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






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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