French battleship Bouvet
French battleship Bouvet
|Namesake:||François Joseph Bouvet|
|Builder:||Lorient, France, Charles Ernest Huin|
|Laid down:||16 January 1893|
|Launched:||27 April 1896|
|Fate:||Sunk during operations off the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915|
|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)|
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. 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.
General characteristics and machinery
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.
Bouvet had three vertical triple expansion engines each driving a single screw, with steam supplied by twenty-four Belleville water-tube boilers. Her propulsion system was rated at 15,000 indicated horsepower (11,000 kW), which allowed the ship to steam at a speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). As built, she 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.
Armament and armor
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. 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. She also carried eight 100 mm (3.9 in) quick-firing guns, 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.
The ship's armor was constructed with nickel steel. 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.
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. 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. During the annual fleet maneuvers in July–August 1903, Bouvet served as the flagship of Admiral Gervais, the neutral observer for the simulated battles. During the maneuvers off Golfe-Juan, the battleship Gaulois accidentally rammed Bouvet on 31 January 1903, though both vessels emerged largely undamaged.
By 1906, Bouvet had returned to the Mediterranean Squadron, which was under the command of Vice Admiral Touchard. Following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Naples in April 1906, Bouvet and the battleships Iéna and Gaulois aided survivors of the disaster. The annual summer fleet exercises were conducted in July and August; during the maneuvers, Bouvet nearly collided with the battleship Gaulois again. 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.
Loss off 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. 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.
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. The French fleet was commanded by Admiral Émile Guépratte; the acting Allied commander was Rear Admiral John de Robeck, who stood in for Admiral Sackville Carden. The Allied battleships were arranged in line abreast, in three rows; Bouvet was stationed in the center of the second row. 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.
For the first half-hour, the French and British battleships shelled the forts indiscriminately, before turning to attacking individual gun batteries. 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. One of the shells destroyed one of her masts. 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. These mines had been freshly laid a week before the attack, and were unknown to the Allies.
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. 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. From her complement of 710 men, some 660 were killed in the sinking.
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. 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.
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