Tag Archive | French battleship

Warship Wednesday, June 12, 2019: The End of l’Ancien Régime, Beginning of Another

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 12, 2019: The End of l’Ancien Régime, Beginning of Another

NH 110742 French Warships in port, circa 1939 Mediterranean palm trees and old fort 2400-tonne type destroyer battleship Courbet, while a Duguay Trouin class light cruiser is to the right

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 93575

Here we see the first French dreadnought, Courbet, class leader of a four-ship group of mighty warships built for the French Third Republic. She is the largest ship to the far left, seen at Villefranche during late 1938 or early 1939. She gave her last full measure some 75 years ago this week but left an interesting legacy.

When built, Courbet and her sisters were the Republic’s answer to the growing trend of all-big-gun battleships started with the launch of the Royal Navy’s HMS Dreadnought in 1906.

French Battleship COURBET as Build 1911

French Battleship COURBET as Build 1911

Part of the 1909 Naval Plan, these big French battlewagons went nearly 26,000-tons (FL) and carried an impressive main battery of a dozen new design 12-inch (305mm) 45 Modèle 1906 guns. These big boys, in six twin turrets, were comparable to the U.S. Navy’s 12″/45 caliber Mark 5 gun on five classes of American battleships (Connecticut, Mississippi, South Carolina, Delaware, and Florida) as well as the British BL 12-inch Mk X naval guns which were mounted on not only  Dreadnought herself but also a dozen other RN battleships and battlecruisers of the day.

Courbet, forward turrets photographed by Robert W. Neeser, probably at Toulon, France, circa 1919. Note the triplex rangefinder on the conning tower. She carried 100 rounds per gun in her magazines, which interestingly were refrigerated to 77-degrees, a bonus on a steel ship designed to operate in the Med. NH 42849

Courbet, forward turrets photographed by Robert W. Neeser, probably at Toulon, France, circa 1919. Note the triplex rangefinder on the conning tower. She carried 100 rounds per gun in her magazines, which interestingly were refrigerated to 77-degrees, a bonus on a steel ship designed to operate in the Med. NH 42849

Courbet 12-inch and 5.5-inch (138mm) guns photographed by Robert W. Neeser. These ships carried an impressive 22 of the latter, each with 225 shells. NH 42848

Laid down at Arsenal de Brest, our 21-knot beastie, named after famed French Admiral Amédée Courbet of Indochina fame, was soon followed by sister ship Jean Bart, constructed at the same time by the same yard. Two other sisters, France and Paris, were built by A C de la Loire, St-Nazaire and F C de la Méditerranée, La Seyne, respectively.

French battleship Paris, trial at full steam from the 1 August 1914 issue of L'Illustration

French battleship Paris, the trial at full steam from the 1 August 1914 issue of L’Illustration

Courbet commissioned in November 1913 and the entire class were all at sea by the time the lamps went out across Europe in August 1914. Their design was essentially recycled to create the follow-on Bretagne (Brittany)-class dreadnoughts who were up-armed with 13.5-inch guns.

Courbet entered the Great War monitoring of the Otranto canal, a vital sea route connecting the Adriatic with the Ionian while keeping an eye peeled for the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben. She served at the time as flagship for Vice Admiral Boue de Lapeyrère, who led a force that comprise most of France’s battlefleet along with two British cruisers.

Courbet

Courbet

On 16 August 1914, the fresh new battleship and her task force came across the small (2,500-ton) Austro-Hungarian protected cruiser SMS Zenta and a companion destroyer, SMS Ulan, off the coast of Bar, Montenegro. The ensuing action, remembered today as the Battle of Antivari, was brief, with Ulan escaping destruction and Zenta, her guns far outranged by the French, destroyed, taking 173 of the Austrian Kaiser’s men to the bottom of the Adriatic with her. The war was just two weeks old.

Painting showing SMS Zenta and SMS Ulan in action on 16 August 1914, by Harry Heusser via Illustrirte Zeitung 1915, wiki

Painting showing SMS Zenta and SMS Ulan in action on 16 August 1914, with Courbet and company in the distance, by Harry Heusser via Illustrirte Zeitung 1915, wiki

When the Italians entered the conflict on the Allied side in May 1915, the Austrian fleet was bottled up for the rest of the war and Courbet, along with most of the French capital ships, were likewise sidelined, waiting the next four years just in case for a fleet action that would never come. After 1916, most of her crew was pulled and detailed to submarines and small craft, a common occurrence with the French navy at the time.

Remaining rusting in Corfu until April 1919, Courbet returned to Toulon where she became the nominal flagship of the West Mediterranean Fleet while she conducted extensive repairs through 1923.

Put back into service, she suffered a major electrical fire at the French North African port of Mers El Kebir which required further extensive repairs at FCM in La Seyne Sur Mer through 1924. Courbet was a member of an unlucky class perhaps, as sister ship France foundered at sea and was lost at about the same time.

In 1927, with Courbet‘s original design increasingly dated, she was hauled out of the water and given a three-year rebuild and modernization. This included retrunking into two funnels, down from three, updating her propulsion plant by taking her old coal boilers and direct drive turbines with oil-burning small-tube boilers and new geared turbines which provided 43,000 shp (up from 29,250). She lost her torpedo tubes (like battleships really used them) and reinforced her anti-air defenses in the form of 76mm high-angle pieces and a smattering of 13.2mm machine guns. Jean Bart and Paris were given similar overhauls.

She emerged looking very different:

Courbet original and post modernization

Courbet original, top, and postmodernization, bottom

In 1934, she was made a full-time gunnery school ship, her place in the French battle line going to the new 26,000-ton Dunkerque-class of fast (29.5-knot) battleships ordered for the French Navy the same year. Likewise, her sister Jean Bart, renamed Ocean, was made a training hulk at about the same time while Paris was used as a school ship for signals rates.

Courbet and Jean Bart in Algeria

Courbet and Jean Bart in Algeria

With World War II on the horizon, Courbet and Paris were taken from their taskings on the training roster in June 1939 and placed in the French Navy’s 3eme Division de Ligne, fleshing out their ranks, taking on power and shell, and installing more AAA guns.

Reportedly, the ships had troublesome engineering suites, only capable of making about 15 knots and even that speed could not be sustained.

Tasked with coastal defense, Courbet was moved to Cherbourg on the English Channel in May 1940. From there, she engaged  German aircraft poking their nose over the harbor and helped support the withdrawal from the beaches of Dunkirk. Later, as the German Army broke through and swept towards Paris, Courbet fired on advancing Boche columns of Rommel’s 7. Panzerdivision outside of Cherbourg before she raised steam and headed across the Channel to Portsmouth on June 19/20. Her sister Paris, damaged by German bombs, likewise left Brest for Plymouth, England at about the same time.

With France officially dropping out of WWII and the Third Republic voting to give full powers to Philippe Petain, the elderly battleships Paris and Courbet were seized and disarmed at their British moorings by Royal Marines on order of Churchill on 3 July as part of Operation Catapult.

Courbet-class battleship Paris in British hands, 1940, note the Union Jack on her bow IWM

Courbet-class battleship Paris in British hands, 1940, note the Union Jack on her bow and false bow wave. IWM

Paris, in bad condition, had her crew totally removed– who largely decided to return to France. She would be turned over to the Free Polish Navy who would use her for a dockside trainer and clubhouse until 1945 when she was returned to French custody and scrapped.

As for Courbet, she was turned over to the brand-new Forces Navales Françaises Libres (Free French Naval Forces) forces under Admiral Emile Muselier, allied with then-renegade Maj Gen. Charles de Gaulle ,on 10 July, becoming the largest and arguably most effective French warship not under Vichy control. Meanwhile, hulked sister Jean Bart remained in Vichy hands in Toulon on the Med, along with the bulk of the French Navy that wasn’t hiding out in Africa or the Caribbean.

Cuirassé Courbet à Portsmouth 1940, note the false bow wave painted on her bow.

Rearmed in August 1940, Courbet‘s AAA gunners managed to splash five German bombers over Portsmouth during the Battle of Britain. She continued her role as a floating symbol for De Gaulle and receiving ship for the rapidly forming Free French Navy for the next four years but sadly never left port under her own steam again.

Enter Monsieur Philippe Kieffer, stage left.

Philippe Kieffer

This guy.

The day after World War II started with the German invasion of Poland, Kieffer, a 40-year-old Haitian-born Alsatian bank executive in New York City, presented himself at the French consulate in Manhattan and signed up for the Navy. Having been schooled as a reserve naval officer in university but graduating too late in 1918 to fight in the Great War, the skilled financial analyst was given a sub-lieutenant’s commission and assigned to help flesh out Courbet‘s ranks, where he was assigned as an interpreter and cipher officer. Still aboard her when she left for England, he volunteered for the Free French Forces on 1 July 1940 and remained on her during the Battle of Britain.

In Portsmouth in May 1941, he formed a group of 40 volunteers, largely drawn from Courbet and Paris’s remaining crew who chose to not be repatriated to Vichy France, dubbed the 1re Compagnie de Fusiliers Marins (1st Company of Naval Rifles). Soon, his handful of bluejackets were wearing British uniforms and learning from the likes of former Shanghai Police Inspectors William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes at the commando training center in Achnacarry, Scotland. There, they picked up the general tricks of the dirty deeds done dirt cheap trade.

French marines of No. 1 Troop, No. 10 Commando. Note the British kit, to include No. 1 MK III Enfields. The officer at the left wears French naval insignia-- likely Keiffer -- and carries a Mle 1892 8mm revolver.

French marines of No. 1 Troop, No. 10 Commando. Note the British kit, to include No. 1 MK III Enfields. The officer at the left wears French sub-lieutenant naval insignia– likely Keiffer — and carries a Great War-era Mle 1892 8mm revolver.

His force became No. 1 Troop, No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando. Taking part in the Dieppe Raid in August 1942, his forces were expanded to include a second troop, No. 8, and his men were often used in small scale raids and intelligence ops along the coasts of occupied Holland and Belgium for the next two years.

In early 1944, Kieffer’s two troops, along with a smattering of new recruits (including a few Belgians and at least four Luxembourgers) were carved off from No. 10 Commando and formed the new 1re Compagnie du Bataillon de Fusiliers-Marins Commandos (1st Company of the Battalion of Marine Fusilier Commandos, or just BFMC). Geared up for Operation Overlord, they were part of British No 4 Commando of Lord Lovat’s 1st Special Service Brigade and landed on Sword Beach on D-Day, some 177-men strong, for their official return to France, Tommy guns in hand.

Philippe Kieffer, in commando garb meeting Monty, along with early BFMC legends Augustin Hubert (glasses) and Charles Trépel (pointy thing.) The dashing Trepel would be killed in a commando raid off the Dutch coast in 1944 while Hubert was killed on D-Day by a sniper near the Ouistreham casino.

Philippe Kieffer, in commando garb meeting Monty, along with early BFMC legends Augustin Hubert (glasses) and Charles Trépel (making friends with the pointy thing.) The dashing Trepel would be killed in a commando raid off the Dutch coast in 1944 while Hubert was fatally shot on D-Day by a German sniper near the Ouistreham casino.

Kieffer’s Bérets Verts (Green Berets) would soon push from the beach to link up with the 6th Parachute Division at Pegasus Bridge and go on to suffer 21 killed and 93 wounded in the days that was to follow, with the latter including Kieffer.

French villagers welcome French Naval Commandos who D-Day landings. thompson tommy gun Near Amfreville, Calvados, Lower Normandy, France. 17 June 1944.

French villagers welcome BFMC French Naval Commandos who D-Day landings. Near Amfreville, Calvados, Lower Normandy, France. 17 June 1944. Note the green beret’s M1928 Thompson and Fairbairn-Sykes Commando knife.

Before the war was out, his men were the first unformed members of the Free French to enter Paris, see the elephant again at Walcheren, liberate Flessinge, help capture the port of Antwerp, and carry out raids along the Dutch Coast. Not bad for a banker.

As for Courbet, she was at Sword Beach as well, just a few days behind Kieffer’s famed 177.

By 1944 she was old news. The Free French Navy, after the collapse of Vichy France in November 1942, had picked up the scratch and dent but much newer fast battleships Jean Bart and Richelieu, which were given extensive refits in America, as well as the still (somewhat) combat effective Bretagne-class dreadnought Lorraine, the latter of which was soon to see combat in the Operation Dragoon landings in the Med.

With her marginalization as De Gaulle’s unneeded 4th battleship, Courbet‘s bunker oil was pumped out and replaced with concrete as her crew removed their possessions. She was towed out of Portsmouth by HMRT Growler and HMRT Samsonia with her remaining French skeleton crew along for the ride on 9 June, bound for the invasion beaches of Normandy with TF 128.

Stopping some 3,360 meters in front of Hermanville near Ouistreham, her crew was evacuated at 13:15 and 10 minutes later her skipper, Capt. Wertzel, triggered the detonation of a series of installed scuttling charges that soon sent France’s first dreadnought 33 feet to the bottom, still flying her tricolor flag adorned with De Gaulle’s Cross of Lorraine, to give the impression that she was still in some form of service.

French Battleship Courbet was sunk as part of Gooseberry 5 on D+3. Note her decks almost awash, the benefit of having a 29-foot draft in 33 feet of water.

Courbet was part of a line of blockships laid off the beaches to form a reef before the rest of the Mulberry dock system was assembled to bring supplies to the beach.

There were to be five “Gooseberry” breakwaters, one for each beach:
No. 1 Utah Beach at Varreville
No. 2 Omaha Beach at St. Laurent (Part of MULBERRY A)
No. 3 Gold Beach at Arromanches (Part of MULBERRY B)
No. 4 Juno Beach at Courseulles
No. 5 Sword Beach at Oistreham

In all, the breakwaters were to be formed by about 60 blockships (approximately 12 in each Gooseberry) which were all merchant vessels except the disarmed King George V-class battleship HMS Centurion, Free Dutch Java-class light cruiser HNLMS Sumatra, Danae-class light cruiser HMS Durban and our Courbet.

A typical Gooseberry breakwater

The sinking of blockships was to commence p.m. D+1 and the Gooseberries were to be completed by D+3, with Courbet being one of the final pieces of the puzzle at Sword Beach (Gooseberry 5), which was to include the merchant ships Becheville, Dover Hill, Empire Defiance, Empire Tamar, Empire Tana, and Forbin along with the old cruisers Durban and Sumatra.

Gooseberry 5 off the beaches at Ouistreham, showing Sumatra and Durban

Gooseberry 5 off the beaches at Ouistreham, showing Sumatra and Durban

Courbet, still with her war flag flying, was one of the few blockships to be “manned” with generators supplying power to her eight searchlights and a radio. A crew of 35 men from the Royal Artillery was left in charge of her AAA guns for the next several weeks with the intention of drawing away Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine attacks on the vulnerable beachhead while at the same time possibly splashing a couple of raiders.

The concept worked, as reportedly the very grounded Courbet was hit by German Neger human torpedoes (Einmann-Torpedo) of K-Flottille 361 during the nights of both August 15/16 to 16/17, without effect.

As the breakout occurred and the fighting moved inland, her British gunners were withdrawn in September and Courbet‘s flag hauled down, presented to De Gaulle’s government with honors.

On 14 February 1951, the wrecks in Gooseberry 5 were auctioned by the French government to be salvaged and slowly scrapped, a process that took until 1970 to be completed. By coincidence, Jean Bart, the last French (or European for that matter) battleship afloat, was scrapped the same year at Brégaillon near Toulon, making Courbet and big Jean something of bookends on the tale of French dreadnoughts.

As for Kieffer, Courbet‘s star, he would die at age 63 in 1962, a Commandeur du Légion d’Honneur.

Of the current seven French Commando battalions today, three bear the name of officers of the WWII 1st BFMC: Augustin Hubert, Charles Trépel and Kieffer. Meanwhile, French marine commandos still wear the badge Kieffer designed and issue the Fairbairn-Sykes.

French Fusiliers marins et commandos marine fighting knife green beret via French marines

In the seven decades since the 1st BFMC, more than 8,300 French commandos have followed in their footsteps. To say they have been extremely busy in the past 70 years is an understatement.

French heartthrob Christian Marquand would portray Kieffer in 1962’s The Longest Day, correctly wearing BFMC-badged green berets during the seizure of the Ouistreham casino (which had actually been destroyed prior to the landing). If Marquand looks familiar, he also played the holdout French plantation owner in Apocalypse Now Redux. Notably, Kieffer served on the film as a technical adviser just before he died.

Last week, on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, a monument to Kieffer and his 177 commandos was unveiled on Sword Beach, with Commando Kieffer frogmen and past veterans in attendance. A piece of salvaged steel plate from Courbet is incorporated into the display.

Specs:

Courbet class, 1914 Jane’s

Displacement:
23,475 t (23,104 long tons) (normal)
25,579 t (25,175 long tons) (full load)
Length: 544 ft 7 in (o/a)
Beam: 88 ft 7 in
Draught: 29 ft 8 in
Machinery (1913)
24 Niclausse coal-fired boilers with Bellville oil spray systems
4 shafts; 4 × Parsons direct drive steam turbine sets
28,000 PS (20,594 kW; 27,617 shp)
2,700 tons coal/1,000 tons oil.
Range of 8,400nm at 10 knots
Machinery (1934)
16 oil-fired boilers
4 shafts; 4 × Geared steam turbine sets
43,000 PS
Speed: 21 knots (designed) only 20.74 on trials in 1913. 16 knots by 1940
Complement: 1,115 (1,187 as flagship)
Armor:
Waterline belt: 140–250 mm (5.5–9.8 in)
Deck: 40–70 mm (1.6–2.8 in)
Turrets: 250 mm (9.8 in)
Conning tower: 266 mm (10.5 in)
Armament: (1913)
6 × twin 305 mm (12 in) 45 cal guns
22 × single 138 mm (5.4 in) 45 guns
4 × single 47 mm (1.9 in) M1902 3-pdr AAA guns
4 × 450 mm (17.7 in) Model 1909 submerged torpedo tubes with 12 torpedoes
30 Blockade mines
Armament: (1940)
6 × twin 305 mm (12 in) 45 cal guns
14 × single 138 mm (5.4 in) 45 guns
8 x 75mm/50cal M1922 AAA guns
14 x 13.2mm machine guns

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Vive la France

Battleship Richelieu seen from USS Saratoga (CV-3), during operations with the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean, 1944

Cette photographie est protégée par un copyright, merci d’en signer l’origine par la mention : © Photo Marius BAR – Toulon (France) site internet : http://www.mariusbarnumerique.fr voir rubrique Boutique -> Navires/Warships

As a salute to France. Here we see the battleship, Richelieu, as viewed from USS Saratoga (CV-3), during operations with the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean, 1944, her tricolor proud in the wind. The 150,000shp powerplant on these ships was the most powerful ever installed on a dreadnought up to that time and would only be surpassed by the 212,000shp units of the Iowa-class fast battleships. During Trials, Richelieu was able to maintain a speed of 30 knots at a displacement of 43,100 long tons at 155,000shp. When forcing the engines to 179,000shp, Richelieu was able to steam at 32.68 knots.

(Photo: US National Naval Aviation Museum: 1977.031.085.011)

Warship Wednesday April 15, 2015: Big Jean and the Boston Brawler

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday April 15, 2015: Big Jean

Here we see the Richelieu-class battleship of the French Republic’s Marine Nationale Jean Bart racing forward on speed trials in 1949. Her distinctive all-forward main battery of eight 15-inch guns in twin quad turrets is very apparent.

France rather tried to distance themselves from the modern dreadnought game after the end of World War 1, figuring that with the destruction of the Austrian battleships in the Med, and the Kaiser’s battleships at Scapa Flow in 1920; all was well in the world. Then came Hitler and his rebuilding of the German Navy to include the Deutschland class pocket battleships while Mussolini came to power in Italy and the new fascist government there building their very modern 40,000-ton Littorio-class battleships. As an answer to the first, the Republic ordered two 25,000-ton Dunkerque-class battleships in the early 1930s and as an answer to the latter (as well as the pair of German 38,000-ton Scharnhorst-class battleships laid down in 1935), the French ordered a quartet of massive new warships– the Richelieu‘s.

Class leader Richelieu

Class leader Richelieu in a beautiful color portrait. Click to big up

With a standard displacement of 35,000-tons to comply with the Washington and London Naval treaties (although this would balloon to nearly 50,000 when fully loaded), these 813-foot long beasts were among the largest battleships ever built and remain the largest French warships ever to put to sea. Even today, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91), flagship of the French Navy and largest European warship afloat, only maxes out at 42,000-tons.

Unlike many battlewagons before them, these were fast battleships, capable of breaking 30-knots if needed due to a quartet of Parsons geared turbines that generated more than 150,000 shp. With long legs, these ships were capable of a 10,000-mile cruise at 16-knots, enabling them to travel to far off Pacific territories such as Indochina if needed (more on this later).

Designed to be able to take German 28 cm/54.5 (11 inch) SK C/34 fire as well as that from Italian 381 mm (15.0 in) L/50 guns, these leviathans were girded in as much as 17-inches of armor plate and mounted eight 15-inch 380mm/45 Modèle 1935 guns, the largest caliber naval gun ever fielded in French service. They could fire a 1950-pound diving shell to a range of 45,600 yds. A secondary armament of 9x152mm guns in three triple turrets over the stern could handle light work.

Those are pretty impressive turrets

Those are pretty impressive turrets

Laid down at Chantiers de Penhoët, Saint-Nazaire on 12 December 1936, the second ship of the Richelieu-class was named Jean Bart after a notorious pirate privateer and naval commander.

This Flemish swashbuckler from Dunkirk, who spelled his name “Jan Baert,” was much man, at over 6 ft. 8” and topping some 400-pounds. This size didn’t stop big Jan/Jean, who cut his teeth in the Dutch Navy, from capturing an amazing 386 ships as a privateer during the late 17th Century and rising to the rank of full Admiral in the French Navy. A rather incorrect svelte statue stands to him in Dunkirk today and no less than 27 ships of the French Navy have carried his moniker, including their last completed battleship.

The French corsair

The French corsair

When World War II came, class leader Richelieu was nearing completion at Brest while Jean Bart was still a bit further way. Only 75 percent complete and mounting just half of her big guns, she took to the sea on June 19, 1940 as Metropolitan France was surrendering to the Germans, and made a break for the French North African port of Casablanca.

The third and fourth members of the class, Clemenceau and Gascogne were not far enough along in their construction to even be considered ships (and were never completed).

How she looked in 1940 via http://www.shipbucket.com/images.php?dir=Real%20Designs/France/BB%20Jean%20Bart%201940-2.png click to very much big up

How she looked in 1940 via shipbucket click to very much big up

Jean sat at Casablanca during the awkward Vichy French years, spending the next 29 months of the war languishing as there were no construction facilities to complete her and most of her smaller caliber guns were landed ashore to set up coast defense and AAA batteries in the city and harbor.

A view of Jean Bart’s forecastle in Casablanca Harbor, prior to the Allied invasion. Note the incomplete Turret II; despite its armored top not being installed, the structure is sealed. The French concreted over the otherwise-hollow structure to protect the ship against aerial bombs while she lay in harbor awaiting completion. Submarines are moored off to the left along the jetty, and what looks like a light cruiser is to the right with about half the ship out of the frame.

The French battleship Jean Bart, photographed by USN Photographers Mate Third Class Bill Wade from an airplane of the USS Ranger, Nov 8 1942

The French battleship Jean Bart, photographed by USN Photographers Mate Third Class Bill Wade from an airplane of the USS Ranger, Nov 8 1942

Then, on Nov 8, 1942, the Allied Torch landings occurred and Jean Bart defended her colonial harbor from dockside from the 16-inch guns of the new SoDak-class battleship USS Massachusetts (BB-59) and the Dauntless dive bombers and Avenger torpedo planes of the carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) over the next three days she fired 25 shells from her one operational 15-inch turret which narrowly missed the Mass and the cruiser Augusta.

Nevertheless, with the Bart stationary, incomplete and by far outnumbered, the battle was a forgone conclusion. At least seven 16-inch shells (fired from Massachusetts from a range of over 24,000 yards) and a number of bombs hit her, sinking in with her decks awash.

A cartoon from the BB-59's cruise book recounting how close the Jean Bart's shells came to wrecking her day. USN photo courtesy of James E. Hesson, plank-owner of the Massachusetts (BB-59). Photo submitted in his memory by his son, Joe Hesson. Via Navsource

A cartoon from the BB-59’s cruise book recounting how close the Jean Bart’s shells came to wrecking her day. USN photo courtesy of James E. Hesson, plank-owner of the Massachusetts (BB-59). Photo submitted in his memory by his son, Joe Hesson. Via Navsource

It was the only time that U.S. and French battleships fought in the steel era and she gave a good account of herself for all of her handicaps.

Jean Bart French battleship at Casablanca 1942 via All Hands 1943

bomba de 454Kg en el Jean Bart, en Casablanca

The affect of a 1,000lb bomb from Ranger’s SBDs

She spent the rest of the war as a hulk in Casablanca and her four 380 mm guns were salvaged and sent to New York where they were emplaced on Richelieu who had went over to the Free French Navy and was being refitted there.

re floated at Casablanca

re floated at Casablanca

That sistership put Bart’s guns to good use in both the European and Pacific Theaters of operation as well as in French Indochina.

Battleship Richelieu arriving in New York for refit. The fire control director on the fore tower had to be dismantled for her to pass under the Brooklyn Bridge. Note damaged turret

Battleship Richelieu arriving in New York for refit. The fire control director on the fore tower had to be dismantled for her to pass under the Brooklyn Bridge. Note damaged turret

French battleship Richelieu at sea, September 1943 after her refit in New York. Half her main guns in this image came from Jean Bart and had fired at Casablanca. Click to big up

French battleship Richelieu at sea, September 1943 after her refit in New York. Half her main guns in this image came from Jean Bart and had fired at Casablanca. Click to big up

Finally, four months after Hitler ate a bullet, big Jean was sent back to France and work began to complete her at Cherbourg.

Incomplete French battleship Jean Bart sailing from Casablanca to Cherbourg for repairs in 1945

Incomplete French battleship Jean Bart sailing from Casablanca to Cherbourg for repairs in 1945

How she looked in 1945 with wartime repairs and no armament fitted via Ship Bucket http://www.shipbucket.com/images.php?dir=Real%20Designs/France/BB%20Jean%20Bart%201945.png click to very much big up

How she looked in 1945 with wartime repairs and no armament fitted via Ship Bucket  click to very much big up

Commissioned on 16 January 1949, she made 32-knots on her speed trials and was finally ready for sea duty– and for the first time was fully armed.

Getting her new 380mm Model 35s installed, 1948. As far as I can tell, these were the last battleship guns ever installed in a new battleship (barring the 1950s re-barreling of the Iowa class in the U.S.)

Getting her new 380mm Model 35s installed, 1948. As far as I can tell, these were the last battleship guns ever installed in a new battleship (barring the 1950s re-barreling of the Iowa class in the U.S.)

1948 off St. Nazaire, France

In the early 1950s, she sailed on a number of good will trips around Europe and to New York but was never fully manned; only carrying half-crews due to postwar funding shortfalls. She was more of a heavily armed and armored cruise ship and flag-waver than an active ship of the line.

Jean Bart alongside cruisers Suffren and Montcalm, 1950s

Jean Bart alongside cruisers Suffren and Montcalm, 1950s

click to big up

click to big up

03

In the Suez Crisis of 1956, she sailed with the joint Anglo-French fleet with an augmented near-full sized crew and provided some brief naval gunfire support, firing her big 15-inchers in anger once more.

Jean Bart in true color, anchored at Toulon during the late 1950s after her brief participation in the Suez Crisis and the termination of her short service life

As a sad note, on the afternoon of 30 January 1956, she was briefly reunited with her old classmate Richelieu while at sea, the one and only time the two French ships maneuvered together underway.

Click to big up

Click to big up

Battleship Jean Bart in Harbour of Toulon 1968

Battleship Jean Bart in Harbor of Toulon 1968

Placed in reserve in 1957 after just an eight-year career, she was decommissioned soon afterwards. Cantieri Navali Santa Maria of Genoa scrapped Richelieu in September 1968 while Jean Bart, the last European battleship afloat, was scrapped 24 June 1970 at Brégaillon near Toulon.

Today, at least six of Richelieu/Jean Bart‘s guns are maintained as museum pieces around France. However, you can visit the USS Massachusetts, the winner of the Great Casablanca Battlewagon Duel, at Falls River where she has been on display since the 1965.

Battleship_Massachusetts,_2012 (Photo via Wiki)

Battleship_Massachusetts,_2012 (Photo via Wiki)

Specs

Jean Bart in her final form 1955 via Shipbucket http://www.shipbucket.com/images.php?dir=Real%20Designs/France/BB%20Jean%20Bart%201955.png click to very much big up

Jean Bart in her final form 1955 via Shipbucket click to very much big up

Displacement: 35,000 tons standard as designed, 48,950 t at full load, in 1949
Length: 813 feet
Beam: 114 feet
Draught: 33 feet
Propulsion: four Parsons geared turbines, six Indret boilers. 150,000 hp (112 MW)
Speed: 32 knots at trials, 20 designed
Range: 9800 nautical miles at 16 knots, 7671 nautical miles at 20 knots; 3181 nautical miles at 30 knots
Complement: 1620 designed, 911 men in 1950 (incomplete), 1,280 men during the Suez affair
Armament:
As Designed:
8 × 380mm (15 inch)/45 Modèle 1935 guns in quadruple mounts at bow
9 × 152 mm (6 inch) secondary (3 × 3 mounted aft)
12 × 100 mm (3.9 inch) Anti-Aircraft guns (6 × 2)
As completed 1949
8 × 380mm/45 Modèle 1935 guns in quadruple mounts at bow
9 × 152 mm AA in 3 triple turrets at the aft till 1952–53
8 × 40 mm AA
20 × 20 mm AA
From 1953–54
Two 15-inch turrets fitted, only one operational
24 × 100 mm in 12 twin mountings CAD Model 1945
28 × 57 mm in 14 twin mountings ACAD Model 1950
Armor: Belt: 330 mm
Upper armored deck: 150–170 mm
Lower armored deck: 40 mm
Aircraft: Designed for four seaplanes, never fitted.

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