Richelieu file photo [1745]


Ship ClassRichelieu-class Battleship
BuilderArsenal de Brest
Laid Down22 Oct 1935
Launched17 Jan 1939
Commissioned15 Jul 1940
Decommissioned1 Jan 1956
Displacement37,960 tons standard; 43,293 tons full
Length813 feet
Beam108 feet
Draft31 feet
MachinerySix Indret boilers were fitted with four Parsons steam turbines
Bunkerageoil 6796 tons
Power Output150,000 shaft horsepower
Speed30 knots
Range5500nm at 18kts or 2500nm at 26kts
Armament4x2x380mm guns, 3x3x152mm guns, 6x2x100mm AA guns, 14x4x40mm Bofors AA guns, 48x20mm Oerlikon AA cannons
Armor343mm belt, 50-170mm deck, 445mm turrets
AircraftThree Loire 130 flying boats (pre-1943)


ww2dbaseRichelieu was the lead ship of her class of two battleships. The Richelieu-class ships were unusual in that all of the main turrets are in the forward part of the ships; this was a characteristic inherited from the Dunkirque-class battleship design which she was developed upon.

ww2dbaseWhen Germany invaided France in 1940, Richelieu was still incomplete. On 18 Jun 1940, she sailed from Brest, France to avoid German capture, escorted by destroyers Fougueux and Frondeur. She arrived at Dakar in French West Africa on 23 Jun. On 25 Jun, she set sail for Casablanca further north; en route, she was watched closely by a British fleet. On 28 Jun, she returned to Dakar. On 8 Jul, British Swordfish torpedo bombers from carrier Hermes attacked the French fleet at Dakar in fear that these warships would be surrendered to the Germans. Richelieu was hit below the armored deck by a torpedo, disabling her starboard shaft. Shortly after, she sank by the stern. She was re-floated a few days later and made sea-worthy for emergencies. She remained in Dakar as a gun platform.

ww2dbaseOn 23 Sep 1940, a combined fleet of British and Free French ships reached Dakar to conduct negotiations en force. Vichy French detained the negotiating party and fired in warning. At 1000 hours, Australian cruiser Australia fired warning shots on Vichy French ships that attempted to leave port, and Vichy French coastal guns returned fire, starting the battle. During the three-day battle, Richelieu exchanged fire with British battleship Barham, with each ship receiving two hits. Later in the battle, two guns of her No. 2 turret were disabled from blowback. The Allied fleet withdrew to avoid further damage, and Vichy French forces at Dakar claimed a small victory.

ww2dbaseOn 24 Apr 1941, Richelieu was made seaworthy on three engines, capable of making 14 knots. At this point, she only had three usable main guns.

ww2dbaseIn Nov 1942, Vichy French forces in North Africa switched sides and joined the Free French, thus creating the opportunity for Richelieu to be repaired by the Allies. She sailed to New York Navy Yard in the United States, arriving on 30 Jan 1943. While she was being repaired, she also had her aircraft handling facilities removed to make room for radar equipment, meanwhile also receiving more anti-aircraft weaponry. Upon completion of the work, she sailed for Mers el-Kebir in West Africa on 14 Oct, then moved to Scapa Flow in the United Kingdom, arriving on 20 Nov. Between Nov 1943 and Mar 1944, she served with the British Home Fleet. On 10 Apr 1944, she arrived at Trincomalee, Ceylon. She participated in the subsequent operations against the Japanese on the Indian Ocean coast. On 8 Sep 1944, she sailed to Casablanca in North Africa for a major refit. She returned to Trincomalee on 20 Mar 1945 and continued his service as a gun platform against Japanese positions in the Indian Ocean. When the Japanese surrendered on 15 Aug, she was returning from a refit at Durban, South Africa which lasted from 18 Jul to 10 Aug. On 9 Sep, in the Straits of Malacca en route to Singapore, she struck a magnetic mine at 0744 hours, causing light damage.

ww2dbaseRichelieu remained in active service after the war. She escorted a French troop convoy to Indochina in Sep 1945 to re-establish French colonial rule. On 29 Dec 1945, she fired on shore targets during the opening chapters of the First Indochina War. She returned to Toulon, France on 11 Feb 1946. In 1946, she visited the United Kingdom and Portugal. Between Apr and Jun 1947, she hosted the French President as he visited French colonies in Africa. On 16 Oct 1948, she was withdrawn from active service to be converted into a gunnery training ship. Beginning on 25 May 1956, Richelieu was used as an accommodation ship in Brest on the French coast. She was placed in reserve in 1958. She was sold for scrap to Cantieri Navali Santa Maria of Genoa, Italy in Sep 1968. One of her guns is currently on display in the harbor of Brest.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Dec 2009

Battleship Richelieu Interactive Map


Richelieu as appeared in the US Office of Naval Intelligence booklet ONI203, 9 Nov 1942, photo 1 of 2Richelieu as appeared in the US Office of Naval Intelligence booklet ONI203, 9 Nov 1942, photo 2 of 2French battleship Richlieu at the New York Navy Yard for repairs in Feb 1943 following the Battle of Dakar.Close-up view of turret No. 2 and bridge of Richelieu, probably at New York, New York, United States, early 1943; note damaged gun barrel
See all 16 photographs of Battleship Richelieu


Battleship Richelieu in the Suez Canal, 1944

Richelieu Operational Timeline

17 Jan 1939 The French battleship Richelieu was launched at Brest, France.
8 Jul 1940 British Swordfish torpedo bombers from carrier HMS Hermes hit French battleship Richelieu at Dakar, French West Africa for the second consecutive day, despite that Richelieu had already touched bottom from the attacks on the previous day.
15 Jul 1940 Richelieu was commissioned into service.
25 Jul 1944 HMS Cumberland, along with Eastern Fleet for offensive operation against targets in Sumatra including HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Valiant, HMS Renown, French battleship Richelieu, HM Cruisers Nigeria, Kenya, Ceylon and Gambia and screened by five fleet destroyers, bombarded Japanese positions at Sabang (Operation Crimson).
8 Apr 1945 HMS Cumberland joined Task Group 63.2 with HMS Queen Elizabeth, French Battleship Richelieu and HMS London screened by 5 Fleet destroyers to cover air reconnaissance flights by HM Escort Aircraft Carriers Empress and Khedive at Port Swettenham (now Port Klang) and Port Dickson, Malaya (now Malaysia). (Operation Sunfish).
27 Apr 1945 HMS Cumberland joined Task Force 63 with HMS Queen Elizabeth, French battleship Richelieu, HM Escort Aircraft Carriers Shah and Empress with HM Cruisers Suffolk, Ceylon and Dutch cruiser Tromp escorted by five fleet destroyers for attacks on Nicobar Islands. (Operation Bishop. Note: This was a diversion during assault on Rangoon (Operation Dracula).
3 May 1945 HMS Cumberland joined Task Force 68 with FS Richelieu, HMS Shah, HMS Empress, HMS Ceylon and three fleet destroyers for attacks on shipping off coast of Burma.
10 May 1945 HMS Cumberland deployed in TF61 with HMS Queen Elizabeth, FS Richelieu, HMS Cruiser Royalist, Dutch cruiser Tromp, HMS Hunter, HMS Khedive, HMS Shah and HMS Emperor of 21st Carrier Squadron. Destroyer screen comprised HM Destroyers Saumarez, Venus, Verulam, Virago, Vigilant, Nubian and Rotherham (Operation Dukedom - For interception and sinking of Japanese ships evacuating forces from Burma).
11 May 1945 HMS Cumberland detached with FS Richelieu and destroyers to be in position 50 miles ahead of main body of TF61 in 6 Degree Channel.
1 Jan 1956 Richelieu was decommissioned from service.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed Hobilar says:
9 Sep 2007 01:39:12 AM

Richelieu was nearly completed in June 1940 (when France capitulated) and escaped to Dakar in Senegal. She joined the Allied cause in 1942 and sailed to the USA for completion in 1943. Richelieu served in the British Home fleet during 1943 before being transferred to the British Pacific Fleet in 1944 where she served until the end of the war. She returned to France in 1946 (after a spell of duty off Indo-China). In 1956 she was put into reserve, and was finally scrapped in 1968.
2. Henning Nielsen says:
7 Jul 2008 02:55:11 PM

Dear Sir
I'm sure you are aware that the British Nelson / Rodney class BBs of the 1920's were the first battleships to have all main turrets in the forward part of the ship (3x3x16inch).
3. Dave says:
21 Sep 2009 07:48:00 PM

Besides the Nelson and Rodney, the Japanese cruisers Chikuma and Tone had all FIVE of their turrets with the primary armament forward of the bridge. The aft decks were devoted to float planes (5 instead of the usual 4) and secondaray armament.
4. baker says:
12 Nov 2009 12:18:54 PM

Dunkerque also had all main guns forward.... not so unique, I guess :)
5. Hamilcar Barca says:
9 Dec 2009 09:12:46 AM

The history of "Richelieu" in wartime shows a puzzling point. When she was repaired in Brooklyn Arsenal, where did the American find two 380-mm barrels to replace those which exploded during the Dakar fight, two years before? I do not think such metric-shaped barrels existed in the US Navy storages, right?
10x alot for the information

6. Anonymous says:
23 May 2011 03:21:12 PM

Re# 5 Jean Bart's guns.
7. Bill says:
1 Oct 2012 08:31:51 PM

I think I recall that the 380 mm replacements came from Jean Bart's single 4 gun turret.
8. Anonymous says:
14 Nov 2012 02:39:37 PM

Actually, the Tone and Chikuma only had four main turrets. Other cruisers like the Atago and Mogami were the ones that had five main turrets; three forward and two aft.

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Event(s) Participated:
» British Attacks on the French Fleet
» Operation Cockpit and Operation Transom

Battleship Richelieu Photo Gallery
Richelieu as appeared in the US Office of Naval Intelligence booklet ONI203, 9 Nov 1942, photo 1 of 2
See all 16 photographs of Battleship Richelieu

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