Battleship Brennus

The battleship Brennus was the first battleship built in France at the end of the 19th century, which formed the basis for later battleships through many technical innovations.


Launch and design:

After the lost Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, France began to rebuild and structure its army. Shortly after the war the planning for the army began, only a few years later the French navy began to modernize and to build new ships.

During this process the plans for several early battleships were developed. Up to this time France had no experience in building such ships, but the technical development in Great Britain and the German Empire forced the Navy to build such ships as well.

Based on the experience of the Marceau class, the construction of the two battleships Brennus and Charles Martel began in 1884. However, these were abandoned by Admiral Théophile Aube, since the technical development already brought many innovations, which were to be introduced into the new ships. For this purpose, the construction plans were revised and adapted.

In 1888 the contract for the construction of the new Brennus was finally awarded.

The ship had a total length of 110,29 metres, a width of 20,4 metres and a maximum displacement of 11.190 tonnes. Already during the construction it turned out that the superstructure of the ship would later become too heavy and thus the draught would be considerably greater than planned. For this reason, parts of the deck had to be removed during the construction phase and the originally planned main mast had to be replaced with a much lighter version in order to save weight.

Two vertical triple expansion machines, each driving one screw, served as the drive. The power required for this was supplied by 32 Belleville water tube boilers with an output of 13.900 hp. The maximum speed was to be 17,5 to 18 knots.

The armor of the ship consisted of steel and composite armor and had a thickness of up to 460 mm on the ship's belt, which explains the high weight.

As armament, 3 42 Modèle 1887 cannons with a calibre of 340 mm were selected, with 2 pipes placed in a twin turret at the bow and in a single turret at the stern. In addition, 10 x 164 mm guns, 4 x 65 mm guns, 14 x 3 pounders, 8 x 1 pounders as well as 4 surface torpedo tubes were installed.

The launch of the Brennus took place on 17 October 1891, the commissioning on 16 December 1896.



Drawing of the Brennus


Battleship Brennus


Admirals and officers aboard the Brennus




History of the Brennus:

After the commissioning and the test runs the Brennus was used as flagship of the Mediterranean fleet.

At the end of 1897 the Brennus took part in an exercise to test a new fire control system and procedure during shooting. During the exercise, the Brennus, as well as the Neptune and Marceau, achieved an accuracy of 26% over a range of 3 to 4 kilometres. This procedure was then introduced as a standard by the Naval Ministry.

In 1900, several manoeuvres were carried out by the French Navy. The Brennus collided with the destroyer Framée on 10 August. It was so badly damaged that the ship sank within a short time. Only 14 of the 50 crew members could be rescued.

Due to the rapid technical development at the beginning of the century in the field of shipbuilding, the Brennus was obsolete only a few years after its commissioning. Thus the ship was assigned to the reserve together with the battleships Charles Martel, Carnot and Hoche as well as the armoured cruisers Pothuau, Amiral Charner and Bruix.

In this squadron, the ships took part in manoeuvres every year, with the Brennus serving as the flagship every year.

The ship took over this task until the outbreak of the First World War.



Battleship Brennus


Battleship Brennus




Use in war:

When World War I broke out in Europe, the Brennus remained in the reserve squadron of the Mediterranean fleet. Due to her age and technical backwardness, the ship was no longer reactivated there, but remained in reserve throughout the war.





After the First World War the ship was removed from the register of warships in 1919, sold in 1922 and then scrapped.




Ship data:





Type of ship:  



Single ship

Building yard:  


Building costs:  



October 17th, 1891


December 16th, 1896


1922 sold and scrapped


110,29 meters


20,4 meters


Max. 8,28 meters


Max. 11.190 tons


673 men


32 Belleville water tube boiler

2 Vertical triple expansion machines


13.900 HP (10.400 kW)

Maximum speed:  

18 knots (33 kilometres per hour)




3 × 340 mm guns

10 × 164 mm guns

4 × 65 mm guns

14 × 47 mm guns

8 × 37 mm guns

4 × 460 mm Torpedo tubes


Belt: 460 mm
Deck: 60 mm
Bridge: 150 mm
Towers: 460 mm






You can find the right literature here:


French Battleships 1914–45 (New Vanguard)

French Battleships 1914–45 (New Vanguard) Paperback – January 22, 2019

This authoritative study examines the French Navy's last battleships, using detailed color plates and historical photographs, taking them from their inception before World War I, through their service in World War II including the scuttling of the French fleet at Toulon in 1943, and the service of Richelieu in the war against Japan.

On September 1, 1910, France became the last great naval power to lay down a dreadnought battleship, the Courbet. The ensuing Courbet and Bretagne-class dreadnoughts had a relatively quiet World War I, spending most of it at anchor off the entrance to the Adriatic, keeping watch over the Austro-Hungarian fleet. The constraints of the Washington Naval Treaty prevented new battleships being built until the 1930s, with the innovative Dunkerque-class and excellent Richelieu-class of battleships designed to counter new German designs.

After the fall of France in 1940, the dreadnoughts and fast battleships of the Marine Nationale had the unique experience of firing against German, Italian, British, and American targets during the war.

Click here!



French Battleships of World War One

French Battleships of World War One Hardcover – June 15, 2017

When war broke out in August 1914 France had only two dreadnoughts in service, with a second pair running trials. The main body of the elite Armée Navale was made up of the eleven battleships of the Patrie and Danton classes, both of which were intermediate designs with two main gun calibers. Older ships included survivors of the notorious Flotte d'echantillons ('fleet of samples') of the 1890 program and their successors designed during the 1890s.

This book traces the development of French battleships from 1890 to 1922, and also covers the extensive modifications made to the survivors during the interwar period. It is liberally illustrated throughout with line drawings and labelled schematics, plus photographs from the extensive Caresse collection, many of which are previously unpublished.

This is the most comprehensive account of these ships published in English or French, and is destined be the standard reference for many years to come.

Click here!



French Armoured Cruisers 1887–1932

French Armoured Cruisers 1887–1932 Hardcover – November 1, 2019

Of all the threats faced by the Royal Navy during the first years of the twentieth century, the one which stood out was the risk to Britain's sea lines of communication posed by France's armored cruisers. Fast, well-armed, and well-protected, these ships could have evaded any attempted blockade of the French ports and, supported by a worldwide network of overseas bases, could potentially have caused havoc on the trade routes.

The primary focus of the book is on the technical characteristics of the ships. Detailed and labeled drawings based on the official plans are provided by John Jordan, and each individual class of ship is illustrated by photographs from the extensive personal collection of Philippe Caresse. The technical section is followed by a history in two parts, covering the Great War (1914-18) and the postwar years, during which the surviving ships saw extensive deployment as "station" cruisers overseas and as training ships. This is the most comprehensive account published in English or in French and is destined to be the standard reference for many years to come.

Click here!



To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War

To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War Hardcover – July 15, 2013

The only comparative analysis available of the great navies of World War I--each chapter is written by a recognzed expert fluent in the subject language. The work studies the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom (John Roberts), the German Kaiserliche Marine (Dr. Peter Schenk with Axel Niestlé and Dieter Thomaier) the United States Navy (Trent Hone), the French Marine Nationale (Jean Moulin), the Italian Regia Marina (Enrico Cernuschi and Vincent P. O'Hara) the Austro-Hungarian Kaiserliche und Königliche Kriegsmarine (Zvonimir Freivogel), and the Imperial Russian Navy (Stephen McLaughlin) to demonstrate why the war was won, not in the trenches, but upon the waves. It explains why these seven fleets fought the way they did and why the war at sea did not develop as the admiralties and politicians of 1914 expected.

After discussing each navy's goals and circumstances and how their individual characteristics impacted the way they fought, the authors deliver a side-by-side analysis of the conflict's fleets, with each chapter covering a single navy. Parallel chapter structures assure consistent coverage of each fleet--history, training, organization, doctrine, materiel, and operations--and allow readers to easily compare information among the various navies. The book clearly demonstrates how the naval war was a collision of 19th century concepts with 20th century weapons that fostered unprecedented development within each navy and sparked the evolution of the submarine and aircraft carrier. The work is free from the national bias that infects so many other books on World War I navies. As they pioneer new ways of viewing the conflict, the authors provide insights and material that would otherwise require a massive library and mastery of multiple languages. Such a study has special relevance today as 20th-century navies struggle to adapt to 21st-century technologies.

Click here!






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