The Battleship Richelieu

Visualization 3D Andrzej Sobucki and Piotr Forkasiewicz

Upper armour deck    170 mm (over magazines)
150 mm (over machinery)
Lower armour deck    40 mm

During session on April 4, 1935, the CSM recognized that the current battleship design’s displacement is too great and it had to reduced. The STCN designers shortened the citadel by 4.85 m. It was possible by the use of Sural-Indret boilers, which were very compact. Therefore, three boilers were located in each boiler room, reducing the number of the rooms to two. Additional weight was saved by reducing thickness of the main belt from 360 to 340 mm. However, that reduction forced the increase of armour slope from 11.3 to 15.24°. Moreover, the thickness of the side armour of the conning tower was reduced to 340 mm. Armour protection of the 152 mm gun turrets was also reduced and so was that of the armour deck – from 150 – 170 mm to 140 – 150 mm.
The Anglo-German Naval Agreement signed on June 18, 1935, forced France to proclaim that it would no longer abide by limitations of the Washington Treaty. That decision was being postponed until the end of the year, when a conference concerning limitation of the naval arms race was expected to take place. Deterioration of current diplomatic relations between France and Italy created further tension. Thus, the CSM deemed it necessary to commence construction of new battleships as soon as possible and that the program should be a priority. The Parliament authorized construction of two battleships. Both units were included in the 1935 shipbuilding program, but the second one was financed from the supplementary naval fund. Their preliminary cost was estimated at two billion francs allotted in the budget. According to later settlements the first warship cost 1 227 million, while the second one 1 400 million francs. The final design of the battleship was approved by the Minister of the Navy on August 14, 1935. On August 31, 1935 he also approved construction of the first Richelieu class battleship.

The post side 40 mm Bofors gun mount (No. 12). Single Oerlikon guns can be seen on the right. Visualization 3D Andrzej Sobucki


Richelieu was laid down on October 22, 1935 at Brest Navy Yard (Arsenale de Brest) at the dry dock No. 4. However, the dock was to small to accommodate the entire hull, therefore, its 52-metre-long bow and 8-metre-long stern sections were built separately. On completion all three sections were towed to the dry dock No. 8 were they were connected. The complete hull was launched on January 17, 1939 and the ship was ceremoniously commissioned on June 15, 1940.

Table 3. Final design characteristics of the battleship Richelieu
Standard displacement    37 832 tons
Full-load displacement     44 708 tons
Length overall    247.0 m
Waterline length    242.0 m
Waterline beam     33.08 m
Draft (designed)    9.17 m
Main battery     Eight 380 mm gun in two quadruple turrets
Secondary battery in 1938     Fifteen 152 mm guns in five triple turrets
Secondary battery in 1940    Nine 152 mm guns in three triple turrets
Anti-aircraft battery     Twelve 37 mm guns (6 x II)
Twenty-four 13.2 mm machine guns (6 x IV)
Seaplane    Three Loire-Nieuport 130 aircraft
Catapults     Two
Speed     31.5 knots
Power output     147 950 SHP
Fuel capacity     6 300 t
Protection     
Side belt     330 mm sloped at 15.5°
Upper armour deck    170 mm (over magazines)
150 mm (over machinery)
Complement    1 550 (1945)

2. Technical description