Battleship Démocratie

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.



Drawing of the Liberté Class


Painting of the battleship Démocratie


Battleship Démocratie




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.



Battleship Démocratie


Battleship Démocratie




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.




Post-war deployment:

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.



The Démocratie near Constantinople after the war





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.




Ship data:





Type of ship:  




Building yard:  

Arsenal de Brest

Building costs:  



April 30th, 1904


January 1908


Sold in June 1921 and then scrapped in Italy


135,25 meters


24,25 meters


Max. 8,2 meters


Max. 14.900 tons


742 men

Drive: 22 Belleville steam boiler

3 vertical triple expansion machines


17.500 HP

Maximum speed:  

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
Upper deck: 54 mm
Lower deck: 51 mm
Main guns: 360 mm
Towers: up to 174 mm
Control tower: 266 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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