Battleship Jean Bart (from 1937 Océan)

The battleship Jean Bart belonged to the Courbet class and was thus one of the first modern dreadnought battleships of the French Navy to be 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 followed the models built in other countries at the time in proposing and designing new battleships. 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 later sister ships France and Paris, the Jean Bart and the type ship Courbet 24 Niclausse 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 kilometers 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 has been reinforced. The 99 metre long and 4,75 metre high armour was 2,35 metres above and 2,40 metres below the waterline and was up to 270 mm thick.

The construction of the Jean Bart began after the order on 11 August 1910, the launch on 22 September 1911 and the commissioning on 15 June 1913. Although the ship was the first of its class to be completed, the class was nevertheless named after the Courbet.



Battleship Jean Bart




Use in war:

After the commissioning some test runs took place. These led the Jean Bart on 18 September 1913 also to Dunkirk, the birthplace of the buccaneer Jean Bart who served as eponym of the ship. On 19 November 1913 the Jean Bart, together with the sister ship Courbet, was officially handed over to the 1st Battle Department in Toulon. In the middle of 1914 several voyages were carried out in the Baltic Sea, including visits to Saint Petersburg, Kronstadt and Stockholm. Due to increasing political tensions in Europe, the trip to Copenhagen was cancelled and the ships were put on alert.

After the German Empire declared war on France on 3 August 1914, the two battleships Courbet and Jean Bart were still in the port of Brest. During the night they ran from Toulon and were picked up by the battleships Condorcet and Vergniaud on August 6 in front of Valencia, Spain, as France did not yet have enough ammunition for the guns of the new battleships.

After the declaration of war against Austria-Hungary on 12 August 1914, Vice-Admiral Augustin Boué de Lapeyrère, commander of the allied naval forces in the Mediterranean, decided to bring his ships to the Adriatic coast to prevent the Austro-Hungarian fleet from departing. On 15 August, the fleet was supplemented by several British warships. The commander divided his fleet in order to reach various targets, and on 16 August they encountered several enemy ships. During the following battle the protected cruiser Zenta was sunk before Antivari. Subsequently, several fortifications on the Austro-Hungarian coast were fired upon on 1 September. Later in the year, the ships patrolled between the Greek and Italian coasts. The Jean Bart was torpedoed and severely damaged by the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-12 on 21 December 1914. Despite the water ingress, the ship was able to call at the Greek island of Kefalonia where provisional reparations could be carried out. Afterwards the ship ran into the port of Malta where it lay until the 3rd of April 1915 in the shipyard.

The attack showed the commander de Lapeyrère that the battleships were still insufficiently protected against submarines and then only allowed them to sail in the south of the Ionian Sea.

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.

From 27 April 1916, the French navy could also 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 the Jean Bart was assigned to the 2nd battle department of the 1st combat squadron on 1 July 1918 and remained there until the end of the war.



Postcard of the battleship Jean Bart from the year 1915


Battleship Jean Bart




Post-war deployment:

After the signing of the armistice between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire on 30 October 1918, Jean Bart took part in the occupation of Constantinople. The transfer to the Mediterranean followed in order to support the French troops in the fight against the Bolshevik troops in Russia. From April 19, 1919, there was a brief mutiny on the ship, as the sailors were tired of war and sympathized with the socialist and revolutionary idea of the rebels in Russia. The captain of the ship was able to reassure his crew on April 20, but in return he had to allow them to go ashore. There some sailors mixed with the pro-Bolshevik demonstration, which led to a confrontation with Greek infantrymen. 6 sailors were injured in the battles, one died a little later from his injuries. The heated atmosphere on board of the ship relaxed only after the captain ordered the journey home.

On July 1, 1919 the ship arrived back in Toulon and was allocated to the reserve. The restructuring of the fleet on February 10, 1920 created the Western and Eastern Mediterranean fleets. The Jean Bart was assigned together with the sister ship Courbet to the western fleet until the two fleets were merged again on 20 July 1921.

From 12 October 1923 to 29 January 1925 the ship was completely overhauled and received some modernizations. These included the replacement of some coal boilers with oil-fired boilers and the modification of the main armament, increasing the range of the guns.

Until the second and much more extensive modernisation on 7 August 1929, the ship participated mainly in manoeuvres and visited several ports. During the second modernisation, as with the Courbet, all the boilers were replaced, the fire control system and the rangefinders were replaced. In addition, some older guns were exchanged for newer anti-aircraft guns. The conversion was completed on 29 September 1931.

After the renewed putting into service as flagship of the 2nd battle department on 1 October 1931, the Jean Bart carried out some manoeuvres as well as round trips in the Mediterranean Sea.

The last round trip was carried out until 15 June 1935. Subsequently, the French naval command decided against a further overhaul and modernisation, as the ship was already too old overall and the costs for a conversion would have been too high. The ship was therefore used on 15 August 1935 in Toulon as a residential ship for the naval school there and its armament was expanded. In order to free the name Jean Bart for the new battleship of the Richelieu class, the ship was renamed Océan on 1 January 1937.




Use in the Second World War:

After the beginning of the Second World War, the Océan remained as a residential ship in the port of Toulon and did not have to be delivered to Germany even after France's surrender in 1940.

However, after the Wehrmacht began occupying parts of Vichy France in 1942, the Océan fell into their hands untouched on 27 November 1942. The Wehrmacht handed the ship over to the Kriegsmarine, which used it from the end of 1943 for experiments with warheads.





After an Allied bombing raid on the port of Toulon on 7 August 1944, the Océan was so badly damaged that it sank in the port. After the end of the Second World War, the wreck was scrapped on 14 December 1945.




Ship data:


Jean Bart, from 1 January 1937 Océan



Type of ship:  




Building yard:  

Arsenal de Brest

Building costs:  

around 60.200.000 franc


September 22nd, 1911


June 15th, 1913


Sunk on 7 August 1944 after air raid, scrapped on 14 December 1945


168 meters


27,9 meters


Max. 9 meters


Max. 26.000 tons


1.085 to 1.108 men


24 Niclausse boiler

4 Parsons steam turbines

since 1931:
22 du Temple boiler

4 Parsons geared turbines


28.000 hp (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
Embankments: 70 mm
Command tower: 270-300 mm
Bar beds: 280 mm
Towers: 100-290 mm
Casemate: 180 mm






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