Battleship Iéna

The battleship Iéna was one of the first French battleships, derived from the ships of the Charlemagne class and belonged to the few battleships that did not participate in the First World War.


Launch and design:

The construction of the Charlemagne class battleships began in 1894, but even before its completion it became clear that the services were inadequate. The Conseil des travaux (Board of Construction), which was responsible for the construction of the battleships, then ordered a design based on the Charlemagne class ships, but with the aim of avoiding the weaknesses.

The responsible chief designer Thibaudier finally adopted the basic concept of the ships, then increased the number of medium-heavy guns and also had the armor of the ship strengthened. The additional 700 tons were to be distributed over the ship to compensate for the instability of the Charlemagne class.

The presented ship finally had a length of 122,35 metres, a width of 20,83 metres and a draught of maximum 8,45 metres. The additional armouring increased the weight to 12.105 tons.

The main armament remained with 4 x 305 mm guns, each housed in two double turrets at the stern and at the bow of the ship. The middle artillery consisted of 8 x 164 mm and 8 x 100 mm guns, each housed in individual turrets. In addition, 16 x 47 mm guns and 4 x 450 mm torpedo tubes were mounted.

The reinforced armour consisted entirely of Harvey steel and was up to 320 mm thick on the ship's belt. The deck had 80 mm thick armour, the main guns up to 318 mm and the turrets of the middle artillery up to 200 mm.

Three vertical triple expansion steam engines, each driving one screw, served as the drive. The required output of 16.500 hp was provided by 20 Belleville water-tube boilers, enabling the ship to reach a maximum speed of up to 18,11 knots.

The Iéna was launched on 1 September 1898 and commissioned on 14 April 1902.



Battleship Iéna

Battleship Iéna




History of Iéna:

After being put into service and the test runs, the Iéna was assigned to the second squadron of the Mediterranean Division on 14 April 1902. The voyage to the new home port of Toulon began on 19 April, but there were problems with the steering gear already on the way there, so that the ship had to go to the dock for repair as soon as it arrived at the port.

The ship then took part in the annual manoeuvres and round trips to ports in southern France and North Africa.

The Iéna's only significant deployment took place in April 1906, when the Vesuvius volcano erupted in Italy near Naples and ships from Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary and the German Empire supported and evacuated the population.

On 4 March 1907, the ship had to enter Toulon for maintenance and repair. On 12 March there were several serious explosions in the ship during the night, damaging not only the ship itself, but also the dry dock and its surroundings. Since the ship was in a dry dock, the area could not be flooded to limit the destruction. Although the adjacent battleship Patrie fired a grenade at the dry dock gate, it only bounced off. Only later was it possible to flood the dock. In the later investigation it turned out that the propellants of the grenades had ignited themselves and thus triggered the explosions. A similar accident occurred in 1911 on the battleship Liberté. The accident cost 120 lives, including 2 civilians killed by flying fragments.



Battleship Iéna in March 1907





During the subsequent investigation of the damage, it was found that the entire engine plant had been destroyed and that the hull in this area had also been completely torn open. According to initial estimates, the cost of a repair would have been around 7 million francs and the period would have been 2 years. The French Ministry of the Navy therefore decided not to repair the ship, as the costs would be too high and the ship was already considered obsolete.

In order to still be able to use it, all still functioning and important facilities were removed, the ship was towed to Île des Porquerolles and used there as a target ship.

After several attempts with new, armor-piercing ammunition the ship was about to sink. It was therefore towed into deeper waters where it sank on 2 December 1909.

In 1912 the rights were sold for scrapping and the wreck was gradually salvaged and scrapped until 1927.




Ship data:





Type of ship:  



Single ship

Building yard:  

Brest Arsenal

Building costs:  



September 1st, 1898


April 14th, 1902


On 12 March 1907 seriously damaged by explosions in the dry dock, then used as a target ship until 2 December 1909


122,35 meters


20,83 meters


Max. 8,45 meters


Max. 12.105 tons


701 men


20 Belleville water tube boiler

3 vertical triple expansion machines


16.500 HP (12.300 kW)

Maximum speed:  

18 knots (33 kilometres per hour)




4 × 305 mm guns

8 × 164 mm guns

8 × 100 mm guns

16 × 47 mm guns

4 × 450 mm torpedo tubes


Belt: up to 320 mm
Deck: up to 80 mm
Main guns: 318 mm
Towers: 200 mm






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