French battleships (French: Cuirassés de la Marine Française) which feature here below, were serviced for the period 1859–1945. Years given are the ships' launch date.

Context and concept

The term Cuirassé appeared prior 1860, first as an adjective, for the construction of the first Cuirassé frigates, before being designated as a class in 1872 during the new classification.

The French Navy has known several axes of development in regards to this type of ship.

  • The first generation was battery ships, just like the frigates and others ships which they derived from.

Technical innovations came to reinforce this conception: first a central artillery battery with secondary cannon around, protected in barbettes, a concept which evolved at the expense of the disperse of all artillery in barbettes on the two flancs.

During this period, France developed as well other reduced versions of ironclads for service in the overseas garrisons (such as the corvettes ironclads (French: corvettes cuirasses), for the protection of the colonies as well for floating batteries (French: batteries flottantes) in charge of coastal protection (coastal ironclads (French: garde-côtes cuirassés).

  • The pre-dreadnought battleships (French: Pré-Dreadnought), adopted at the end of 1890, had artillery in a diamond disposition.
  • Just before World War I, the new program of cuirassés of the dreadnought (French: Dreadnought) was cut short with the beginning of war.
  • In the years 1930, France opted for fast battleships to rival German construction.

The French Navy pursued three main lines of development with these ships:

  • Large sea-going battleships (battleships of the High Seas). The first generation were broadside ironclads; the next generation were central battery ships with some guns in barbettes to give all round fire. The French then abandoned the central battery in favour of a narrow armoured belt and a main armament in barbettes. Two French battleships Brennus and Charles Martel were abandoned in the 1880s, in part because it was believed that more money should be spent on high-technology weapons such as torpedo boats.[1] The French adopted the lozenge layout in the 1880s and 1890s, and only adopted the 'pre-dreadnought' layout in the late 1890s. Like other powers the French laid down 'dreadnoughts' before the First World War, but their dreadnought programmes were cut short by the war. During the 1930s, the French laid down new fast battleships; the Dunkerque-class battleships were designed to counter the Deutschland-class cruisers and were rivals of the German Scharnhorst class, the Richelieu-class battleships were designed to counter the Italian Littorio class and were rivals of the German Bismarck class. The last French battleship was scrapped in 1970.
  • Stationnaire battleships. These were smaller versions of the large battleships, and were often used on foreign stations where they did the job of a battleship. Development of this type was abandoned in the 1880s in favour of armoured cruisers.[1]
  • Coastal battleships. The first of these was the steam-powered ironclad 'floating batteries' used to attack Russian fortifications in the Crimean War. More were built in the early 1860s; then they built a series of low freeboard turret and barbette ships, some of which were arguably sea-going battleships.[1]

Battleships of the high seas

Broadside ironclads

Central battery ships with barbettes

Stationnaire central battery ships with barbettes

Barbette ships

Fomidable (11580 tons) next to a war antique Hellenistic-era warship (French: Quinquérème) (no sail power) (550 tons) for perspective visualizations.

Stationnaire barbette ships

Turret ships

Pre-dreadnought battleships (1895–1910)

Dreadnoughts (1910–1920)

  • Courbet class 22,189 tons normal, 25,000–26,000 tons full load.[7]
    • Jean Bart (1911) – renamed Océan 1936, disarmed for use as a training ship 1938, used for explosives trials by the Germans and sank 1944,[8] sold for BU 1945,[7] broken up (BU) 1946–47[citation needed].
    • Courbet (1911) – training ship 1939, taken over by Royal Navy 3 July 1940, transferred to Free French and used as AA guardship, scuttled on 9 June 1944 as part of a Mulberry harbour during the Normandy landings.[7][8]
    • Paris (1912) – training ship 1939, taken over by Royal Navy 3 July 1940, transferred to Free French and used as accommodation ship, towed to Brest August 1944, used as a pontoon from 1950, sold for BU December 1955,[7][8] BU 1956[citation needed]
    • France (1912) – wrecked 1922.[7]
  • Bretagne class 25,000 full load.[7]
    • Provence (1913) – sunk at Mers-el-Kébir 3 July 1940, refloated, and repaired at Toulon, scuttled November 1942, refloated 1943, scuttled 1944, refloated and BU 1949.[7][8]
    • Bretagne (1913) – sunk at Mers-el-Kébir 3 July 1940, salvaged 1952 and BU.[7][8]
    • Lorraine (1913) – interned by the British at Alexandria June 1940 – May 1943, then used by Free French, used as training ship 1945–1953, stricken February 1953, BU 1954.[7][8]
  • Normandie class 25,230 full load (all except Béarn were cancelled and scrapped after launching).[7]
    • Gascogne (1914) – BU 1923–24.[7]
    • Normandie (1914) – BU 1924–25.[7]
    • Flandre (1914) – BU 1924.[7]
    • Languedoc (1916) – BU 1929.[7]
    • Béarn (1920) converted to aircraft carrier 1923–27 – BU 1967.[7]
  • Lyon class 29,000 tons full load, planned under 1912 programme, it was intended to place orders with builders in January–April 1915.[7]
    • Duquesne (-) not started.[7]
    • Lille (-) not started.[7]
    • Lyon (-) not started.[7]
    • Tourville (-) not started.[7]

Fast battleships or super-dreadnoughts

Richelieu from USN USS Saratoga, May 1944.[9]
  • Dunkerque class 26,500 tons standard, 30,750–31,400 tons normal, 35,500 tons deep load.[8]
    • Dunkerque (1935) – sunk at Mers-el-Kébir 6 July 1940, refloated September 1942, scuttled November 1942, refloated 1945, sold for BU 1958.[8]
    • Strasbourg (1936) – scuttled November 1942, refloated 1943, sunk 1944, refloated 1945, used as experimental hulk, sold for BU 1955.[8]
  • Richelieu class 35,000 tons standard, 43,293–46,500 tons standard, 47,548–49,850 tons deep load.[8]
    • Richelieu (1939) – BU 1968[8]
    • Jean Bart (1940) – last battleship commissioned in the world BU 1970.[8]
    • Clemenceau (1943) – launched incomplete 1943, hull sunk by bombing 27 August 1944.[8]
    • Gascogne never laid down – cancelled.[8]
  • Alsace class (two planned but not ordered)[10]

Coastal battleships

Broadside ironclad floating batteries for coastal service

Battleship rams

With turret or barbettes

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Ropp, Theodore, The Development of a Modern Navy, French Naval Policy 1871–1904, pub US Naval Institute, 1987, ISBN 0-87021-141-2
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq cr cs ct cu cv cw cx cy cz da db dc dd de df dg dh di dj dk dl dm dn do dp dq dr ds dt du dv dw Chesnau, Roger and Kolesnik, Eugene (Ed.) Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905. Conway Maritime Press, 1979. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4
  3. ^ a b Brassey, Lord, The Naval Annual 1890, pub Griffin, 1890.
  4. ^ a b Hovgaard, William, Modern History of Warships, originally published 1920, pub Conway, 1978, ISBN 0-85177-040-1
  5. ^ Brassey, Lord, The Naval Annual 1886, pub Griffin, 1886.
  6. ^ a b Page 86, Brassey, Lord, The Naval Annual 1886,
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Gardiner, Robert (ed), Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921, pub Conways, 1985, ISBN 0-85177-245-5
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Gardiner, Robert (ed), Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946, pub Conways, 1980, ISBN 978-0-85177-146-5
  9. ^ U.S. Navy (This image is part of a photograph album kept by Commander Joseph C. Clifton during 1942–1944, which included service as Commanding Officer of Fighting Squadron (VF) 12 and Commander Air Group (CAG) 12.)
  10. ^ Jordan, John; Dumas, Robert (2009). French battleships 1922–1956. Seaforth Punblishing. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-84832-034-5.
  11. ^ Brassey, Lord, The Naval Annual 1887, pub Griffin, 1887.
  12. ^ Described as one of the first battleships to utilize turrets in superfiring mode
  13. ^ In 1920, Henri IV became a TSF school-ship (French: navire-école)

External links

  • Maritimequest French battleship photo index