The battleship Démocratie was the fourth and last ship of the Liberté class, which consisted of a total of 4 ships and was built at the beginning of the 20th century for the French navy.
Launch and design:
Originally the 4 ships of the Liberté class were meant as ships of the République class, which should consist of 8 battleships instead of 4. Since at this time in Great Britain the ships of the King Edward VII class were built and had a clearly stronger middle artillery with 230 mm caliber guns, however, a revision and adjustment of the last 4 ships of the République class was demanded at short notice by the French marine ministry.
Ironically, the ships of the République class should already have a stronger middle artillery, but before construction this was rejected by the Navy Ministry, now it should be made up.
Thus the basic construction of the ships was retained, only the planned 164 mm guns were replaced by 194 mm guns. Thus the length of the ships remained with 135,25 meters, the width with 24,25 meters and the displacement with 14.900 tons.
The main guns of 4 x 305 mm in two twin turrets at the front and rear of the ship were also retained. The new 194 mm guns were housed in 6 individual turrets and 4 in casemates in the hull of the ship. Further 13 x 65 mm guns and 10 x 47 mm guns were added.
The main belt along the ship was equipped with 280 mm thick armour. The principle of the double deck was also adopted, with the upper deck retaining 54 mm armour and the lower deck 51 mm. The two twin turrets of the main guns were armoured with 360 mm, those of the middle artillery and casemates between 156 and 174 mm.
Three vertical triple expansion steam engines, driven by 22 Belleville boilers and with an output of 17.500 hp, served as propulsion. This enabled a maximum speed of 18 knots.
The Démocratie was launched on April 30, 1904 and put into service in January 1908.
History of the Démocratie:
After commissioning and trial runs, the Démocratie was assigned to the 1st squadron of the Mediterranean fleet on 20 March 1908. With this the first maneuvers were accomplished in June and July, partly in connection with the Atlantic fleet. Démocratie was excluded from the trip to Barcelona in October because the French government feared that the name of the ship could annoy the Spanish monarchy and trigger a diplomatic crisis.
At the beginning of 1909, Albert I, Prince of Monaco, visited the ships of the 1st Wing in the port of Villefranche-sur-Mer, where he visited the French ships. Afterwards, exercises were again carried out before Corsica. From 26 April, the Démocratie left the Mediterranean together with the battleships Patrie and Liberté and an armoured cruiser to join the Atlantic fleet. This was used for manoeuvres as well as tests with wireless telegraph equipment. After completion of the exercises and tests, the ships returned to their home port in Toulon in the Mediterranean Sea at the beginning of September.
In 1910, the Démocratie was moved back to the Atlantic to participate in an exercise simulating an attack on the port of Nice. Afterwards, the ship was again transferred to the Mediterranean and the subsequent annual manoeuvres were carried out, which only had to be interrupted briefly in December, when typhoid fever spread on the French battleships.
In April 1911, the Démocratie took part in a visit to Bizerte by the French Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Public Works, Posts and Telegraphs, during which a naval parade was held with two British battleships, two Italian battleships and a Spanish cruiser. In May, together with the rest of the squadron, the ship made a tour of the Mediterranean, visiting the ports of Cagliari, Bizerte, Bône, Philippeville, Algiers and Bougie. In August 1911, the battleships of the Danton class were handed over to the French Navy and assigned to the 1st squadron of the Mediterranean fleet, replacing the Démocratie and moving to the 2nd squadron. Manoeuvres of the new ships followed together with the battleships of the 2nd squadron. On the 25th of September, a serious accident occurred in the drydoch in Toulon on the Liberté when the propellants of the grenades exploded and destroyed the ship. Flying parts also hit the adjacent Démocratie and minimally damaged the ship. 3 crew members lost their lives due to flying debris. After a short repair, a round trip to the ports of southern France was undertaken by the end of the year.
Besides visiting Corsica and Algeria, the year 1912 was rather uneventful for the Démocratie.
1913 began in February with new manoeuvres. In May, the largest manoeuvre to date was carried out when 16 French battleships took part. On the night of 19 to 20 December 1913, the Vérité, Justice, République and Démocratie battleships lay in the port of Les Salins as a heavy storm raged. The démocratie was pushed from its berth and collided with the Justice, destroying its anchor chain and tearing off two of the armour plates from the bow. Both ships were then sent to Toulon for repair.
Until the middle of 1914 the annual manoeuvres in the Mediterranean were carried out again, until after the murder of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Serbia the diplomatic situation became more and more acute and the French warships were instructed to remain near their home ports and to be put on alert.
Use in war:
When the First World War broke out in Europe, the French warships in the Mediterranean were ordered to travel to Algeria and accompany the troop transports there to France, since the leadership of the French navy feared that German ships could attack these transports.
After this task was completed and both France and Great Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 12, 1914, the French warships were sent to the southern Adriatic to force the Austrian-Hungarian fleet to leave the port and fight them. However, only the two ships Zenta and Ulan were tracked down, whereby in the following battle the Zenta could be sunk, but the Ulan escaped. The rest of the fleet remained in the safe harbours.
Until December 1914 the ships patrolled the coasts and shelled some fortifications. On the 17th of August the Démocratie collided with the Justice, when dense fog severely restricted visibility. While in the Justice only the bow was damaged, the Démocratie lost a rudder and the middle propeller. The subsequent repair of the démocratie was carried out in Malta, after which the ship resumed its duties along the coast of Austria-Hungary. When the French battleship Jean Bart was attacked by a submarine in December, the French battleships retreated to the southern Mediterranean because they were insufficiently protected against torpedoes.
After Italy entered the war against Austria-Hungary in 1915, the Italian navy took over the tasks of securing the ships and the French warships withdrew mainly to the ports of Malta and Bizerte.
In January 1916, the Démocratie, together with the Justice, was assigned to the fleet before the Dardanelles, although at that time the Allied troops were already in retreat and had to evacuate the beaches. Subsequently, in June, the 3rd squadron was strengthened with the ships Démocratie, 2 of their sister ships, the battleship Suffren and the ships of the République class. This was then sent to Greece to exert pressure on the monarch and prevent him from entering the war alongside the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire. In August 1916, a group of putschists prepared the overthrow of the Greek monarch with the aim of entering the war alongside the Allies. This group was supported by French and British soldiers who went ashore in Athens on 1 December. However, the group was quickly pushed back by Greek soldiers and armed civilians. The Allied warships then blocked the Greek ports. After the abdication of the monarch in June 1917, the 3rd squadron was dissolved again and the Démocratie was assigned to the 2nd squadron again in July.
The ships of the squadron spent the rest of 1917 and most of 1918 in the port of Corfu. On the one hand this was due to the continuing lack of coal and on the other hand because neither the warships of Austria-Hungary nor those of the Ottoman Empire left their ports and therefore no battles took place.
After the negotiations about an armistice between the participating states began, a part of the squadron was sent to Constantinople to supervise the transfer of the warships of the Ottoman Empire, the other part was sent to the Black Sea to supervise the return of the Russian warships from Germany. The Démocratie and the Justice were among the ships sent to the Black Sea.
According to the Treaty of Brest-Litowsk of 1917 between the German Empire and Russia, almost all Russian warships had to be handed over and German occupying troops were stationed in selected bases. After the terms of the cease-fire between the Allies and the German Empire, the Russian ships had to be returned and the German troops withdrawn. The Démocratie and the Justice supervised these processes in Sevastopol and also provided the crews for Russian ships and 2 captured German submarines.
The Démocratie was replaced by the battleship Mirabeau on January 7, 1919 and returned to the port of Constantinople, where other French warships were already lying and watching the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. From there the ship was also sent to Smyrna for a short time to prevent Italian troops from beginning to occupy parts of the former Ottoman Empire. At the end of May, the Démocratie took the Grand Vizier Damat Ferid Pasha on board to bring him to France, where he was to sign the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres for the Ottoman Empire.
After the Grand Vizier was brought to France, the Démocratie remained in the port of Toulon without further tasks.
On April 1, 1920 the Démocratie was transferred to the Reserve Fleet.
The final removal from the register of warships was carried out on 18 May 1921, in June 1921 the sale and subsequent scrapping in Italy took place.
|Type of ship:||
Arsenal de Brest
April 30th, 1904
Sold in June 1921 and then scrapped in Italy
Max. 8,2 meters
Max. 14.900 tons
|Drive:||22 Belleville steam boiler
3 vertical triple expansion machines
18 knots (33 kilometres per hour)
4 × 305 mm guns
10 × 194 mm guns
13 × 65 mm guns
10 × 47 mm guns
2 × 450 mm torpedo tubes
Belt: 280 mm
You can find the right literature here:
French Battleships 1914–45 (New Vanguard)
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.
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