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Doomlock

AHLA: Richelieu. (Image heavy)

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Hi guys!

 

I know it's been a while since my last official post that I like to do, but hey, I am rectifying that now. So in honor of the French battleships coming soon™ I decided to do a French BB, and I picked Richy.

Pics come from google image search and http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

So without further delay, I give you, Richelieu. 

 

 

 

IwsZgwh.jpg

Richelieu, a ship that fought for the Axis...and the Allies.

 

 

Richelieu, Richelieu-class battleship, Marine Nationale. Richelieu, named after the Cardinal de Richelieu, was commissioned into the Vichy French Navy in June, 1940, and the Forces navales françaises libres (Free French Navy) in October, 1943, with a displacement of 47,548 tons fully loaded; had a length of 813 feet, a width of 108 feet, a draft of 32 feet, and had a top speed of 30 knots (32.5 mph/56 kph). She had a range of 9,850 nautical miles at 16 knots (18 mph/30 kph), powered by 6 x Indret Sural boilers powering 4 Parsons geared turbines turning 4 shafts producing 150,000 shaft horsepower; her complement was 70 officers and 1,550 enlisted. Her armament consisted of 8 x 15 inch/45 caliber Modèle 1935 naval guns in 2 quad turrets in a A B superfiring position forward of the superstructure; 9 x 6.1 inch/50 caliber Modèle 1930 DP guns in 3 triple turrets mounted aft of the superstructure; 12 x 4 inch/45 caliber Modèle 1930 DP guns in 6 dual mounts abaft of the superstructure; 56 x 40mm/56 caliber Bofors AA guns in 14 quad mounts; and 48 x 20mm Oerlikon AA guns in single mounts. She had one sister, Jean Bart.

 

 

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"Honneur, patrie, valeur, discipline", the motto of the Marine Nationale.

 

 

Richy's life began in 1935 when she was laid down for construction. She was floated out on January 17, 1939 for finishing at Brest Navy Yard together with the rest of the hull that was constructed separately. Over the next year, the secondary turrets were installed, the main barrels fitted, aircraft catapults fitted, and she set out for sea trials in April-May, 1940. She achieved 30 knots in the first trial, and later, in June, she achieved 32.6 knots at full power trials and gunnery trials were carried out the next day. Finally on June 18, she set sail for Dakar with two destroyers Fougueux and Frondeur, which was later replaced by Fleuret and she arrived at Dakar on June 23.

 

 

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Several sailors of Richelieu standing with a barrel...under the barrels (Hehe) of her A turret. 

 

 

Richelieu sat at Dakar when the Franco-German Armistice was signed, however the French West Africa authorities, Rear Admiral Plançon, and the Governor, were inclined to keep fighting the Germans. Captain Marzin was under orders from Admiral Darlan, that his ship remained under the French flag, and as such his options were to scuttle the ship, or attempt an escape to the US, as an apparent trap from the British was at hand. Against the advice of the Governor, who considered the departure desertion, Richelieu departed for Casablanca along with Fleuret, to which Rear Admiral Plançon radioed that, "Richelieu and Fleuret have left Dakar, steering probably towards you." The British, fearing Richelieu returned to France, dispatched HMS Hood and HMS Ark Royal to intercept the ship off the Canary Islands, and the French, fearing the ship would join the British, summoned her back to Dakar, which she did, being shadowed by HMS Dorsetshire, which remained at port after HMS Hermes had left port. Richelieu was moored at the roadstead so she'd not be blocked in the harbor, a decision that proved correct as the attack on Mers-el-Kébr showed. 

 

On July 7, six days after the attack on Mers-el-Kébr, Captain Richard Onslow of HMS Hermes sent an ultimatum similar to the one at Mers-el-Kébr. There was no answer from French authorities, but Captain Marzin knew the ultimatum was no bluff after Mers-el-Kébr, so he decided to leave port in the morning to try and engage Hermes or her escorts. During the night, a squad of Royal Marine Commandos dropped mines under the stern of Richelieu but they did not explode. Nevertheless, the commander of the operation, Lieutenant-Commander Bristowe received the Distinguished Service Order for the action. Early the next morning, six torpedo bombers from Hermes attacked Richelieu coming under her AA and the nearby aviso Bougainville, and attacked her port side. A torpedo exploded on the starboard side (either passing under the ship and exploding from a magnetic warhead, or one of the bombers attacked from the starboard side) giving an extremely powerful explosion possibly due to the shallow water she was moored in, and possibly the mines placed the night before being detonated. The main fire directors were lifted out of their tracks and were damaged with a whiplash effect from the blast, the main rudder servos were inoperable, the propeller shafts were severely damaged with the outer one being distorted, and the other being blocked.  No Frenchmen were harmed in the attack.

 

 

 

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Richelieu underway. The two quad turrets are clearly visible from this shot.

 

 

Repairs of Richelieu began in July-August for stopping the flooding, repair the hull, and make sure her main and secondary batteries could effectively engage enemy forces. In late August, a force consisting of Free French ships, and the Royal Navy to retake French West Africa, was steaming towards Sierra-Leone. In the meantime, the Vichy France government obtained permission to send a fleet to reinforce the area sending three cruisers (including Georges Leygues (flagship), and Montcalm) and three large destroyers. In the days that followed, Dakar was under attack by Free French forces and the Royal Navy. On September 23, through the next two days Richelieu was shelled by HMS Barham, HMS Resolution, and aircraft from HMS Ark Royal suffering damage to one of her barrels putting it out of action. Richelieu opened fire with her B turret (A turret was unmanned as the sailors were needed on the coastal batteries) and suffered damage to two of the barrels of B turret, when the shells exploded prematurely. The A turret was rearmed and she continued firing without incident, but scored no hits. The British force retreated after Resolution was damaged by submarine Bévéziers. The next few months were repairs for Richelieu. In February, 1941 she could make 14 knots on her own power, and in April she became the first French battleship to be fitted with radar. 

 

In November, 1942, the Allies successfully invaded French West Africa and the French forces of the region sided with the Allies. It was decided that Richelieu was to be refitted by the US and she set sail with her fellow cruiser Montcalm which had been by her side since September 1940, and both arrived in the New York Navy Yard on February 11, 1943 and began refitting for the war ahead.

 

 

 

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Richelieu arrives in New York for her massive overhaul. Her fire control directors had to be removed to pass under the Brooklyn Bridge; also visible is her damaged turret from her battles in 1940.

 

 

For the next several months Richelieu received a complete overhaul. Repairs to her guns, fitting of a new barrel, rearmament of her secondary battery, addition of air and surface search radar, and a massive boost to her AA battery. Refit was complete on October 10, 1943 and sailed for the Mediterranean to join the British fleet on the 14th a brand new ship. Because of her lack of gunnery radar (which the US was not keen on giving a foreign warship gunnery radar), she did not participate in the Battle of the North Cape where the German battleship Scharnhorst was sunk. The beginning of 1944 saw her receive a gunnery radar from the British and she commenced operations off of Norway covering carrier ops, and later being redirected to the Normandy Landings for fire support. Finally she was sent to the Indian Ocean to cover for the battleships undergoing refit. 

 

She took part in several operations attacking Sabang (Operation Cockpit), Surabaya (Operation Transom), the bombing of Port Blair (Operation Pedal), and then Sabang and Surabaya again (Operation Crimson). After being relieved by HMS Howe, Richelieu returned to Europe where she arrived in Toulon on October 1, 1944, 52 months after leaving France, but had to sail to Casablanca for refit due to the ruined state of the French ports. She received new radar, air, fire control for the secondaries, surface radar, and she received a jammer to help combat the Fritz X guided bomb which had previously sunk the Italian battleship Roma, and heavily damaged HMS Warspite. After a refit in Gibraltar in January 1945, she rejoined the Eastern Indies Fleet until the end of the war against Japan.

 

 

 

lujhPxc.jpg

Late war Richelieu at anchor in Villefranche-sur-Mer, Southern France.

 

 

She again bombarded Sabang in April, covered diversionary aerial attacks on Padang in preparation for landings later in the year, bombarded the airfields of Car Nicobar in late April to early May (Operation Bishop), and sailed out to intercept the Japanese cruiser Haguro but she was sunk before Richelieu and her escort HMS Cumberland could arrive. She was refitted from July 18-August 10 for her boilers to be overhauled. She arrived at Trincomalee on August 18 where she learned of the Japanese surrender, and then sailed on September 5 to participate in the liberation of Singapore, Operation Tiderace. On her way she hit a magnetic mine and had to limp to Singapore on the 11th. 

 

After V-J Day, during the last four months of the year, Richelieu returned French forces to Indochina, afterwards, she sailed for France and arrived in Toulon on February 11, 1946. During the next couple years she alternated between training times, maneuvers with fleet units, officially visiting Portugal in 1946, and transporting the president of the French Republic to visit the French West Africa colonies in 1947. During 1947-1948 she was the flagship of a Foce d'Intervention where it was found her command spaces were antiquated and needed upgrading; she was refitted with a new transmission center and combat information center (CIC). In gunnery practices at the end of the East Indies Fleet campaigns, clearly showed the reason behind the dispersal of Richelieu's main battery shells was due to the guns firing simultaneously by the guns of the same half turrets. To correct this, the outer guns received retarding devices at Cherbourg in March of 1948, with a delay of 60 milliseconds corresponding to a distance of 160 ft per shell, main battery dispersal was reduced by two-thirds. During a careening (grounding a vessel to expose one side of the hull for maintenance and repairs) in Toulon in 1951, the guns from B turret were discarded and replaced by A turrets barrels after relining, and she received in A turret one new 15 inch barrel, and three guns that were captured by the Germans during the war, and intended for use on Jean Bart. 

 

 

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A close up of Richelieu's B turret and forward superstructure.

 

 

After she fired her guns for the last time in 1952, she was assigned as a gunnery training ship in Toulon wearing the ensign of the Group of School of the Mediterranean. In October 1955, Jean Bart replaced Richelieu as the flagship of the South Group of Schools. On January 30, 1956 for the first and only time, Richelieu maneuvered with her sister Jean Bart for a few hours, soon after she was based in Brest. From May 25, 1956 on she was an accommodation ship in Brest, and was placed in reserve in 1958. She was condemned on January 16, 1968 and was scrapped in September 1968. One of her guns is on display in the harbor of Brest (seen below).

 

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One of Richelieu's 15 inch guns on display in Brest harbor.

 


 

 

For more pictures, see this thread here: Pics of the Richelieu-class.

 

 

That is all folks I hope you enjoyed. There shall be more to come...I have more ships than I have days in the year to make posts for, so never fear for that. I will think about what may come next for the series and let y'all know. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated and welcomed. 

 

Thanks for all the support you guys give these posts, and I shall continue to make them as the interest continues, and as always: Fair winds and following seas captains! :Smile_honoring:

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1 hour ago, Doomlock said:

lujhPxc.jpg

Late war Richelieu at anchor in a quaint village, I am unsure as to the location.

I was board so i did so searching on google and it looks like this was taken in Villefranche-sur-Mer Southern France.

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16 minutes ago, Kittens_On_Board said:

I was board so i did so searching on google and it looks like this was taken in Villefranche-sur-Mer Southern France.

Huh...funny, because I have an image of Jean Bart in the same place.

c5fdsJE.jpg

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2 minutes ago, Doomlock said:

Huh...funny, because I have an image of Jean Bart in the same place.

i came across this Amazon sale https://www.amazon.com/French-Battleship-Richelieu-Villefranche-sur-Mer-postcard/dp/B0186UKZL4

and some more recent pictures of the area look very similar.

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1 minute ago, Kittens_On_Board said:

i came across this Amazon sale https://www.amazon.com/French-Battleship-Richelieu-Villefranche-sur-Mer-postcard/dp/B0186UKZL4

and some more recent pictures of the area look very similar.

Very cool. Thanks man!

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Hi there, this history post is awesome. Was a ton of work I am sure but please do more as you do these well.

 

Thank you for your efforts.:cap_book:

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Very interesting @Doomlock. I can hardly believe those pictures! It's so strange to see this huge beast of a ship settled in near a cute little seas side place like Villefranche-sur-Mer (totally knew I'd seen this on a postcard before!)

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