Battleship Liberté

The battleship Liberté was the type ship of the Liberté class, which consisted of altogether 4 ships and was built at the beginning of the 20th century for the French navy.


Launch and design:

Originally the 4 ships of the Liberté class were meant as ships of the République class, which should consist of 8 battleships instead of 4. Since at this time in Great Britain the ships of the King Edward VII class were built and had a clearly stronger middle artillery with 230 mm caliber guns, however, a revision and adjustment of the last 4 ships of the République class was demanded at short notice by the French marine ministry.

Ironically, the ships of the République class should already have a stronger middle artillery, but before construction this was rejected by the Navy Ministry, now it should be made up.

Thus the basic construction of the ships was retained, only the planned 164 mm guns were replaced by 194 mm guns. Thus the length of the ships remained with 135,25 meters, the width with 24,25 meters and the displacement with 14.900 tons.

The main guns of 4 x 305 mm in two twin turrets at the front and rear of the ship were also retained. The new 194 mm guns were housed in 6 individual turrets and 4 in casemates in the hull of the ship. Further 13 x 65 mm guns and 10 x 47 mm guns were added.

The main belt along the ship was equipped with 280 mm thick armour. The principle of the double deck was also adopted, with the upper deck retaining 54 mm armour and the lower deck 51 mm. The two twin turrets of the main guns were armoured with 360 mm, those of the middle artillery and casemates between 156 and 174 mm.

Three vertical triple expansion steam engines, driven by 22 Belleville boilers and with an output of 17.500 hp, served as propulsion. This enabled a maximum speed of 18 knots.

The Liberté was then launched on 19 April 1905 and put into service on 13 April 1908.



Drawing of the Liberté Class


Battleship Liberté


Battleship Liberté as motif on a postcard


Battleship Liberté




History of the Liberté:

After the commissioning and the test runs the Liberté was assigned together with the sister ships Justice and Vérité to the 2nd squadron of the Mediterranean fleet.

Until mid 1909, manoeuvres were carried out in the Mediterranean Sea and voyages to the ports of Villefranche and Corsica.

From 2 June 1909 manoeuvres were carried out in the Atlantic. This included tests with wireless telegraph equipment and shooting exercises. In the meantime, the ships also called at the ports of Brest and Le Havre. From 12 September to 27 October all ships of the 2nd squadron of the Mediterranean fleet were in the USA to participate in the Hudson Fulton celebration. The 300th anniversary of the discovery of the Hudson River was celebrated. The ships then returned to their home port in Toulon.

In the years 1910 and 1911 the annual maneuvers were carried out, which had to be interrupted only in December 1910, when typhoid fever spread under the crews of the ships. After the September manoeuvre with the new Danton class battleships, most of the 2nd Wing battleships entered the port of Toulon for maintenance and overhaul.

During their stay in the dry dock on 25 September at 05:31, crew members of other battleships reported that smoke was rising from one of the casemates. Shortly afterwards, a fire broke out on the foredeck of the ship, which at first looked as if the Liberté's own crew could extinguish the smoke. At 05:53 a.m. the ship exploded, two of the 194 mm guns were thrown from the ship and the ship broke apart in the middle. In addition to 286 crew members killed on the Liberté itself, 15 men were killed by flying debris aboard the Marseillaise armoured cruiser, 9 on the Saint Louis battleship, 6 on the Leon Gambetta armoured cruiser, 4 on the Suffren battleship and 3 on the Démocratie battleship.



Damage to the battleship Liberté after its explosion


Damage to the battleship Liberté after its explosion


Damage to the battleship Liberté after its explosion


Drawing of the damage to the battleship Liberté after its explosion



The French Navy immediately convened a commission after the explosion to find out the cause of the explosion. After the investigation and the comparison with other explosions on other ships before, it turned out that the propellant was ignited by excessive heat in the storage rooms of the grenades and thus triggered the explosions. Following the results of the investigation, new rules on the handling of propellants were issued, initially covering only battleships and later all warships.





Shortly after the explosion, investigations revealed that the Liberté could no longer be repaired. Wreck parts that blocked the harbour area were salvaged, the rest of the wreck remained in the dry dock until 1925.

Only from 21 February 1925 was salvage and scrapping begun.




Ship data:





Type of ship:  




Building yard:  

Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire, Saint-Nazaire

Building costs:  



April 19th, 1905


April 13th, 1908


Destroyed in an explosion on 25 September 1911, scrapped as of 21 February 1925


135,25 meters


24,25 meters


Max. 8,2 meters


Max. 14.900 tons


742 men

Drive: 22 Belleville steam boiler

3 vertical triple expansion machines


17.500 HP

Maximum speed:  

18 knots (33 kilometres per hour)




4 × 305 mm guns

10 × 194 mm guns

13 × 65 mm guns

10 × 47 mm guns

2 × 450 mm torpedo tubes


Belt: 280 mm
Upper deck: 54 mm
Lower deck: 51 mm
Main guns: 360 mm
Towers: up to 174 mm
Control tower: 266 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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