Battleship Charlemagne

The battleship Charlemagne belonged to the ship class of the same name, which consisted of a total of 3 battleships, which were built at the beginning of the 90s of the 19th century and were part of the Statut Naval, the construction of a large French battleship fleet.


Launch and design:

Between 1889 and 1893, construction began on a total of 5 battleships, which were not only the first French battleships, but also, as part of the Statute Naval issued by the Ministry of the Navy, the beginning of a large fleet of battleships. These ships were, however, of different designers and accordingly also different in construction and equipment. After the start of construction of the last of the 5 battleships, the ministry demanded a new and uniform battleship class. Background should not only be the simplified and fast building of the ships, but also the simpler maintenance and servicing of these, since now the spare parts for each ship would be the same and should not be too different any more.

The Jauréguiberry battleship was chosen as the basis, as it was the most balanced of the 5 approved designs. However, the Ministry of the Navy made some new demands on the new class of ships, especially with regard to the main armament.

According to the first designs finally approved version had a length of 117,7, a width of 20,3 meters and a draught of 8,4 meters. In contrast to the previous battleships, not only 2 x 305 mm main guns were now mounted in individual turrets, but a total of 4 x 305 mm guns were now mounted in a double turret at the front and rear of the ship. This should double the firepower. The gun turrets were driven by electric motors for lateral movement. However, the pipes still had to be adjusted to the appropriate height by hand wheel. In return for the removal of the main armament, the previously used 2 x 274 mm guns were removed from the Charlemagne class, for which the ships were equipped with 10 x 138,6, 8 x 100 mm, 20 x 47 mm guns and 4 torpedo tubes.

A total of 820,7 tons of Harvey armour plates were used for the armor. At the waistline it was up to 400 mm thick, on the deck up to 90 mm, the turrets of the main guns up to 320 mm and those of the middle artillery up to 270 mm.

Three 4-cylinder triple expansion steam engines, each driving one screw, were installed as the drive. The required power of 14.500 hp was provided by 20 Belleville steam boilers, which brought a maximum speed of up to 18 knots.

The Charlemagne was then launched on 17 October 1895 and commissioned on 15 September 1897.



Drawing of the Charlemagne Class


Battleship Charlemagne




History of Charlemagne:

Originally the Charlemagne was to be assigned to the Atlantic squadron after the commissioning and the test runs, but this was changed at short notice and the ship was assigned to the 1st Mediterranean squadron.

In the following 4 years several maneuvers and exercises were accomplished also in the compound with the Atlantic squadron. In October 1901 the Charlemagne participated in the occupation of the Ottoman port Mytilini to enforce the French interest against the Ottoman Empire.

Until October 1909 further manoeuvres were carried out every year until the ship was assigned to the Atlantic squadron. This was also used for annual manoeuvres and several round trips to various ports, which were only interrupted by maintenance from September 1912 to May 1913.

After the stay in the shipyard, the ship was again assigned to the Mediterranean fleet and served as a training ship until the outbreak of the First World War.



Battleship Charlemagne




Use in war:

When the First World War broke out in Europe, the Charlemagne, along with other older battleships, was divided up to protect troop transport from North Africa to France.

At the end of February 1915, the ship was ordered off the Dardanelles to support the upcoming Allied invasion of the Ottoman Peninsula. On March 18, the Charlemagne participated in the advance into the strait, after British battleships had already fired at and partially destroyed the Ottoman positions. The remaining positions, as well as those that were at the narrowest point of the strait, were then to be fought by French battleships from a closer distance. The Charlemagne received some hits from the Ottoman artillery, but the damage was rather small. On the way back, the battleship Bouvet sailed onto a sea mine and sank within 2 minutes. Also the Gaulois received 2 hits by sea mines, sank however not and drove from own strength of the Charlemagne accompanied to the rabbit islands north of Tenedos, where it was repaired. The Charlemagne itself ran into the port of Bizerte and was repaired there until May 1915.

After the repair the ship returned to the allied squadron in front of the Dardanelles, which seldom fired at Ottoman positions before the troops had to retreat from the beaches.

In October 1915 the transfer to Salonica took place, from where allied warships were to increase the pressure on Greece to join the German Empire in the war against France and Great Britain.

From May to August 1916 the ship was overhauled in Bizerte and then returned to Salonica.

In August 1917 the ship was ordered to Toulon, on 17 September 1917 it was allocated to the reserve and from 1 November 1917 the development of the weapons began. The ship remained in Toulon until the end of the war.



Battleship Charlemagne





The Charlemagne was removed from the list of warships after the war on 21 June 1920, sold in 1923 and then scrapped.




Ship data:





Type of ship:  




Building yard:  

Arsenal de Brest

Building costs:  



October 17th, 1895


September 15th, 1897


1923 sold and scrapped


117,7 meters


20,3 meters


Max. 8,4 meters


Max. 11.275 tons


727 men


20 Belleville water tube boiler

3 Vertical 4-cylinder triple expansion engines


14.500 HP

Maximum speed:  

18 knots (33 kilometres per hour)




4 × 305 mm guns

10 × 138,6 mm guns

8 × 100 mm guns

20 × 47 mm guns

4 × 450 mm Torpedo tubes


Belt: up to 320 mm
Deck: up to 90 mm
Main guns: 320 mm
Towers: 270 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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