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French battleship Jean Bart (1940)

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Laid down
December 1936

16 January 1949

248 m

6 March 1940

Jean Bart



Construction started
December 1936

36 m

French battleship Jean Bart (1940) 1000 ideas about Jean Bart on Pinterest Jeans bootleg Jean

Ateliers et Chantiers de Saint-Nazaire Penhoët, Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire, STX France

Jean Bart was a French battleship of World War II, named for the 17th-century seaman, privateer, and corsair Jean Bart. She was the second Richelieu-class battleship. Derived from the Dunkerque class, Jean Bart (and her sister ship Richelieu) were designed to fight the new battleships of the Italian Navy. Their speed, shielding, armament, and overall technology were state of the art, but they had a rather unusual main battery armament arrangement, with two 4-gun turrets forward and none aft.


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Jean Bart was incomplete when France surrendered to Germany in June 1940. She sailed from Saint-Nazaire to Casablanca just before the Armistice. She was sunk in harbour in 1942. After the war she was re-floated, completed with an updated anti-aircraft battery, and entered service in 1955. She had a very short career: Jean Bart was put into reserve in 1957, decommissioned in 1961, and scrapped in 1969.

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The Richelieu class was designed in response to the Italian Littorio-class battleships laid down in 1934, with Richelieu being laid down in 1935. When Germany laid down the two Bismarck-class battleships in November 1935 and June 1936, France ordered the second Richelieu, Jean Bart.

French battleship Jean Bart (1940) Vintage photographs of battleships battlecruisers and cruisers

Jean Bart was intended to be the exact sister ship of Richelieu, with the same 35,000-long-ton (35,562 t) tons standard displacement, same hull dimensions (length : 247.85 m (813 ft), beam : 33.00 m (108 ft), draught : 9.22 m (30.2 ft)), same armament, protection, and propulsion.

French battleship Jean Bart (1940) WW2 ship Jean Bart France 1940 WW2 Francia Buque Jean Bart 1940

Her general layout, with two four-gun turrets forward, originated with the Dunkerque battleship class. The quadruple turret had first been proposed for France's last pre-World War I battleship projects, the Normandie, and Lyon-class battleships. The quad turret was also featured on nearly all the French battleship projects in the 1920s,. The "all forward" main battery arrangement was influenced by pre-1921 British battlecruiser projects and the Nelson-class battleships.

The Richelieu-class battleships had, with 380 mm (14.96 in) calibre guns, and 327 mm (12.9 in) thick belt armor covering approximately 60% of total length, the same hitting and staying power as contemporary battleships built within the limit of 35,000 tons displacement in the Washington Naval Treaty. The 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph) maximum speed was surpassed only by the U.S. Iowa-class battleships.


Jean Bart was laid down in December 1936; she was built in the large Caquot dock in Penhoët, commonly known as the "Jean Bart dock". She was floated out on 6 March 1940, and transferred from the building basin to the nearby fitting-out basin. She was expected to leave in October 1940. In May 1940, it was decided that the uncompleted battleship had to be sent to a safer place in Britain or in French Africa, beyond the Luftwaffe's range. However, the fitting-out basin, where the ship was afloat, was separated from the navigational channel by an earth dam. In late May, when it appeared that Germany would win the Battle of France, the Navy began dredging the earth dam, so Jean Bart could leave at high tide on 20 June. Half the propulsion machinery (boilers and turbines) was installed, to be used when necessary. On 18 June, as German troops were approaching, her captain was ordered to prepare to sail immediately or to scuttle the ship. The dredging work was finished the middle of the next night, with very narrow margins for the battleship to pass through, and in the early hours of 19 June, nearly in view of the German vanguard, Jean Bart – barely 75% completed, her steam engines never having been worked before, and under the threat of German bombers – was taken out of the Saint Nazaire docks by four tugs. She reached Casablanca under her own steam on 22 June; the average speed on the journey's final leg was 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph).

Characteristics on 19 June 1940

She was only about 75% complete when construction was halted by her escape to Casablanca.


The designed main battery was eight 380 mm (15.0 in) /45 Modèle 1935 guns in two quadruple Modèle 1935 turrets forward, The secondary battery was nine 152 mm (6.0 in)/52 Model 1930 guns, in three dual-purpose Modèle 1936 turrets aft, two lateral and one axial.

Main and secondary artillery

From 1936 to 1938, twenty-one 380 mm/45 Modèle 1935 gun barrels were constructed at the Ruelle naval artillery establishment. Sixteen were to be fitted on Richelieu and Jean Bart, two were to be retained at Ruelle, and three were for the Gâvres gunnery testing ground, near Lorient. Twelve were installed: eight on Richelieu and four in the #1 turret on Jean Bart. The remaining nine fell into German hands in 1940, except for one lost when the freighter Mecanicien Principal Lestin. bound for Casablanca, was sunk by German aerial attack off the Gironde estuary in June 1940. It was taking one barrel earmarked for Jean Bart's #2 main turret.

When it had been decided, in November 1939, to reallocate the amidships 152 mm turrets from the first pair of the Richelieu-class battleships, to the next battleship to be built, Clemenceau, no armour plating was installed on the barbettes already in place, on Richelieu, and the installation of the corresponding barbettes was cancelled on Jean Bart. When Jean Bart left Saint-Nazaire, to Casablanca, in June 1940, none of the three aft 152 mm turrets had yet been installed.

Anti-aircraft light artillery

As there was a shortage of 100 mm (3.94 in) CAD Model 1930 turrets, intended to be substituted to the 152 mm amidships turrets on Richelieu and Jean Bart, it was decided to install on Jean Bart 90 mm (3.54 in) CAD Modèle 1930 turrets, which were in use on the most recent La Galissonnière-class light cruisers. The 90 mm (3.54 in)/50 Modèle 1926 guns of these turrets fired OEA Model 1925 shells, weighing 9.5 kg (20.9 lb), with a muzzle velocity of 850 m/s, at a maximum range of 15,440 m (16,900 yd) and a 10,600 m (34,800 ft) ceiling (at 80° maximum elevation). The rate of fire was 10-15rpm theoretical, 6-8rpm practical.

Due to the difficulties to dispose of the twin automatic 37 mm ACAD Modèle 1935 mountings in time for the withdrawal of Jean Bart from Saint-Nazaire, in June 1940, she was fitted, as the Dunkerque-class battleships, and Richelieu, with the less efficient semi-automatic 37 mm CAD Modèle 1933 mountings, in scarce number.

When Jean Bart left for Casablanca, she had been fitted with two 90 mm CAD mountings, hastily installed the day before but without any ammunition; with three 37 mm CAD Modèle 1933 mountings, and two four-gun and four two-gun 13.2 mm MG, but there was as yet no target designation or unified control system.

Fire control systems

As she was designed with exactly the same fire control director systems as Richelieu, neither directors nor range finders were installed before Jean Bart left Saint-Nazaire, not even the 14 m (46 ft) stereoscopic range finder, which was to be installed in the main turret still in place.

Aircraft facilities

The aviation facilities also remained incomplete, only the bases of the catapults, the elevator and the base of the crane had been installed.

Armour and underwater protection

The hull armour was installed exactly as designed for Richelieu:

  • 327 mm (12.9 in) armoured belt, with a slope of 15°24', between frame 51.50 and frame 182.95 and from 3.38 meters (11.1 ft) above the waterline to 2.50 meters (8.2 ft) under the water line.
  • 233 mm (9.2 in) thick armoured fore and aft bulkheads, reinforced to 355 mm (14.0 in) for the fore bulkhead between the first and second platform decks,
  • 150 mm (5.9 in) upper armoured deck, above the machinery, and 170 mm (6.7 in) above the main artillery magazines, and a 40 mm (1.6 in) lower armoured deck, extended to frame 233. After the aft transverse bulkhead, a 100 mm (3.9 in) armoured deck above the shafts was increased to 150 mm (5.9 in) above the steering gear.
  • The conning tower had the same armour thickness as Richelieu (340 mm (13 in) on front and sides), but the 380 mm gun #2 turret was only a steel frame, without any armour plating as no barrel could have been installed before the battleship left France.

    The underwater protection was exactly the same (7m wide) as on Richelieu. It consisted of a sandwich of void spaces, light bulkheads, liquid loading compartments or compartments filled with a rubber-based water-excluding compound (ébonite-mousse), and a heavy internal holding bulkhead to absorb the explosion of a torpedo head.


    The four Parsons turbine sets, and the six Indret Sural boilers were installed, but only the boilers of the after boiler room, and the turbines of the after engine room were in working order. Only two propellers have been fitted, on the outer shafts, on 6–7 June.

    At Casablanca

    Jean Bart, moored in Casablanca harbour, stayed uncompleted as facilities to complete her were completely lacking. Her 90 mm and 37 mm mountings were even disembarked, and reallocated to the Casablanca harbour anti-aircraft defence, and the battleship left with only four twin 13.2 mm AA machine guns.

    During 1941, a 14 m (46 ft) duplex OPL Modèle 1937 rangefinder was installed on the fore tower platform 8, and another 8 m (26 ft) duplex OPL Modèle 1937 range finder, atop the #2 turret. A 3 m (9.8 ft) SOM range finder was fitted atop the conning tower for navigation, and, in October, two fire control directors, with 3 m (9.8 ft) SOM range finder, removed from Dunkerque, were fitted on the bridge wings.

    In April 1942, the anti-aircraft defence was reinforced with four 37 mm AA single CAS Modèle 1925 mountings, and two new-built 90 mm twin AA mountings. In May, a standard test-firing of the 380 mm guns was carried out, as a fire control system was conceived, using triangulation from three points, the forward tower of Jean Bart, and the shore stations of Sidi Abderhamane and Dar Bou Azza. In June, two 37 mm AA double semi-automatic CAD Modèle 1933 mountings were fitted as the single 37 mm Modèle 1925, but one, were disembarked. The French DEM early radar installation was installed, with two rotating antennæ atop the forward tower, and passed for operational service in October. During early November, a fifth 90 mm AA mounting was installed.

    On 8 November 1942, Allied landings in French North Africa (Operation Torch) began. Vichy French government forces attacked the Allied forces in defense of the neutrality of French Morocco, in what became known as the Naval Battle of Casablanca. Jean Bart opened fire with the four 380 mm (15 in) guns of her one operational turret on U.S. warships covering the landings. She was hit and moderately damaged by U.S. dive bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Ranger. The battleship was silenced by the fifth hit from the 406 mm (16.0 in) guns of USS Massachusetts, which jammed the rotating mechanism of the one working turret. The first of the seven 406 mm (16.0 in) shells which hit her, and the only one which pierced the upper armoured deck, had exploded in a magazine of 152 mm (6.0 in) turret, which was empty as these turrets had not been installed. In normal war circumstances, this event could have had catastrophic consequences. The weakness of the armor of these magazines was known, and was to be corrected on Gascogne.

    The 380 mm (15 in) turret was quickly repaired. On 10 November, Jean Bart opened fire again, and almost hit USS Augusta, the Task Force 34 flagship. Bombers from Ranger soon inflicted severe damage on her, two heavy bombs hitting the bow and the stern, and she sank into the harbor mud with decks awash. Jean Bart's commanding officer, Captain Barthes, was promoted to Rear Admiral on 18 November 1942. During the three days of the 'Battle of Casablanca', Jean Bart fired twenty-five 380 mm rounds; twenty-two of her seamen were killed.


    After the French North Africa forces joined the Allies, the French hoped to complete Jean Bart in the United States, as it has been done for Richelieu. But the first decision which affected Jean Bart was the removing of the four 380 mm barrels of her main artillery #1 turret, which were shipped to the United States, to replace the ruined barrels of Richelieu, which had not been repaired in Dakar, due to the German obstruction.

    Then, the ship was quickly made seaworthy for an Atlantic voyage. The proposals for her completion were delivered to the US Navy by Vice Admiral Fenard, the Chief of the French Naval Mission to the United States. A May 1943 proposal was for completion as a hybrid battleship-carrier. Jean Bart would have been armed with only one main turret, using 340 mm (13.4 in) guns from Lorraine which had been interned in Alexandria in 1940. To this would be added fifteen U.S.-built dual-purpose 127 mm (5 in) double turrets, sixteen Bofors 40 mm (1.6 in) quad mountings, numerous Oerlikon 20 mm (0.79 in) mountings, and aircraft installations for six planes (Grumman Avenger or Fairey Barracuda bombers and Hellcat or Seafire fighters). A second, less expensive, proposal was for an anti-aircraft battleship. Armament would have used the main battery as the first proposal, plus seventeen 127 mm (5 in) double turrets and twenty Bofors quad 40 mm (1.6 in) mountings. US naval staff concluded that American shipyards could not easily replicate French methodologies and that the necessary parts were not available; all proposals were rejected by Admiral Ernest King, operational commander of the US Navy, in March 1944, and Jean Bart remained in Casablanca.

    When the war ended, the French Navy decided, on 22 February 1945, Jean Bart would not be scrapped but the question of how the ship was to be completed remained. At a meeting of the French Navy Board, on 21 September 1945, Louis Kahn, Chief Naval Construction, who had designed the Joffre-class aircraft carrier in the 1930s, proposed completing her as a 40,000 tonnes (39,000 long tons) aircraft carrier operating 40–54 aircraft. The conversion would take no less than five years at a cost 5 billion Francs. This seemed unsatisfactory, especially to Admiral Fenard and Admiral Nomy (later Chief of Staff in 1951), as foreign carriers were carrying twice the aircraft on the same displacement; for example, the British HMS Eagle then under construction had a 38,600 long tons (39,200 t) displacement, (46,000 long tons (47,000 t) full load), and was designed for 80 aircraft. Rear Admiral Barjot noted that it seemed strange that there was so much opposition to the carrier conversion, despite wartime experience showing the need for carriers. The decision was finally made to complete Jean Bart as a battleship, a «second Richelieu». She would be a command ship with heavy anti-aircraft armament, while her main armament would be useful for shore bombardment.

    Jean Bart, which had left Casablanca in August 1945 for Cherbourg, which had the only usable graving dock on the French Atlantic coast at the time, was moved to the Brest Arsenal's Laninon docks in March 1946. Work proceeded slowly as the facility was still recovering from wartime damage.

    380 mm and 152 mm batteries and radars

    After the war, nine 380 mm guns were constructed at Ruelle, two in 1945, three in 1946, and four in 1947. One was retained at Ruelle, seven were installed on Jean Bart, the eighth gun on Jean Bart, in 1949, being the fourth gun of Jean Bart's #1 turret, sent in 1943 to the U.S. Dahlgren gunnery testing ground.

    The battleship emerged with a much more compact fore control tower, topped by only one fire control director (Richelieu had two after her refit). Her fire control system was not specially up-to-date, and the radars fitted were the first French-built postwar types.

    Eight rangefinders were installed,

  • for the 380 mm battery, one 14 m (46 ft) stereoscopic triplex OPL rangefinder, in the fire control director atop the forward tower, and later, two 14.2 m (47 ft) stereoscopic quadruplex OPL rangefinders in the main artillery turrets,
  • for the 152 mm (6.0 in) battery, two 8 m (26 ft) stereoscopic duplex OPL rangefinders in the fire control directors, atop and abaft the after tower, and three 8 m (26 ft) stereoscopic duplex OPL rangefinders in the three Modèle 1936 DP turrets.
  • An ABM fire control radar was fitted, in 1948, on the face of the fire control director atop the forward tower.

    The surface surveillance radars were a DRBV 10-type one, installed in November 1948, above the conning tower, and a DRBV 30-type radar for navigation purpose, atop the main mast. The air surveillance radar was a DRBV 20-type, installed in June 1949, lower on the main mast, in November 1949.

    In 1948, the Jean Bart received an additional bulge to limit the increase of her draught, due to the planned fitting of stronger anti-aircraft artillery; her beam reached 35.5 meters (116 ft), but eight 40 mm Bofors and twenty 20 mm Oerlikon remained provisionally in place for the anti-aircraft defence. Gunnery trials for the main and second batteries were carried out, in January 1949, and speed sea trials, on 7 February 1949, showed a top speed of more than 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph) with a 46,500 t (45,800 long tons) displacement. Thus, Jean Bart had been officially commissioned on 16 January 1949.

    Since 1950, Jean Bart received new radars. First, the 152 mm (6.0 in) battery fire control directors were fitted, for anti-aircraft purpose, with two ACAE radars which did not proved to be very reliable. From 1951, a air and surface surveillance radar DRBV 11-type was installed atop the main mast, thus the DRBV 20-type and the DRBV 30-type radars were moved to the fore mast. As this DRBV 11-type radar was low performing, its replacement by a DRBV 22-type was intended, but this was never done.

    The ABM-type radar was replaced by a DRBC10A-type radar, which proved to be efficient to a range of 25,000 m (27,000 yd).

    The #1 main turret was mothballed at the end of 1951, and the #2 turret partially so, but the latter was reactivated in two weeks, in August 1956, because of the participation of Jean Bart in the Suez Expedition.

    The ammunition provision was, in 1955–1957, of three hundred twenty-eight 380 mm (15 in) OPfK Model 1943 shells of US manufacture, and four hundred six OEA Model 1945 shells of British manufacture, and for the152 mm (6.0 in) battery, of 750 OPf and 2284 OEA.

    Anti-aircraft artillery

    The interim 40 mm AA Bofors guns were removed in 1952, and the remaining 20 mm Oerlikon guns in 1954.

    The anti-aircraft short range artillery, twenty-four 100 mm (3.9 in) guns in twelve CAD Modèle 1946 dual mountings, and twenty-eight Bofors licensed 57 mm (2.2 in) guns in fourteen French-built ACAD Modèle 1948 dual mountings, was fitted in 1952–1953.

    The 100 mm/55 Modèle 1945 guns fired 13.3 kg (29 lb) shells at a rate of 20-25rpm, with a muzzle velocity of 855 m/s (2,810 ft/s), and had a maximum range of 17,000 m (19,000 yd), and a ceiling of 11,500 m (37,700 ft), at a maximum elevation of 70°. Jean Bart's CAD Modèle 1946 fully enclosed dual mountings, weighed 26.55 t (26.13 long tons), as Richelieu 's 100 mm (3.9 in) CAD Modèle 1931 dual mountings had a weight of 13.5 t (13.3 long tons). They were controlled by four gyro-stabilized directors, derived from the German Wackeltopf which equipped the 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns of the battleships and cruisers of the Kriegsmarine. But the four ACAE radars fitted on these directors had poor performances, we have seen it for the 152 mm (6.0 in) battery, and their replacement by DRBC 30B-type radars, as those which were installed for the 57 mm (2.2 in) AA battery was projected but never intervened.

    The French Navy, for Jean Bart's short range anti-aircraft artillery, wanted to have a heavier caliber than the 40 mm (1.6 in). The new Bofors 57 mm (2.2 in)/60 Modèle 1947 was chosen, with French-built ACAD Modèle 1948 dual mountings. This gun fired a 2.96 kg (6.5 lb) shell at a rate of 120 rpm, with a muzzle velocity of 850 m/s (2,800 ft/s), at a maximum range of 14,500 m (15,900 yd) and a ceiling of 5,500 m (18,000 ft), at a maximum elevation of 90°. The weight of the fully enclosed ACAD mountings was 18 t (18 long tons). They were controlled by five fire control systems, with DRBC 30B-type radars on the directors, which followed the target automatically. These 57 mm dual mountings were fitted on the eighteen Surcouf-class escorteurs d'escadre, on the eighteen Le Corse and Le Normand-class escorteurs rapides Type E 50 and Type E 52, and on the anti-aircraft cruisers De Grasse and Colbert.

    Post war active service

    Jean Bart was admitted to active service on 1 May 1955. She soon took the President of the French Republic in an official visit to Copenhagen, and went on to Oslo. In July, she took part (in New York) in ceremonies celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Newport landing of French troops led by the Comte de Rochambeau, during the American War of Independence. On 21 October, in Toulon, Jean Bart succeeded Richelieu as the flagship of the South Group of Schools.

    During her active career, Jean Bart had a complement of 750 to 900 men; 1500 had been planned. She reached more than 1200 men when she was about to be sent due to the Suez Canal crisis, but even then, only the #2 380 mm (15 in) turret and the axial 152 mm (6.0 in) turret, and about half the anti-aircraft battery turrets could be manned.

    In 1956, she took part in the operations off Port-Saïd during the Suez Crisis, but only fired four rounds with her 380 mm (15 in) guns against land targets. Most French fire support came from the Aeronavale Corsairs launched from the carriers Arromanches, and the La Fayette. Jean Bart's main operational contribution was to ship the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment from Algiers to Cyprus.

    After having fired the last French Navy 380 mm (15 in) gunshots in July 1957, Jean Bart was placed in reserve, on 1 August 1957, and served as a school ship for the gunnery training schools in Toulon. Afterwards, there were some proposals in 1957–1958 to modernize her anti-aircraft artillery with new 100 mm (3.9 in) turrets (Model 53 in place of Model 45), or later to transform her into a guided missile battleship as had been USS Mississippi (but no French-built missile existed at that time, so it was proposed to use the U.S. Terrier missile). In 1964, when a command ship was looked for by the Pacific Center for Nuclear Experiments, the cruiser De Grasse was preferred to Jean Bart, which would have been more expensive to transform. The following year the vessel appeared in film director Jean-Luc Godard's postmodernist tale Pierrot le Fou, the final act of which was photographed in Toulon.

    Decommissioned in 1968, Jean Bart was scrapped in 1970 at Brégaillon near Toulon, leaving the Turkish Yavuz, formerly SMS Goeben, the only survivor afloat in European waters of the battleship era.

    Jean Bart was overall an experimental battleship, never fully operational, mainly because of budget cuts but also because, when Jean Bart was completed, the battleship was no longer the capital ship for the French Navy, since instead three aircraft carriers – Arromanches, La Fayette, and Bois Belleau – operated during the 1950s in bombing support against land in Indochina, in Algeria, and during the Suez Crisis. However, she was very useful post-war as a testbed for new French-built naval AA guns and radars.


    French battleship Jean Bart (1940) Wikipedia

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