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French battleship Bouvet

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French battleship Bouvet.jpg
French battleship Bouvet
Name: Bouvet
Namesake: François Joseph Bouvet
Builder: Lorient, France, Charles Ernest Huin
Laid down: 16 January 1893
Launched: 27 April 1896
Commissioned: June 1898
Homeport: Toulon
Fate: Sunk during operations off the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915
General characteristics
Type: Pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 12,007 t (11,817 long tons; 13,235 short tons)
Length: 117.81 m (386.5 ft)
Beam: 21.39 m (70.2 ft)
Draft: 8.38 m (27.5 ft)
Speed: 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)
  • Peacetime: 666
  • Wartime: 710

Bouvet was a pre-dreadnought battleship of the French Navy. She was laid down in January 1891, launched in April 1896, and completed in June 1898. She was a member of a group of five broadly similar battleships, along with Charles Martel, Jauréguiberry, Carnot, and Masséna, which were ordered in response to the British Royal Sovereign class. Like her half-sisters, she was armed with a main battery of two 305 mm (12.0 in) guns and two 274 mm (10.8 in) guns in individual turrets. She had a top speed of 17.8 kn (33.0 km/h; 20.5 mph).

Bouvet spent the majority of her career alternating between the Northern and Mediterranean Squadrons. At the outbreak of World War I, she escorted troop convoys from North Africa to France. She then joined the naval operations off the Dardanelles, where she participated in a major attack on the Turkish fortresses in the straits on 18 March 1915. During the attack, she was hit approximately eight times by shellfire, though did not suffer fatal damage. She struck a mine at around 3:15, and sank within two minutes; only some 50 men were rescued from a complement of 710. Two British battleships were also sunk by mines that day, and the disaster convinced the Allies to abandon the naval campaign in favor of an amphibious assault on Gallipoli.


Bouvet was the last member of a group of five battleships built to a broadly similar design, but different enough to be considered unique vessels. The first ship was Charles Martel, which formed the basis for Bouvet and three other ships.[1] Design specifications were identical for each of the ships, but different engineers designed each vessel. The ships were based on the previous battleship Brennus, but instead of mounting the main battery all on the centerline, the ships used the lozenge arrangement of the earlier vessel Magenta, which moved two of the main battery guns to single turrets on the wings. The five ships were built in response to the British Royal Sovereign-class battleships.[2]

General characteristics and machinery[edit]

Bouvet was 117.81 meters (386 ft 6 in) long between perpendiculars, and had a beam of 21.39 m (70 ft 2 in) and a draft of 8.38 m (27 ft 6 in). She had a displacement of 12,007 tonnes (11,817 long tons). Unlike her half-sisters, her deck was not cut down to the main deck level, and her superstructure was reduced in size. She was equipped with two small fighting masts. Bouvet had a standard crew of 666 officers and enlisted men, though her wartime complement increased to 710.[1]

Bouvet had three vertical triple expansion engines each driving a single screw, with steam supplied by twenty-four Belleville water-tube boilers. The boilers were ducted into a pair of funnels. Her propulsion system was rated at 15,000 indicated horsepower (11,000 kW), which allowed the ship to steam at a maximum speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) on speed trials with a light loading, though while on a 24-hour test using normal displacement, she cruised at 17 to 17.5 knots (31.5 to 32.4 km/h; 19.6 to 20.1 mph). Bouvet was fast by the standards of the day; the only British battleship that approached her in speed was the second-class battleship HMS Renown. As built, Bouvet could carry 610 t (600 long tons; 670 short tons) of coal, though additional space allowed for up to 980 t (960 long tons; 1,080 short tons) in total.[1][3]

Armament and armor[edit]

Bouvet's main armament consisted of two Canon de 305 mm Modèle 1893 guns in two single-gun turrets, one each fore and aft. She also mounted two Canon de 274 mm Modèle 1893 guns in two single-gun turrets, one amidships on each side, sponsoned out over the tumblehome of the ship's sides.[1] The 305 mm guns were 40 calibers in length and had a muzzle velocity of 800 meters per second (2,625 ft/s), which produced a muzzle energy of 30,750 foot-tons and allowed the shells to penetrate up to 610 mm (24 in) of iron armor at a range of 1,800 m (2,000 yd). This was sufficiently powerful to allow Bouvet's main guns to easily penetrate the armor of most contemporary battleships. The 274 mm guns, which were 45 calibers long, had a similar muzzle velocity, but being significantly smaller than the 305 mm guns, produced a muzzle energy of 22,750 foot-tons and 460 millimeters (18 in) of iron penetration.[4]

Her secondary armament consisted of eight Canon de 138 mm Modèle 1893 naval guns, which were mounted in single turrets at the corners of the superstructure. For defense against torpedo boats, Bouvet carried eight 100 mm (3.9 in) quick-firing guns, eight in individual turrets and the remaining four in pedestal mounts with gun shields on the upper deck. She also had twelve 3-pounders, and eight 1-pounder guns. Her armament suite was rounded out by four 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes, two of which were submerged in the ship's hull. The other two tubes were mounted above water, though these were later removed.[1][5]

The ship's armor was constructed with nickel steel manufactured by Schneider-Creusot. The main belt was 460 mm (18 in) thick amidships, and tapered down to 250 mm (9.8 in) at the lower edge. Forward of the central citadel, the belt was reduced to 305 mm (12.0 in) and further to 200 mm (7.9 in) at the stem; the belt extended for the entire length of the hull. Above the belt was 101 mm (4.0 in) thick side armor. The main battery guns were protected with 380 mm (15 in) of armor, and the secondary turrets had 120 mm (4.7 in) thick sides. The conning tower had 305 mm thick sides.[1]

Service history[edit]

Bouvet in the Dardanelles

Bouvet was laid down in Lorient on 16 January 1893, and launched on 27 April 1896. After completing fitting-out work, she was commissioned into the French Navy in June 1898.[1] In 1903, Bouvet was replaced in the Mediterranean Squadron by the new battleship Suffren; she in turn replaced the old ironclad battleship Dévastation in the Northern Squadron. The Squadron remained in commission for only six months of the year.[6] During the maneuvers off Golfe-Juan on 21 January 1903, the battleship Gaulois accidentally rammed Bouvet on 31 January 1903, though both vessels emerged largely undamaged.[7] During the annual fleet maneuvers in July–August that year, Bouvet served as the flagship of Admiral Gervais, the neutral observer for the simulated battles.[8] The exercises concluded with a fleet review in Cherbourg on 19 July, which was attended by President Émile Loubet, who boarded Bouvet after the review to congratulate the fleet commander.[9]

By 1906, Bouvet had returned to the Mediterranean Squadron, which was under the command of Vice Admiral Touchard.[10] Following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Naples in April 1906, Bouvet and the battleships Iéna and Gaulois aided survivors of the disaster.[7] The annual summer fleet exercises were conducted in July and August; during the maneuvers, Bouvet nearly collided with the battleship Gaulois again.[10] She was assigned to the Second Squadron of the Mediterranean Squadron by 1908; she was retained on active service for the year, but with a reduced crew.[11]

Loss off the Dardanelles[edit]

Bouvet's last moments after striking a mine in the Dardanelles

Together with the older French pre-dreadnoughts, Bouvet escorted Allied troop convoys through the Mediterranean until November when she was ordered to the Dardanelles to guard against a sortie by the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben.[12] She bombarded the Turkish fort of Kum Kale, on the Asian side of the strait on 19 February. During the bombardment, Bouvet assisted the battleship Suffren by sending firing corrections via radio while Gaulois provided counter-battery fire to suppress the Ottoman coastal artillery.[13]

On 18 March, Bouvet, along with Charlemagne, Suffren, and Gaulois, was to attack the Dardanelles fortresses. The plan called for six British pre-dreadnoughts to suppress the Turkish fortifications, after which the French battleships would attack those same fortifications at close range.[12] The French fleet was commanded by Admiral Émile Guépratte;[14] the acting Allied commander was Rear Admiral John de Robeck, who stood in for Admiral Sackville Carden.[15] The Allied battleships were arranged in line abreast, in three rows; Bouvet was stationed in the center of the second row.[16] The force entered the straits at 11:30 and bombarded the town of Çanakkale, before turning to the Fortress Hamidieh and other nearby fortifications at 13:30.[17]

For the first half-hour, the French and British battleships shelled the forts indiscriminately, before turning to attacking individual gun batteries.[17] In the course of the attack on the fortresses, Bouvet sustained eight hits from Turkish artillery fire. Her forward turret was disabled after the propellant gas extractor broke down.[1] One of the shells destroyed one of her masts.[17] At around 15:15, Bouvet struck a mine with a 176-pound (80 kg) explosive charge, which detonated below the starboard 274 mm gun turret.[1][17] These mines had been freshly laid a week before the attack, and were unknown to the Allies.[15]

Bouvet capsizes in the Dardanelles, 18 March 1915.

Bouvet capsized and sank in about two minutes. The ship was in poor condition at the time due to her age, which likely contributed to her rapid sinking, though there was some speculation that her ammunition magazine exploded.[1] The destruction of the ship caught the Allies by surprise; her loss came during the height of the bombardment. Torpedo boats and other smaller vessels rushed to pick up survivors, but they rescued only a handful of men.[17] From her complement of 710 men, some 660 were killed in the sinking.[1]

Despite the sinking of Bouvet, the first such loss of the day, the British remained unaware of the minefield, thinking the explosion had been caused by a shell or torpedo. Subsequently, two British pre-dreadnoughts, Ocean and Irresistible, were sunk and the battlecruiser Inflexible were damaged by the same minefield. Suffren and Gaulois were both badly damaged by coastal artillery during the engagement.[15][18] The loss of Bouvet and two other British battleships during the 18 March attack was a major factor in the decision to abandon a naval strategy to take Constantinople, and instead opt for the Gallipoli land campaign.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gardiner, p. 294
  2. ^ Ropp, p. 223
  3. ^ Cooper, p. 805
  4. ^ Cooper, p. 804
  5. ^ Cooper, pp. 803–804
  6. ^ Brassey (1903), pp. 57, 60
  7. ^ a b Caresse (2012), pp. 122–28
  8. ^ Brassey (1903), p. 148
  9. ^ "Section III: France", pp. 412–415
  10. ^ a b Brassey (1907), p. 103
  11. ^ Palmer, p. 171
  12. ^ a b Corbett, pp. 160, 214, 218
  13. ^ Caresse (2010), pp. 21–22
  14. ^ a b Tucker, p. 524
  15. ^ a b c Griffiths, p. 84
  16. ^ Tucker, p. 463
  17. ^ a b c d e The European War, p. 219
  18. ^ Gardiner, p. 295


  • Brassey, Thomas A., ed. (1903). The Naval Annual. Portsmouth, UK: J. Griffin & Co.
  • Brassey, Thomas A., ed. (1907). The Naval Annual. Portsmouth, UK: J. Griffin & Co.
  • Caresse, Philippe (2010). "The Drama of the Battleship Suffren". In Jordan, John. Warship 2010. London: Conway. pp. 9–26. ISBN 978-1-84486-110-1.
  • Caresse, Phillippe (2012). "The Battleship Gaulois". In Jordan, John. Warship 2012. London, UK: Conway. ISBN 978-1-84486-156-9.
  • Cooper, George F., ed. (1898). "French Battleship "Bouvet"". Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. XXIV (4): 803–805.
  • Corbett, Julian (1997). Naval Operations. History of the Great War: Based on Official Documents. II (reprint of the 1929 second ed.). London, UK: Imperial War Museum in association with the Battery Press. ISBN 978-1-870423-74-8.
  • Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-8317-0302-8.
  • Griffiths, William R. (2003). The Great War. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers. ISBN 978-0757001581.
  • Palmer, W., ed. (1908). Hazell's Annual. London, UK: Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ltd.
  • Ropp, Theodore (1987). Roberts, Stephen S., ed. The Development of a Modern Navy: French Naval Policy, 1871–1904. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-141-6.
  • "Section III: France". Notes on Naval Progress. Washington, DC: United States Office of Naval Intelligence: 412–415. July 1901.
  • "The European War: April–June 1915". III. New York, NY: The New York Times Company. 1917.
  • Tucker, Spencer, ed. (2005). World War I: A - D., Volume 1. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1851094202.

Coordinates: 40°01′15″N 26°16′30″E / 40.02083°N 26.27500°E / 40.02083; 26.27500