Background and description
By 1909, the French Navy was finally convinced of the superiority of the all-big-gun
battleship like HMS Dreadnought
over the mixed-calibre designs like the Danton class
which had preceded the Courbet
s. The following year, the new Minister of the Navy
, Augustin Boué de Lapeyrère
, selected a design that was comparable to the foreign dreadnoughts then under construction as part of the 1906 Naval Programme.
The ships were 166 metres (544 ft 7 in) long overall
and had a beam
of 27 metres (88 ft 7 in) and a mean draught
of 9.04 metres (29 ft 8 in). They displaced
(23,104 long tons
) at normal load and 25,579 tonnes (25,175 long tons) at deep load
. Their crew numbered 1,115 men as a private ship
and increased to 1,187 when serving as a flagship. The ships were powered by two licence-builtParsons steam turbine
sets, each driving two propeller shafts using steam provided by 24 Belleville boilers
These boilers were coal-burning with auxiliary oil sprayers and were designed to produce 28,000 metric horsepower
; 27,617 shp
The ships had a designed speed of 21 knots
(39 km/h; 24 mph). The Courbet
-class ships carried enough coal and fuel oil
to give them a range 4,200 nautical miles
(7,800 km; 4,800 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).
, the seventh ship of her name to serve in the French Navy,
was ordered on 1 August 1911 from Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire
. The ship was laid down
on 30 November at its shipyard
on 7 November 1912.
She was formally declared completed on 1 July 1914 to carry President Raymond Poincaré
, on a state visit to Saint Petersburg
, Russia. He boarded the ship on 16 July. Escorted by Jean Bart
arrived at Kronstadt
on 20 July after encountering the battlecruisers
of the German I Scouting Group
in the Baltic Sea
en route. The French ships made a port visit to Stockholm
, on 25–26 July, but a planned visit to Copenhagen
, was cancelled due to rising tensions between Austria-Hungary
; they arrived at Dunkerque
on 29 July.
World War I
When France declared war on Germany on 3 August, the sisters were in Brest
and departed for Toulon
that night. They were met off Valencia
, Spain, on the 6th by their sister Courbet
and the semi-dreadnoughts Condorcet
because Jean Bart
was having problems with her 305 mm ammunition and France
had yet to load any. The ships rendezvoused with a troop convoy the following day and escorted it to Toulon. France
entered service on 10 October and was assigned to the 2nd Battle Squadron (2ème Escadre de ligne
) of the 1st Naval Army
(1ère Armée Navale
) on 21 October at the mouth of the Adriatic Sea
to prevent the Austro-Hungarian fleet from attempting to break out of the Adriatic.
The torpedoing of Jean Bart
on 21 December by the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-12
showed that the battleships were vulnerable to this threat and they were withdrawn to spend the rest of the month further south at an anchorage in Navarino Bay
France anchored in Toulon during World War I
On 11 January 1915, the French were alerted that the Austro-Hungarian fleet was going to sortie from its base at Pola
, so France
and her sisters Courbet
led the 1st Naval Army north to the Albanian coast. It proved to be a false alarm, and they were back at their moorings
three days later. In the meantime, the ships patrolled the Ionian Sea
as the danger of submarine attacks in the restricted waters of the Strait forced the battleships south. The declaration of war on Austria-Hungary by Italy on 23 May and the Italian decision to assume responsibility for naval operations in the Adriatic, allowed the French Navy to withdraw to either Malta
, French Tunisia
, to cover the Otranto Barrage. A fire broke out aboard France
on 25 July and she was forced to return to Toulon for repairs that lasted until 14 October. Two days later Vice-Admiral
) Louis Dartige du Fournet
assumed command of the 1st Naval Army and hoisted his flag aboard France
, which remained in Malta for the rest of the year. At some point during the year, the ship's 47 mm guns were put on high-angle mountings to allow them to be used as anti-aircraft (AA) guns
. They were later supplemented by a pair of 75 mm (3 in) Mle 1891 G
guns on anti-aircraft mounts.
On 27 April 1916, the French began using the port of Argostoli
on the Greek island of Cephalonia
as a base. Dartige du Fornet transferred his flag to the battleship Provence
on 23 May. Around this time, many men from the battleships' crews were transferred to anti-submarine ships. At the beginning of 1917, the French began to use the Greek island of Corfu
as well, but growing shortages of coal severely limited the battleships' ability to go to sea.
The situation was so bad that Vice-Admiral Gabriel Darrieus
wrote in 1917:
The military capabilities of the Armée Navale
, which has already been badly affected by the shortages of personnel and constant changes in the general staff, need to be maintained by frequent exercises, and although from March to June we were able to follow a normal pattern, the coal crisis is currently preventing any manoeuvres or gunnery training, even for the ships returning from repairs. The big ships have lost 50 per cent of the capability they had several months ago.
In 1918, they were almost immobile, leaving Corfu only for maintenance and repairs. On 1 July, the 1st Naval Army was reorganised with France
assigned to the 1st Battle Division
(1ère Division de ligne
) of the 1st Battle Squadron (1ère Escadre de ligne
France at anchor in Odessa
After the Armistice of Mudros
was signed on 30 October between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire
, the ship participated in the occupation of Constantinople. In early 1919, France
, flagship of Vice-Admiral Jean-Françoise-Charles Amet
, and Jean Bart
were transferred to the Black Sea to reinforce the French forces opposing the Bolsheviks
. A few days after bombarding Bolshevik troops advancing on Sevastopol
on 16 April and forcing them to retreat, France'
s war-weary crew briefly mutinied on 19 April
, inspired by socialist and revolutionary sympathisers. Unlike Jean Bart'
, who had managed to quell the mutiny aboard his ship by the following day, France'
s crew was still mutinous and Amet hoped to reduce tensions by meeting the mutineers' demands for leave and letting crewmen with a history of good behaviour ashore. The sailors mingled with a pro-Bolshevik demonstration and the mixed group was challenged by a company
of Greek infantry
, which opened fire. The demonstrators fled and encountered a landing party from Jean Bart
, which also fired upon them. A total of about 15 people were wounded, included six sailors, one of whom later died of his wounds. Delegates from the other mutinous crews were not allowed aboard and the mutiny collapsed when Amet agreed to meet their main demand to take the ships home. France
was the first to depart on 23 April, but the ship sailed to Bizerte before continuing onwards to Toulon. Twenty-six crewmen were sentenced to prison terms upon her return, although the sentences were commuted in 1922 as part of a bargain between Poincaré, now Prime Minister
, and the parties of the left
On 1 July, all the Courbet
s were assigned to the 1st Division of the 1st Squadron. On 10 February 1920, the 1st Naval Army was disbanded and replaced by the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron (Escadre de la Méditerranée orientale
) and its Western counterpart (Escadre de la Méditerranée occidentale
); all the sisters were assigned to the 1st Battle Squadron of the latter unit, with Courbet
, Jean Bart
in the 1st Battle Division and France
in the 2nd Battle Division, with Rear-Admiral
) Louis-Hippolyte Violette
commanding the latter from France
. The two squadrons were combined into the Mediterranean Squadron (Escadre de la Méditerranée
) on 20 July 1921.
and the battleship Bretagne
hosted the British battleship Queen Elizabeth
and light cruiser Coventry
during a port visit to Villefranche
from 18 February to 1 March 1922. The two French battleships had a gunnery exercise on 28 June using the former Austro-Hungarian battleship Prinz Eugen
as a target and sank her. On 18 July, France
began a cruise visiting French ports in the Bay of Biscay
and English Channel
. On the evening of 25/26 August, France
struck an uncharted rock while entering Quiberon Bay
at 00:57. The after boiler room
flooded quickly and the ship lost all power at 01:10. She had a 5° list
by 02:00 and the order was given to abandon ship. The battleship capsized two hours later after Bretagne
were able to rescue all but three of her crew. Her wreck was slowly broken up in place in 1935, 1952 and 1958.
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 139–140
- ^ a b Gardiner & Gray, p. 197
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, p. 143
- ^ a b Whitley, p. 36
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 143, 150, 156–158
- ^ Roche, Tome 1, pp. 213–214; Tome 2, p. 215
- ^ Dumas, p. 162
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 142, 243–244
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 244, 254, 257
- ^ Halpern, p. 19
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 257–258
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 258, 260, 280, 283
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 260, 274–275, 277
- ^ a b Jordan & Caresse, p. 277
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 285, 288; Masson, pp. 88–92, 96–97, 99
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 288–290
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 289–290
- Dumas, Robert (1985). "The French Dreadnoughts: The 23,500 ton Courbet Class". In John Roberts (ed.). Warship. IX. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 154–164, 223–231. ISBN 978-0-87021-984-9. OCLC 26058427.
- Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-907-8.
- Halpern, Paul G. (2004). The Battle of the Otranto Straits: Controlling the Gateway to the Adriatic in World War I. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34379-6.
- Jordan, John & Caresse, Philippe (2017). French Battleships of World War One. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-639-1.
- Masson, Philippe (2003). "The French Naval Mutinies, 1919". In Bell, Christopher M. & Elleman, Bruce A. (eds.). Naval Mutinies of the Twentieth Century: An International Perspective. Cass Series: Naval Policy and History. 19. London: Frank Cass. ISBN 978-0-7146-5456-0.
- Roche, Jean-Michel (2005). Dictionnaire des bâtiments de la flotte de guerre française de Colbert à nos jours [Dictionary of French Warships from Colbert to Today] (in French). Tome 2: 1871–2006. Toulon: Group Retozel-Maury Millau. OCLC 470444756.
- Whitley, M. J. (1998). Battleships of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-184-4.
Dumas, Robert & Guiglini, Jean (1980). Les cuirassés français de 23,500 tonnes
[The French 23,500-tonne Battleships
] (in French). Grenoble, France: Editions de 4 Seigneurs. OCLC 7836734
Last edited on 5 April 2021, at 23:50
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