Battleship Vergniaud

The battleship Vergniaud belonged to the Danton class and meant a clear technological leap out of the Liberté class, which served as the basis for the new French battleships.


Launch and design:

Since the beginning of the 90s of the 19th century, France has begun to significantly expand its navy and has demanded, ordered and for the most part already in service a large number of battleships.

The growth of the navy of the German Empire and also the fleet construction programme of Great Britain at the beginning of the 20th century led to a commission of the French Navy Ministry beginning to revise the French construction programme and adapt it to the new conditions. Reports from the Russo-Japanese War were also consulted and evaluated for the investigation. The commission came to the conclusion that the defeat of the Russian Maine was caused by many hits in the superstructures of the ships by the middle artillery of the Japanese sailors, less by hits of the main guns. The high speed of the Japanese ships also played a role in their victory.

With this result a revision of the battleships of the Liberté class was suggested, which should take over the strengths of the Japanese warships. Thus it was decided that the middle artillery should no longer consist of 194 mm guns, but of 240 mm guns, since these had a stronger penetration power with a larger range. However, the point of higher speed demanded by the French Navy had to be discarded when planning the new ship class, since the Ministry of Finance set strict limits on the financial means, which meant that the new ships could only have a maximum displacement of 18.000 tons. In order to maintain this limit and still achieve a higher speed, savings would have had to be made on the armour, which was ultimately preferred by the Navy.

In March 1906, the first drafts of the new Danton class were presented, but there was little consensus. So changes were demanded at the armament and additional 305 mm main guns were demanded, which would have increased however again the weight clearly. The French parliament, on the other hand, was less interested in the armament than in the propulsion of the new ships. The battleship Dreadnought, which is already under construction in Great Britain, had a much stronger armament and a propulsion system with Parsons steam turbines. Parliament feared that the installation of triple expansion steam engines would lead to a technological decline and that it would not be able to connect to Great Britain or the German Reich. In May 1906, designers and technicians were sent to the Parson factories, weapon factories and shipyards in Great Britain to inform themselves about the technical possibilities. The result was that the turbines produced more power and required less space and were therefore superior to triple expansion steam engines.

Until June 3, 1908, further changes, discussions and debates were held about the final equipment of the warships, whereby the type ship was already under construction. Finally the navy, the commission and the parliament agreed to equip all 6 ships of the class with turbines.

The result was the Danton class with a length of 146,6 metres, a width of 25,8 metres and a displacement of maximum 19.736 tons, whereby initially only 18.318 tons were aimed at, but new main guns significantly increased the weight during construction.

During arming, 4 x 305 mm Modèle 1906 guns were finally mounted in a twin turret at the front and rear of the ship. The middle artillery consisted of 12 x 240 mm guns, each housed in three twin turrets on both sides of the ship. Furthermore 16 x 75 mm, 10 x 47 mm guns and 2 x 450 mm torpedo tubes were used.

However, the armour had to be reduced compared to the Liberté, otherwise the weight of the ship would have been significantly higher. The belt thus had only 270 mm thick armour, the main gun 300 mm and the deck 40 to 70 mm.

For the first time, 4 Parsons steam turbines with 26 steam boilers and an output of 22.500 HP and a maximum speed of 19 knots served as propulsion.

The launch of the Vergniaud then took place on 12 April 1910, the commissioning on 18 December 1911.



Battleship Vergniaud




History of Vergniaud:

After the commissioning and the test runs the Vergniaud was assigned together with the already finished sister ships to the 1st squadron of the Mediterranean fleet. Manoeuvres and exercises were carried out with this squadron from April 1912.

In 1913 the 1st squadron was strengthened with the battleships Courbet and Jean Bart and carried out round trips to the ports in the Mediterranean as well as exercises and manoeuvres throughout the year.

Until the middle of 1914 the annual manoeuvres in the Mediterranean were carried out again, until the diplomatic situation after the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Serbia became more and more acute and the French warships were instructed to remain close to their home ports and to be put on alert.



Battleship Vergniaud




Use in war:

When the First World War broke out in Europe, the Vergniaud, together with the sister ship Condorcet and the battleship Courbet in the Mediterranean Sea, was assigned to hunt the two German ships Goeben and Breslau near the Balearic Islands. On 9 August the ships were ordered to the vicinity of Sicily, as the German ships could not be found and a breakaway into the western Mediterranean was to be prevented.

When it became apparent that the two German ships were subordinated to the Ottoman Empire, the French battleships were ordered to the Adriatic coast to force the Austrian-Hungarian navy to leave the port and thus to engage in battle. However, since the ships did not leave the ports, the French ships limited themselves to firing at positions and fortifications along the coast. The battleship Jean Bart was attacked on 21 December by the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-12 and severely damaged. As a result, the battleships were withdrawn after it was recognized that they were still insufficiently protected against submarine attacks.

On 27 March 1916 the ship was assigned to the 2nd squadron of the Mediterranean fleet and transferred to Argostoli and Corfu. Until the end of 1917 it took over the blockade of the Strait of Otranto. Since January 1916, besides British warships, also French warships took part in the harassment of the Greek monarchy not to enter the war at the side of the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. In August preparations began for a coup d'état, which was to take place in December. The Vergniaud then transferred some of its crew to the other French battleships to support the coup.

From 9 November 1917 to January 1918, the Vergniaud lay in the Toulon shipyard for important maintenance and repairs, after which she was back in Corfu, but was transferred to Mudros in May. Together with other ships of the Danton class, it was to be prevented in this area that the German battle cruiser Goeben, which now sailed under the Ottoman flag, could break out into the Mediterranean Sea. This task was carried out until the end of the war.




Post-war deployment:

After the signing of the armistice between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies, Vergniaud participated in the occupation of Constantinople. From December 17, 1918 until the beginning of January, it was again in Toulon in the maintenance yard.

In mid-January 1919 the Vergniaud was moved to the Black Sea near Sevastopol to support the French ships already there and the Allied troops during the Russian Civil War. After the situation worsened in April and a storming of the city by the Bolsheviks was imminent, the French Naval Command ordered the ships to be withdrawn. The commander-in-chief of the ships, however, refused the order and wanted to send parts of the crews of the ships to the city to support the Belarusian armed forces. As a result, parts of the crews threatened mutiny and wanted to join the Bolshevists. Only after the situation had calmed down in front of the town were the crew members allowed to go ashore in order to also calm down the turbulent situation on the ships. However, there were shots fired in the city during a demonstration in which a crew member of the Vergniaud was killed. The crew of the ship itself had behaved until now rather neutrally and had not joined the mutiny, now however also on this ship the mood tilted and parts of the crew began red flags to hoist and mutiny. After several days the French navy ordered the withdrawal of the ships in order to give in to the pressure of the crews. On the way back from Sevastopol to Toulon the Vergniaud towed another damaged merchant ship to Constantinople.

After a short stay in France, the Vergniaud moved to Beirut to observe the activities off the coasts of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, as at that time the Ottoman Empire was in collapse and a confusing situation prevailed in the areas concerned.

From 6 September 1919, the ship was back in Toulon and was allocated to the Special Reserve on 1 October. As the ship was already in a very bad condition at that time, it was decommissioned in June 1921. On 27 October it was removed from the list of warships.

The development of the armament began finally starting from the year 1922, whereby 9 of the 240 mm guns were used as coastal guns in the port city Dakar in Senegal.





After the weapons had been removed, the rest of the ship served as a target for grenades until 1926, when the effect of poison gas was tested.

After completion of the tests, the ship was put up for sale on 5 May 1927, sold on 27 November 1928 and then scrapped.




Ship data:





Type of ship:  




Building yard:  

Forges et Chantiers de la Gironde, Bordeaux

Building costs:  

55.247.307 francs


April 12th, 1910


December 18th, 1911


Sold on 27 November 1928 and then scrapped


144,9 meters


25,8 meters


Max. 9,2 meters


Max. 19.763 tons


681 men


26 Steam boiler

4 Parsons steam turbines


22.500 HP (16.800 kW)

Maximum speed:  

19,2 knots (35,6 kilometers per hour)




4 × 305 mm guns

12 × 240 mm guns

16 × 75 mm guns

10 × 47 mm guns

2 × 450 mm torpedo tubes


Belt: 270 mm
Deck: 45 to 70 mm
Main guns: 300 mm
Gun turrets: 188 to 225 mm
Command bridge: 300 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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