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






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