French battleship Jean Bart (1911)
Background and description
By 1909, the French Navy was 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, to be built 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
23,475 tonnes (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 of 4,200 nautical miles
(7,800 km; 4,800 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).
Construction and career
Jean Bart in 1913
was ordered on 11 August 1910
and named after the privateer Jean Bart
She was laid down
on 15 November 1910 at the Arsenal de Brest
on 22 September 1911. The ship was completed on 2 September 1913 at a cost of F
60,200,000 and visited Dunkerque
, the birthplace of her namesake on 18 September. She was commissioned
into the fleet on 19 November together with her sister Courbet
. They were assigned to the 1st Battle Division
(1ère Division de ligne
) of the 1st Battle Squadron (1ère Escadre de ligne
) of the 1st Naval Army
(1ère Armée Navale
), at Toulon
in mid-November. Jean Bart
steamed to Brest
on 24 June 1914 to rendezvous with her sister France
, who had not yet finished her trials. Raymond Poincaré
, President of the French Republic
, boarded France
on 16 July for a state visit to Saint Petersburg
. After encountering the battlecruisers
of the German I Scouting Group
in the Baltic Sea en route
, the ships arrived at Kronstadt
on 20 July. They 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
and the ships arrived at Dunkerque on 29 July.
World War I
When France declared war on Germany on 2 August, the sisters were in Brest and departed for Toulon that night. They were met off Valencia
, Spain, on the 6th by 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.
When France followed with a declaration of war on Austria-Hungary on 12 August, Vice-Admiral
) Augustin Boué de Lapeyrère, now commander of the Allied naval forces in the Mediterranean
, decided on a sortie
into the Adriatic intended to force the Austro-Hungarian fleet to give battle. After rendezvousing with a small British force on the 15th, he ordered his forces to split with the battleships headed for Otranto
, while the armoured cruisers
patrolled off the Albanian
coast. Before the two groups got very far apart, several Austro-Hungarian ships were spotted on 16 August and the Allied fleet was successful in cutting off and sinking the protected cruiser Zenta off Antivari
, although the torpedo boat SMS Ulan
managed to escape. The following day, Boué de Lapeyrère transferred his flag to Jean Bart
. On 1 September the 1st Naval Army briefly bombarded Austro-Hungarian coastal fortifications defending the Bay of Cattaro
to discharge the unfired shells remaining in the guns after sinking Zenta
. Boué de Lapeyrère transferred his flag to Jean Bart'
s newly arrived sister Paris
on 11 September. Aside from several uneventful sorties into the Adriatic, the French capital ships
spent most of their time cruising between the Greek and Italian coasts
to prevent the Austro-Hungarian fleet from attempting to break out of the Adriatic.
Patriotic postcard featuring Jean Bart posted from Malta (1915)
was torpedoed on 21 December by the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-12
off Sazan Island
. A single torpedo struck her in the wine store
in the bow
, blowing a hole through the compartment. The ship took on 400 tonnes (390 long tons) of water, but was able to reach the Greek island of Cephalonia
where temporary repairs were made. She was able to steam to Malta on her own for permanent repairs that lasted from 26 December to 3 April 1915. This attack highlighted the danger of submarine attacks in the restricted waters of the Strait and forced the battleships south to patrol in the Ionian Sea
. 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 or Bizerte
, French Tunisia
, to cover the Otranto Barrage. At some point during the year, Jean Bart'
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. 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 Naval Army was reorganised with Jean Bart
assigned to the 2nd Battle Division of the 1st Battle Squadron.
Jean Bart 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, Jean Bart
was 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, her war-weary crew briefly mutinied
on 19 April, inspired by socialist and revolutionary sympathisers
. Jean Bart'
s captain was able to restore order aboard his ship the following day and mustered a landing party to patrol the city. France'
s crew was still mutinous, so Vice-Admiral Jean-Françoise-Charles Amet
, commander of the ships in the Black Sea, hoped to reduce tensions by meeting the mutineers' demands for leave by 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 Jean Bart'
s landing party, 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. Three crewmen were sentenced to prison terms upon her return, although the sentences were commuted in 1922 as part of a bargain between Prime Minister
Raymond Poincaré and the parties of the left.
The ship returned to Toulon by 1 July and was placed in reserve. 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 Courbet
s 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. Vice-Admiral Charles Charlier
commanded both the 1st Division and the Western Mediterranean Squadron at this time. The two squadrons were combined into the Mediterranean Squadron (Escadre de la Méditerranée
) on 20 July 1921. In June 1923, the 1st Battle Division, including Jean Bart
, was cruising off the coast of North Africa when Courbet
had a boiler-room
received the first of her two refits between 12 October 1923 and 29 January 1925. This included replacing one set of four boilers with oil-fired du Temple boilers
and trunking together her two forward funnels
. The maximum elevation of the main armament was increased from 12° to 23° which increased their maximum range to 26,000 metres (28,000 yd). Her existing AA guns were replaced with four 75 mm Modèle 1918
AA guns and 1.5-metre (4 ft 11 in) and 1-metre (3 ft 3 in) stereoscopic rangefinders
were installed for the AA guns. A new tripod foremast
with a fire-control position
at its top was fitted and her bow armour was removed to make her more seaworthy. Barr & Stroud
2-metre (6 ft 7 in) FT coincidence rangefinders
were installed for the 14 cm guns in October 1925.
In mid-1925, the ship participated in manoeuvres in the Atlantic Ocean with Courbet
and then made port visits to Saint-Malo
and numerous ports along the Atlantic coast of France before returning to Toulon on 12 August. Jean Bart
was briefly refitted between 12 August and 1 September 1927 and was then decommissioned on 15 August 1928 in preparation for her extensive modernisation that began on 7 August 1929. This was much more extensive than her earlier refit as all her boilers were replaced or overhauled
and six of her original coal-fired boilers were replaced by oil-fired du Temple boilers. Jean Bart'
s fire-control systems were comprehensively upgraded with the installation of a Saint-Chamond-Granat system in a director-control tower
(DCT) on the top of the tripod mast and all her original rangefinders were replaced with the exception of the Barr & Stroud FT rangefinders in the main-gun turrets. The DCT was fitted with a Barr & Stroud 4.57-metre (15 ft) Modèle 1912 coincidence rangefinder and a Zeiss
3-metre (9 ft 10 in) stereoscopic rangefinder was added to the DCT to measure the distance between the target and shell splashes. Additional 4.57-metre Mle 1912 rangefinders were added in a duplex mounting atop the conning tower and another at the base of the mainmast
. A traversable Zeiss 8.2-metre (26 ft 11 in) rangefinder was fitted to the roof of the forward superfiring turret in lieu of its FT model rangefinder and FTs were installed in the new gunnery directors for the secondary armament. The ship's Mle 1918 AA guns were exchanged for seven Canon de 75 mm Modèle 1922
guns and they were provided with a pair of high-angle OPL
Modèle 1926 3-metre (9 ft 10 in) stereoscopic rangefinders, one on top of the duplex unit on the roof of the conning tower and one in the aft superstructure.
The modernisation was completed on 29 September 1931 and Jean Bart
recommissioned on 1 October as the flagship of the 2nd Battle Division commanded by Rear Admiral
) Hervé. Her machinery trials lasted until 13 February 1932 and she then made port visits to Bizerte, Crete
, French Lebanon
, Corfu, and Greece
in April and May. Rear Admiral Jean-Pierre Esteva
relieved Hervé on 1 August and the ship was refitted from 10 October to 24 November in Toulon after which she spent five days in Ajaccio
. Jean Bart
exercised with the Mediterranean Squadron in the first half of 1933 and made port visits in French North Africa, Majorca
, French Morocco
After a collision on 6 August with the destroyer Le Fortuné
in Toulon harbour that damaged the latter's stern,
the battleship was under repair from 8 to 15 August. From 20 April to 29 June 1934, the Mediterranean Squadron conducted its usual manoeuvres and port visits. The 2nd Battle Division was disbanded on 1 August and Jean Bart
briefly served as the squadron flagship. The ship was assigned to the Training Division on 1 November and served as a school for stokers
. She made her last sea voyage on 15 June 1935.
Océan in Toulon, circa 1939
Her condition was poor enough by that time that she was not thought to be worth the expense of a third refit similar to those her sisters received.Jean Bart
and disarmed in Toulon beginning on 15 August for service as an accommodation ship for the naval schools in Toulon. She was renamed Océan
on 1 January 1937 to free her name for use by the new Richelieu-class
battleship Jean Bart
then under construction. The ship was captured intact by the Germans on 27 November 1942 when they occupied Vichy France
The Germans used her for experiments in late 1943 with shaped-charge warheads
intended to be delivered by Mistel composite aircraft
. The 8,000-pound (3,600 kg) warhead was positioned in front of the main-gun turrets, the closest one of which had its armour reinforced by an additional 100-millimetre (3.9 in) plate. The high-velocity jet formed by the shaped charge penetrated through the additional armour, the 300-millimetre (11.8 in) turret-face armour, the 360-millimetre rear armour and the front and rear of the aft turret, and into the superstructure to a total depth of 28 metres (92 ft).
She was sunk by Allied
aircraft in 1944
and later raised for scrapping, which began on 14 December 1945.
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 139–140
- ^ Dumas, p. 223
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, p. 143
- ^ a b c Whitley, p. 36
- ^ Dumas, p. 224
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 143, 150, 156–158
- ^ Jordan & Caresse, p. 142
- ^ Silverstone, p. 101
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- ^ Jordan & Caresse, pp. 244, 254
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- ^ Halpern, p. 19
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- ^ a b Jordan & Caresse, p. 277
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- ^ Dumas, p. 231
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Last edited on 20 February 2021, at 00:37
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