Battleship France

The battleship France was the fourth and last ship of the Courbet class and thus one of the first modern dreadnought battleships of the French Navy, which was completed shortly before the First World War.


Launch and design:

With the launch of the British HMS Dreadnought in 1906, the concept of battleships changed fundamentally. The French battleships were equipped with different calibers like the Danton class, but until 1909 the attitude of the French naval leadership changed.

From 1910, Augustin Boué de Lapeyrère was the new minister in charge of the French naval ministry and also headed the 1906 programme for modernising and expanding the French fleet. Lapeyrère's proposals and designs for new battleships were based on models built in other countries at the time. The ships of the Courbet class were to have a length of 166 metres and a width of 27 metres with a maximum displacement of 25.850 tonnes.

Twelve 30,5 cm L/45 Model 1910 guns were selected as armament. These weapons were introduced as early as 1906 under the designation L/45 Model 1906, but were subsequently modified somewhat. These cannons were housed in twin turrets weighing 6 x 560 tons, with 2 turrets each at the front and rear and 1 turret each at the side. For the middle artillery the designers selected 22 x 13,86 cm guns L/55 model 1910. These were inferior to comparable warships from Great Britain and the German Reich, but these guns had a very good handling during the loading process and a higher firing speed. Further 4 x 45 cm torpedo tubes of the model 1909 were installed, whose tubes lay below the waterline.

In contrast to the first sister ships Courbet and Jean Bart, the Paris and France 24 Belleville had boilers to drive the two Parsons steam turbine sets built under licence, each with two propeller shafts. The aim was to achieve an output of 28,000 hp and a maximum speed of 21 knots (39 kilometres per hour). During later test drives, however, the speed was slightly undershot.

In order to counteract the increasing danger of torpedoes and such attacks, the armor of the ships' main armor was reinforced. The 99 metre long and 4.75 metre high armour protection was 2.35 metres above and 2.40 metres below the waterline and was up to 270 mm thick.

The construction of the France began after the order on August 1, 1911, the launch on November 7, 1912 and the commissioning on July 15, 1914.



Drawing of the battleships of the Courbet class




Use in war:

After the commissioning of the ship some test runs took place, until the France was moved to the Baltic Sea to accompany the French president with the sister ship Jean Bart for visits in Saint Petersburg and other cities. After the political situation in Europe worsened and a war threatened, both ships were withdrawn from the Baltic Sea and ordered to their home port in Toulon.

After the outbreak of the war, all four ships of the Courbet class were sent to the Mediterranean to monitor the ships of the German Empire there. After the declaration of war between France and Austria-Hungary, the ships were also used to prevent the departure of the Austro-Hungarian fleet.

Besides supporting the Montenegrin army in firing at targets along the coast, France's main task remained patrolling between Greece and Italy. After the sister ship Jean Bart was torpedoed and severely damaged by the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-12 on 21 December 1914, the French battleships were withdrawn and deployed only in the southern part of the Mediterranean.

When Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on 23 May 1915 and entered the war alongside the Allies, the Italian Navy took over the protection of the coasts, allowing the French warships to be withdrawn completely.

From 27 April 1916, the French navy was also able to use the port of Argostoli on the Greek island of Kefalonia as a base and moved most of its ships there. Since the battleships were hardly used any more, parts of the crew were retrained on the submarines and used with these.

At the beginning of 1917 the Greek island Corfu could also be used as a base besides Argostoli, but the increasing shortage of coal and the limited range of use of the warships became apparent. From 1918, the shortage was so great that the warships were almost no longer operational. The last year of the war was therefore mainly used for reconstruction measures and on 1 July 1918 the France was assigned to the 2nd battle department of the 1st combat squadron and remained there until the end of the war.



Battleship France




Post-war deployment:

After the war, France, together with its sister ship Paris, was ordered to the Black Sea to support Allied troops intervening in the Russian Civil War. Mutinies occurred on both warships in April 1919, after crew members sympathized with the Russian Bolshevists. On the Paris this could be contained, after the occupation was permitted to go ashore. On France, the situation eased only after both ships were ordered to return to their home ports.

In the years that followed, France was involved in several manoeuvres in the Mediterranean.





On the morning of 26 August 1922, France sailed in the Bay of Quiberon, on the northern west coast of France, to an undrawn seabed elevation. The hull of the ship was so badly damaged that large quantities of water ran into the interior. Although all of the ship's bilge pumps were used, it sank within four hours.

3 crew members died in the accident. The ship was abandoned by the French Navy and was later scrapped on site.




Ship data:





Type of ship:  




Building yard:  

Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire, Saint-Nazaire

Building costs:  

around 63.000.000 franc


November 7th, 1912


July 15th, 1914


Run aground near Quiberon on 26 August 1922, sunk and scrapped on site


168 meters


27,9 meters


Max. 9 meters


Max. 23.475 tons


1.085 to 1.108 men


24 Belleville boiler

4 Parsons steam turbines


28.000 PS (20.594 kW)

Maximum speed:  

21 knots (39 kilometres per hour)




12 × Rapid fire gun 30,5 cm L/45 Model 1910 in double turrets

22 × Rapid fire gun 13,86 cm L/55 model 1910 in single towers

4 × Rapid fire gun 4,7 cm L/50 Hotchkiss

4 × Torpedo tubes ⌀ 45 cm


Belt: 180-270 mm
Citadel: 180 mm
Upper deck: 30-40 mm
Battery deck: 12 mm
Upper armoured deck: 45 mm
Lower armoured deck: 40 mm
Command tower: 270-300 mm
Bar beds: 280 mm
Towers: 100-290 mm
Casemate: 180 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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