Battleship Masséna

The battleship Masséna was one of the first battleships built in France at the end of the 19th century in response to the expansion of the Royal Navy and the German Navy.


Launch and design:

After the lost Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, France began to rebuild and structure its army. Shortly after the war the planning for the army began, only a few years later the French navy began to modernize and to build new ships.

During this process the plans for several early battleships were developed. Up to this time France had no experience in building such ships, but the technical development in Great Britain and the German Empire forced the Navy to build such ships as well.

Based on the experience of the Marceau class, the construction of the two battleships Brennus and Charles Martel began in 1884. However, these were abandoned by Admiral Théophile Aube, since the technical development already brought many innovations, which were to be introduced into the new ships. For this purpose, the construction plans were revised and adapted.

In 1888 the construction of the Brennus began, which was regarded as the first battleship built in France.

When the Naval Defense Act was enacted in Great Britain in 1889 and 8 battleships were released for construction, the French Naval Ministry was forced to enact the Naval Statute in 1890, which resulted in the construction of 24 battleships and other smaller warships. The first phase of the programme included the construction of 4 battleships based on the plans of the Brennus. On December 24, 1889, the basic requirements were set by the Ministry. Thus the displacement should amount to approximately 14.000 tons, the main guns should have a caliber of 340 mm and the armour should be up to 450 mm. 5 naval architects then submitted their designs for the new ships, with the Commission also opting for Louis de Bussy's design. The Inspector General of Naval Construction had already gained experience in the construction of the Redoutable battleship and the Dupuy armoured cruiser and presented the plans for the construction of the Masséna to the Commission.

As with the other designs, the Masséna also had only two single turrets in which the main guns with a calibre of 305 mm were housed one at the front and one at the rear of the ship. Since the front gun was positioned very far forward, the weight distribution of the ship was badly balanced, which increased the already large stability problems. The two 274 mm guns were each housed in a turret on the sides of the ship. Further 8 x 138 mm and 8 x 100 mm guns were installed. Overall the armament proved to be too weak compared to other warships of the time.

For the first time in a battleship 3 vertical three-cylinder triple expansion engines were used as propulsion, each driving one propeller. The power required for this was provided by 24 water-tube boilers housed in 2 boiler rooms. The target output was 14.200 hp and the maximum speed 17 knots. The ship was 112,65 metres long, 20,27 metres wide, 8,84 metres draught and had a maximum displacement of 11.735 tonnes. The actually planned displacement of 10,835 tons was thus clearly exceeded. As a result, the draught of the ship was higher and the belt armouring was partly completely under water and therefore no longer offered sufficient protection against torpedoes.

The armouring consisted of Harvey steel up to 450 mm thick on the belt and was intended to protect the ammunition and boiler rooms in particular. The two main turrets were protected with 350 to 400 mm thick armour, the other turrets up to 99 mm thick. In addition to the weaker armament, the armor of the Masséna was also too strong, which finally led to the high weight of the ship.

The Masséna was launched in July 1895 and put into service in June 1898.



Battleship Masséna


Battleship Masséna


Battleship Masséna


Battleship Masséna




History of Masséna:

After the commissioning the Masséna was assigned to the Atlantic Squadron, which started the same year with the annual manoeuvres with the Masséna as flagship.

In 1900, some repairs were carried out and the engineers disassembled the pipes too quickly, causing steam to escape and 4 engineers to be seriously injured. Subsequently, in June and July, several manoeuvres were carried out with the Mediterranean squadron, practicing blockades and attacks on ports.

In 1903 the Masséna, together with other older battleships, was assigned to the reserve of the Mediterranean squadron.

Several manoeuvres were carried out in the following years, with the older battleships being used only when the newer ships were in the shipyard and could not take part in the manoeuvres.




Use in war:

When the First World War broke out in Europe, the French Navy decided not to reactivate the Masséna in Toulon because the ship was already completely obsolete.

Finally, in 1915, the armament and important parts of the ship were removed.





When the landing of allied troops in Gallipoli did not bring the desired success and the troops had to withdraw again from the beach, the Masséna was dragged from Toulon to the Ottoman peninsula.

The rest of the ship was sunk there on 9 November 1915 to serve as a breakwater for the imminent evacuation of the troops.



The dismantled battleship Masséna as breakwater in front of Gallipoli




Ship data:





Type of ship:  



Single ship

Building yard:  

Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire

Building costs:  



July 1895


June 1898


Sunk as a breakwater off Gallipoli on November 9, 1915


112,65 meters


20,27 meters


Max. 8,84 meters


Max. 11.735 tons


667 men


24 Lagrafel d'Allest water tube boiler

3 Vertical triple expansion machines


14.200 HP

Maximum speed:  

17 knots (31 kilometres per hour)




2 × 305 mm guns

2 × 274 mm guns

8 × 138 mm guns

8 × 100 mm guns

4 × 450 mm torpedo tubes


Belt: up to 450 mm
Deck: 69 mm
Main guns: 400 mm
Towers: 350 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!






This post is also available in: Deutsch (German) Français (French) Italiano (Italian) 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified)) Русский (Russian) Español (Spanish) العربية (Arabic)

Comments are closed.

error: Content is protected !!