French battleship Jean Bart

battleship Jean Bart

battleship Jean Bart

The Jean Bart was a battleship of the French Navy, the second of the Richelieu class. It was the seventh Jean Bart the French Navy, the last predecessor was a battleshipDreadnought” launched in 1911.

Provided identical to Richelieu, it was under construction in Saint-Nazaire, where he escaped at the last moment before the German advance and won Casablanca. Damaged during the fighting in November 1942 that he took part against the Americans, it remained unfinished during the war. After he had abandoned the idea of transforming it into an aircraft carrier, was commissioned in 1955, which in a very similar to that originally planned configuration. This was the last battleship commissioned in the world. After a brief involvement in operations against Egypt during the Suez Canal crisis, it is scrapped in 1970.


The 1920s, in terms of naval armaments, were marked by the Treaty of Washington, which qualitatively limited building battleships to vessels, armed with 406 mm guns at most, and quantitatively has not, in fact, construction, since 1922 until 1936. In the early 1930s, France and Italy had not yet used their right to replace two of their older units, when Germany began construction of the “armored ship” Deutschland, described by the press as “battleship pocket “. The French response took the form of a fast battleship, of and armed with eight pieces in two quadruple turrets forward, the Dunkerque. Its characteristics were well beyond the limits of the Treaty of Washington, at a time when there was much talk of bringing them for the displacement and 305 mm or 280 mm, for the class the main artillery. German Kriegsmarine replied with two buildings, the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, other examples of fast battleships, well protected but pertaining only guns.

In May 1934, the Duce Benito Mussolini announced the Italian decision to build two battleships, armed with guns. In an emergency, the French Admiralty had to solve to build a second unit of the Dunkerque class, Strasbourg, while initiating studies for a battleship French: it will Richelieu, set down in October 1935. But in the wake of the signing, the German-British naval agreement which allowed the Third Reich to develop a navy equal to 35% of the Royal Navy, was announced the construction of a battleship German also showing a shift, and armed with eight 380 mm guns.

In early 1936, the second London Naval Conference having turned to confusion, before the Japanese and Italian refusal to continue the policy of limiting naval armaments, France decided on the construction of a second unit of the class Richelieu, the Jean Bart.

This should be an exact replica of Richelieu. The hull dimensions are identical (length: 248 m, maximum width: 33 m draft: 9.6 m). The layout of the main battery is the same: two quadruple turrets front. For secondary artillery triple 152 mm turrets, when it was decided to remove the two side turrets amidships on the Richelieu, they were also not installed on the Jean Bart. Protection is the same (330 mm of belt reinforced, upper 150 to 170 mm armored deck, lower deck 40 mm shielded, armored front of main battery turrets 430 mm, bunker: 340 mm), the machinery also six “supercharged” boilers built under license by Chantiers de Penhoët and Workshops and Chantiers de la Loire, and four Parsons turbines.


The “escape” of Saint-Nazaire

Construction began in December 1936 at the Chantiers de Penhoët and Workshops and Chantiers de la Loire to Penhoët. When war broke out, the Jean Bart was still down in the form “Caquot”, named after its designer, which would later be called “form Jean Bart.” To avoid the risks of a launch and prolonged immobilization of a dry dock, the battleship was assembled on an embankment, attached to a dry dock, the whole being surrounded by a wall. The median was flooded and lateral movement placed the Jean Bart in the dry dock. The final output was then scheduled.

From the beginning of the Battle of France, the Admiralty was concerned with putting the vessel out of the reach of the Luftwaffe. On 18 May, Captain Ronarc’h is seriously worried about the future of the building: “The sleepless night I went from 17 to 18 May in my memory leaves an indelible mark,” declare-t there. Before the German advance, the construction was accelerated from 22 May to 19 June, the arsenal workers worked the assembly of boilers, the engine and transmission unit. Within a month the boilers, the prime mover, two groups turbodynamos the necessary internal transmissions, two pumps to spread any waterways, and some of the weapons were gone. Both propellers were put in place on 6 and 7 June. 11, three boilers were installed and lit three days later. Closing double bottoms took place on 17 and installation of the pumps 18. Lack of time prevented to make real tests.

The trench that was to cross the Jean Bart plateau which extended south of the dry dock was completed in a hurry. The dredging depth should reach 9 meters by 70 meters wide, it forced to wait the great tide of June 18 to 22 to leave the building, or to postpone the operation to July 3.

The main armament is limited to the front turret foregone mounting the shell of the two turret, two guns only arrived in Saint-Nazaire. It succeeded only in a boarding on a freighter, Principal Engineer Lestin, who, en route to Casablanca, will be sunk by the Germans in the Bay of Biscay. The side pieces are limited to four double carriages 13.2 mm, complemented by two double carriages 90 mm, supplied and installed the 15 18 and two double carriages and two quadruple 37 mm 13.2 mm mounted carriages barely a few hours before sailing.

The widening of the channel output has been slowed because of a rocky plateau, which was forced to settle for a strip of 50 meters and a depth of 8.50 meters, while the draft of the Jean Bart was 8.10 meters.

June 18 morning, the Germans arrived in Rennes, the commander ordered Casablanca rally, not the Clyde, as originally planned, or scuttle the building: the start was set for the night Next. Five tugs were expected to participate in the operation. During the day, a suspected German motorized column was reported on the road to Nantes. Four blockhouses defended access sites. The Jean Bart had itself means of self-defense, but teams sabotage, armed with torches and masses took place at key points in the ship. At 13 hours, the crew was set to battle stations, and 15 hours the team before the tower observed the progress of the column, 600 meters long. At 17 hours, the vehicles have been identified as British.

At night maneuvers equipment began. An incident off boilers and turbodynamos stopped, leaving the Jean Bart energy and light. At 3 h 30 nevertheless tugs began their work and turned the building 20 degrees to the right and put it in the axis of the dry dock before engaging in the channel. In the trench, small buoys were barely visible and the Jean Bart ran aground on the left front, while the rear rested on the west bank. After three quarters of an hour of effort, the tugs were able to free the vessel, which eventually reached the channel of the Loire in the early hours of the morning.

At 4 h 40, three German bombers appeared on starboard, altitude. Bomb exploded between the two towers of 380, without causing significant damage – a hole of 20 centimeters and a few walls blown. French hunters intervened, first mistaken for German aircraft and greeted by flak. At 6 h 30, the Jean Bart was joined by two escort destroyers, Hardi and Mameluke, and 11 hours, it is docked at the Tarn oil to supply water and oil. At 18 hours after declining the proposal of British ships to escort him to England, the battleship sailed to Casablanca. After further incidents and technical prowess, such as editing, en route to the sea, a gyro, the Jean Bart manages to spin 24 knots and arrived in the large Moroccan port 22 to 17h.

In Morocco, means totally lacking to pursue completion. Its antiaircraft artillery landed, initially for carriages 90 mm ​​and 37 mm, to strengthen the Defense Against Aircraft port. However for its unique turret rise, it is possible to get to state, with a line of fire “geodesic” by coordinating with coastal stations Abderhamane and Dar Sidi-bou-Azza, which the Battleship is connected by radio and telephone. The six shots of “test” regulations are taken in May 1942. The battleship put into service in October, the device of “electro-magnetic detection,” French ancestor of the radar. It is retrofitted in antiaircraft artillery: in November, his Defense Against Aircraft consists of five double carriages 90 mm, two double carriages 37 mm Model 1933, a simple look of 37 mm Model 1925, four carriages quadruple Hotchkiss 13.2 mm, fourteen Browning machine guns of 13.2 mm and 8 mm Hotchkiss machine gun.

In Casablanca, 8-11 November 1942

During the Allied landings in North Africa, the Jean Bart opened fire on U.S. naval forces that provide coverage to Casablanca. It was bombed by aircraft and repeatedly touched by the battleship USS Massachusetts, a shell which will block the main artillery turret. He received a total of seven shots at 406 mm. A shell exploded in the shop of a 152 mm turret, it would have dramatic consequences if the store had been empty, the turret is not installed. This lack of protection of the Richelieu class was known, it was decided to remedy the fourth unit built, Gascony.

Two days later summarily repaired, he starts his shots with the turret 380 mm and supervises the heavy cruiser USS Augusta, flagship of Task Force 34. It then undergoes an aerial attack by dive bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Ranger, and receives two heavy bombs, which severely damaging: it rests on the bottom, failed the rear.

On 18 November, his commanding officer, Captain Barthes, is promoted against Admiral.


The Jean Bart helped first, in February-March 1943 in the redesign of Richelieu, who left Dakar to join Arsenal Brooklyn four guns its main guns, installed in 1940, are removed to replace damaged parts of Richelieu, the U.S. war industry, which must ensure the overhaul can not build all modern American battleships with a main artillery of 406 mm. It began at the same time enable him to sail again, hoping to go to the United States, to be completed. Contact was established from April Fenard between Admiral Chief of Naval Mission to the representation of Fighting France to the United States, and Admiral Horne, Director of Naval Construction. But this one, from the month of May, appeared very reluctant to take over its completion, given the standardization techniques used in shipbuilding, and apply them to a completely different ship sets built in the United States.

In August, while the battleship was ready to perform testing machines at sea, the U.S. refusal was confirmed. At the instigation of Captain Looney, then leader of the Third Bureau of the General Staff of the Navy in Algiers, he was “battleship aircraft carrier” proposed to complete the Jean Bart hybrid building. He was armed with four guns, taken from the old battleship Lorraine, who had spent three years in Alexandria, and five twin turrets 127 mm, standard equipment secondary artillery American battleships and cruisers, not to mention number of Bofors 40 mm and d ‘Oerlikon 20 mm and it would have been with aviation facilities embedded on the rear deck, to implement six aircraft Fairey Barracuda and Grumman Avenger for the bombing, or Seafire Hellcat for hunting: new U.S. refusal. It will be noted that at about the same time, the Japanese Imperial Navy has transformed two battleships and Hyūga in “semi-carrier” board designed for 22 aircraft.

In December, a new proposal, cheaper and easier to implement, to make a Jean Bart “antiaircraft battleship” with the same artillery 340 mm, without aviation facilities, but 17 double turrets 127 mm. For the record, it should be recalled that U.S. battleships, the North Carolina class at Iowa class generally had ten twin turrets of 127 mm. Reach to the level of Admiral King, Chief of the U.S. Navy of Staff, the proposal still faces an end of inadmissibility, confirmed in March 1944 by the Committee of Heads of Staff.

The Jean Bart, therefore, remained in Casablanca, and joined the city, to enter refit at Cherbourg, only dry dock in state, waiting to reach Brest, whose arsenal is in ruins.

The question of the completion of the Jean Bart will be resumed at the French level and will be discussed during the year 1945 in the Superior Council of the Navy (CSM). There is certainly agreement on the principle of completion, but how? “As Richelieu”? Or aircraft carrier? At a meeting of the CSM in February, we chose the solution “as Richelieu.” In July, Admiral Looney, meanwhile became Deputy Chief of Navy Staff, warmly advocated the transformation into an aircraft carrier, without taking the membership of the Supreme Council. Admiral Fenard had worn two years earlier, the completion of projects with the help of the U.S. Navy, returned to the charge, and Minister Louis Jacquinot asked the High Council finally decide. During the meeting of September 21, the General Engineer Kahn, Director of Shipbuilding, who designed pre-war plans of the aircraft carrier Joffre, came to present the various options, including a transformation project in aircraft carrier, shipping fifty aircraft at a cost of 5 billion francs, within a period of 5 years. This project is severely criticized by those who advocate the transformation aircraft carrier, not enough onboard aircraft, completion times are excessive, the advertised cost is overstated, in short it is a “caricature” but also by supporters of the “integral” battleship, it’s a waste of money compared to the expenses already incurred, it would be cheaper to build an aircraft carrier from scratch. In short, the Supreme Council opted for the completion of the battleship Jean Bart, the Navy wants a second Richelieu whose DCA would be much more powerful. The cons-Admiral Looney concluded: “It was quite surprising to see in 1945 the General Staff of the Navy support, by doctrine, the solution of the full battleship. This fact, which has dominated the discussion of 21 September 1945 shows how, despite the lessons of the war, the outdated myth of big gun continues to dominate our naval doctrine.”

Completion work began in Brest, in March 1946. They move slowly, due to financial contingencies of time, but also because during this time the arsenal is under reconstruction. The Jean Bart emerges with a different shape, more compact, before the tower no longer has one telepointer. A bulge is added to the hull, bringing the maximum width of 33 m to 35.5 m. This was both to improve the anti-submarine protection, but also to limit the increase of draft under increasing displacement (it has now reached an average displacement) linked to the planned installation of 12 double turrets 100 mm anti-aircraft and 14 pseudo-double of 57 mm anti-aircraft turrets, Bofors under license. Beginning in 1949, he conducted the test firing of the artillery of 380 mm and 152 mm in the vicinity of the island de Croix, and speed trials on the basis of Glénans, reaching 32 knots, developing pushed to fire. The final weapon is the pronounced and in 1950, the Jean Bart, who left Brest to Toulon, maneuver with Wing in the Mediterranean. Admiral, Commander Wing are temporarily transferred its brand. But the battleship is not complete: the antiaircraft artillery is still composed of Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm and radar equipment French manufacturing is first generation. But in 1951, a part of the main artillery was placed in “self”. Antiaircraft turrets 100 mm Model 1945 was not implemented until 1952, and the fire control groups of 100 mm and 14 double AA turrets 57 mm Model 1948 in Bofors license in 1953.

Postwar Service (1955-1970)

Admission to active duty has been imposed. In May 1955, he took the President of the Republic on an official visit to Denmark, then went to Oslo. In July, he represented France in commemoration of the 175 anniversary of the landing at Newport French troops commanded by the Comte de Rochambeau, during the War of Independence of the United States. In October, he left Brest to Toulon, to integrate the South School Group (GHG), and will replace the Richelieu. The admiral commanding the GHG are transferred its brand. He sailed a few hours, for the only time in his career, with the Richelieu before it is permanently joined Brest. In the spring, he sailed with the Wing under the command of Vice Admiral Looney, and he took in June to host the King of the Hellenes, Paul I, an official visit to France.

In July 1956, when tensions rise after the nationalization of the Suez Canal, the Jean Bart is attached to the Naval Intervention Force constituted for operations offshore Egypt. Its membership was increased, but we are in a state of armed turret 380 mm, axial turret 152 mm, and about half of the artillery of 100 mm and 57 mm. Late October and early November, he carried the Algiers Cyprus Foreign Parachute Regiment. It supports the landing Port Said, where he takes four shots 380 mm. But also good for protection against aircraft for support against the earth, the lead fell to the Naval Aviation, and aircraft aircraft carriers Arromanches and La Fayette.

In July 1957, after his gun had fired the last rounds of 380 mm from the French Navy, he was placed in reserve and will not be used as a depot ship for the Navy schools. During all these years, it will remain moored in the harbor of Toulon. Its silhouette, imposing and majestic, is emblematic of the port of Toulon.

Projects to modernize its artillery 100 mm and 57 mm, or transformation battleship missile with U.S. missile Terrier because it does not exist at the time of French equipment operational, are experienced not on. Similarly, when, in 1964, sought a command ship for Nuclear Studies Centre of the Pacific, it is preferred the cruiser De Grasse cheaper transform. Convicted in 1970, he was scrapped in Brégaillon, leaving the Turkish Yavuz, the former German battle cruiser SMS Goeben, the privilege of being, for six years, the last survivor of the flood era battleships, in European waters.

The last ship of the line has been built HMS Vanguard of the Royal Navy commissioned in 1946, but with guns 15 inches (381 mm) installed during the first world war the battle cruisers and HMS Glorious and remained available when these ships were converted into aircraft carriers. The Jean Bart was the last battleship to enter service. It has never been fully operational and will have known that four years of active duty, serving as a testing ground for new French equipment, radar and anti-aircraft artillery, at a time when the striking force of modern navies, as the sea in action against the land, based on the aircraft carrier had become the capital ship: three are operational, British or American-built in the Navy, pending the construction of the first modern aircraft carrier French construction, to which is given the name of the battleship, unfinished, which would have been the third unit of the Richelieu class, Clemenceau.

An eighth Jean Bart, an anti-aircraft frigate, type F70 AA is currently in service since 1991 in the Navy.

Battleship of the French Navy in the Second World War

Boat Name

Boat 1940

Boat built in Saint-Nazaire

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