1,9463
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 35,000 tons1,2,3
Displacement - Loaded 47,548 tons1,2, 48,500 tons3
Length 794'3, 813' 2"2, 813' 3"1
247.85 m1,2
Length - Water Line  
Length - Between Perpendiculars 794'1,2
242 m1,2
Beam 108' 3"1,2, 108' 7"3
33 m1,2
Draft / Height 26' 6"3, 31' 7"2, 31' 9"1
9.63 m1,2
Performance  
Speed 30 knots1,2,3
Range at 15 knots 6,000 nautical miles3
Range at 18 knots 5,500 nautical miles
Armament 15": 83
15" L45 M1935 quad turrets: 21
6": 93
6", 152.4 mm L/55 M1930 triple turrets: 31
Anti-Aircraft 3.9": 123
40 mm Bofors: 693
37 mm twin mounts: 81
20 mm Oerlikons: 373
13.2 mm quad mounts: 21
Aircraft 31
Armor  
Barbettes 40.5 cm1
Belt - Main 9.75" - 13.5"2, 9" - 16"3
33 cm1
Bulkhead - Aft 23.3 cm1
Bulkhead - Forward 9.75" - 15"2
35.5 cm1
Bulkhead - Torpedo 1.25" - 2"2
3 cm1
Conning Tower 13"3
34 cm1
Deck 8"3
Deck - Lower 1.5" - 2"2
4 cm - 5 cm1
Deck - Main 6" - 6.75"2
15 cm1
Turrets 6.75" - 17.5"2, 13" - 17"3
Turrets - Front 43 cm1
Turrets - Rear No. 1 27 cm1
Turrets - Rear No. 2 26 cm1
Turrets - Side 30 cm1
Turrets - Top 17 cm - 19.5 cm1
Turrets - Secondary 2.75" - 5"2, 5"3
Turrets - Secondary - Front 13 cm1
Turrets - Secondary - Rear - Side - Top 6 cm - 7 cm1
Engines  
Boilers Indret: 61,2,3
Shafts 41,2,3
Turbines Parsons geared1,2,3
HP 150,0001,2,3
Oil 6,000 tons3, 6,796 tons1,2
  Richelieu
Crew - 1943 1,5504, 1,6702
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 41,000 tons4
Displacement - Loaded 47,500 tons4
Length 813' 4"4
247.9 m4
Beam 108' 3"4
33 m4
Draft / Height 31' 10"4
9.7 m4
Performance  
Speed 30 knots4
Range at 18 knots 5,500 nautical miles2
Range at 26 knots 2,500 nautical miles2
Range at 32 knots 1,800 nautical miles2
Armament 15" / 38 cm quad turrets4: 2 4
Armament - 1940 15" L/45 M1935 quad turrets: 22
6" L/55 M1936 triple turrets: 32
Anti-Aircraft 6" / 15.2 cm DP4: 94
3.9" / 10 cm4: 124
37 mm4: 164
0.52" / 13.2 mm4: 84
Anti-Aircraft - 1940 3.9" L/45 M1931 twin mounts: 62
37 mm twin mounts: 42
13.2 mm quad mounts: 42
Aircraft 32,4
Armor  
Belt 13.5"4
34.3 cm4
Decks 2" - 6.75"4
5 cm - 17 cm4
Turrets 6.75" - 17.5"4
17 cm - 44.5 cm4
Engines  
Shafts 44
Turbines Geared steam4
HP 150,0004
  Jean Bart
Crew - flagship 2,1342
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement - Loaded 49,850 tons2
Beam 116' 3"2
35.43 m2
Draft / Height 30' 3"2
9.22 m2
Performance  
Speed 32 knots2
Engines  
HP 165,0002
Oil 6,476 tons2

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
  4. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site