France in Toulon harbour
|Ordered:||1 August 1911|
|Builder:||Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire, Saint-Nazaire|
|Laid down:||30 November 1911|
|Launched:||7 November 1912|
|Completed:||1 July 1914|
|Fate:||Foundered, 26 August 1922|
|General characteristics (as built)|
|Class and type:||Courbet-class battleship|
|Length:||166 m (544 ft 7 in) (o/a)|
|Beam:||27 m (88 ft 7 in)|
|Draught:||9.04 m (29 ft 8 in)|
|Propulsion:||4 × shafts; 2 × steam turbine sets|
|Speed:||21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)|
|Endurance:||4,200 nmi (7,800 km; 4,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
|Complement:||1,115 (1,187 as flagship)|
France was the last ship of the four Courbet-class battleships, the first dreadnoughts built for the French Navy. The ship was completed just before World War I. She spent the war in the Mediterranean, covering the Otranto Barrage in the Adriatic. France, accompanied by her sister ship Jean Bart, was sent to the Black Sea in 1919 to oppose the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War. Her crew briefly mutinied in April 1919 from a combination of war-weariness, Communist sympathizers in the crew and difficult conditions. The mutiny and general lack of morale among her crew caused her to return to France later that month. Striking an uncharted rock off the French coast in 1922, she foundered four hours later.
Background and description
By 1909 the French Navy was finally convinced of the superiority of the all-big-gun battleship like HMS Dreadnought over the mixed-calibre designs like the Danton class which had preceded the Courbets. The following year, the new Minister of the Navy, Augustin Boué de Lapeyrère, selected a design that was comparable to the foreign dreadnoughts then under construction to be built as part of the 1906 Naval Programme. The ships were 166 metres (544 ft 7 in) long overall and had a beam of 27 metres (88 ft 7 in) and a mean draught of 9.04 metres (29 ft 8 in). They displaced 23,475 tonnes (23,104 long tons) at normal load and 25,579 tonnes (25,175 long tons) at deep load. Their crew numbered 1,115 men as a private ship and increased to 1,187 when serving as a flagship. The ships were powered by two licence-built Parsons steam turbine sets, each driving two propeller shafts. France had 24 Belleville boilers to provide steam for her turbines. These boilers were coal-burning with auxiliary oil sprayers and were designed to produce 28,000 metric horsepower (20,594 kW; 27,617 shp). The ships had a designed speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). The Courbet-class ships carried enough coal and fuel oil to give them a range 4,200 nautical miles (7,800 km; 4,800 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).
The main battery of the Courbet class consisted of twelve Canon de 305-millimetre (12 in) mle 1906–1910 guns mounted in six twin-gun turrets, with two pairs of superfiring turrets fore and aft of the superstructure, and a pair of wing turrets amidships. Their secondary armament was twenty-two Canon de 138-millimetre (5.4 in) mle 1910 guns, which were mounted in casemates in the hull. Four Canon de 47-millimetre (1.9 in) mle 1902 Hotchkiss guns were fitted, two on each broadside in the superstructure. They were also armed with four 450-millimetre (18 in) submerged torpedo tubes and could stow 10 mines below decks. The ships' waterline belt ranged in thickness from 140 to 250 mm (5.5 to 9.8 in) and was thickest amidships. The gun turrets were protected by 250 mm of armour and 160 mm (6.3 in) plates protected the casemates. The curved armoured deck was 40 mm (1.6 in) thick on the flat and 70 mm (2.8 in) on the outer slopes. The conning tower had 266 mm (10.5 in) thick face and sides.
France was ordered on 1 August 1911 from Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire. The ship was laid down on 30 November 1911 at its shipyard in Saint-Nazaire and launched on 7 November 1912. She was formally declared completed on 1 July 1914, although she did not enter service until 10 October, to carry the President of the French Republic, Raymond Poincaré, on a state visit to Saint Petersburg, Russia, escorted by her sister, Jean Bart, later that month.
World War I
France, upon her return, was ordered, along with her three sister ships, to serve in the Mediterranean Sea against the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Navies. They spent most of 1914 providing gunfire support for the Montenegrin Army until the submarine U-12 torpedoed Jean Bart on 21 December off Sazan Island. This forced the battleships to fall back to either Malta or Bizerte. After the French occupied the neutral Greek island of Corfu in 1916 they moved forward to Corfu and Argostoli, but their activities were very limited as many of their crews were used to man anti-submarine ships.
After the war, France and Paris supported Allied forces in the Black Sea in 1919 during the Southern Russia Intervention. Mutinies briefly broke out on both ships in April 1919, but collapsed when Vice-Admiral Jean-Françoise-Charles Amet agreed to meet their main demand to take the ships home. 26 crewmen were sentenced to prison terms upon her return, although they were commuted in 1922 as part of a bargain between Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré and the parties of the Left. On 26 August 1922, she struck an uncharted rock in Quiberon Bay and foundered four hours later. Of her crew of 900, only three were lost. She was not modernized before her loss.
- Masson, pp. 106–22
- Jordan & Caresse, pp. 139–140
- Gardiner & Gray, p. 197
- Jordan & Caresse, p. 143
- Whitley, p. 36
- Jordan & Caresse, pp. 143, 150, 156–158
- Dumas, p. 162
- Jordan & Caresse, pp. 142, 243–244
- Whitley, p. 38
- "French Battleship wrecked, 3 men lost". The New York Times. New York Times. 27 August 1922. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
- Dumas, p. 225
- Dumas, Robert (1985). "The French Dreadnoughts: The 23,500 ton Courbet Class". In John Roberts (ed.). Warship. IX. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 154–164, 223–231. ISBN 978-0-87021-984-9. OCLC 26058427.
- Dumas, Robert & Guiglini, Jean (1980). Les cuirassés français de 23,500 tonnes [The French 23,500-tonne Battleships] (in French). Grenoble, France: Editions de 4 Seigneurs. OCLC 7836734.
- Gardiner, Robert & Chesneau, Roger, eds. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922–1946. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-913-9.
- Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1922. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-907-8.
- Jordan, John & Dumas, Robert (2009). French Battleships 1922–1956. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-416-8.
- Jordan, John & Caresse, Philippe (2017). French Battleships of World War One. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59114-639-1.
- Masson, Philippe (2003). "The French Naval Mutinies, 1919". In Bell, Christopher M.; Elleman, Bruce A. (eds.). Naval Mutinies of the Twentieth Century: An International Perspective. Cass Series: Naval Policy and History. 19. London: Frank Cass. ISBN 978-0-7146-5456-0.
- Scheer, Reinhard. "Germany's High Seas Fleet in the World War". Retrieved 21 November 2009.
- Whitley, M. J. (1998). Battleships of World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-184-4.