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French battleship Justice

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Justice 1909 LOC det 4a16114.jpg
Justice in the United States in 1909
Name: Justice
Namesake: Justice
Laid down: April 1903
Launched: 27 October 1904
Commissioned: February 1908
Fate: scrapped in 1922
General characteristics
Class and type: Liberté-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 14,860 t (14,630 long tons; 16,380 short tons)
Length: 133.81 m (439.0 ft) pp
Beam: 24.26 m (79.6 ft)
Draft: 8.41 m (27.6 ft)
Propulsion: 3 triple-expansion steam engines, 18,500 shp (13,800 kW)
Speed: 19 knots (35 km/h)
Complement: 739–769

Justice was a pre-dreadnought battleship of the Liberté class built by the French Navy. She had three sister ships: Liberté, Vérité, and Démocratie. Justice was laid down in April 1903, launched in October 1904, and completed in February 1908, over a year after the revolutionary British battleship HMS Dreadnought made ships like Justice obsolete. She was armed with a main battery of four 305 mm (12.0 in) guns, compared to the ten guns of the same caliber mounted on Dreadnought.

After her commissioning, Justice was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet. In September 1909, she traveled to the United States for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, she was assigned to the 2nd Division of the 2nd Squadron of the Mediterranean Fleet. She covered troop convoys from North Africa to France in the first days of the war, and spent the rest based at Corfu and Mudros without seeing any action. After the war ended, she participated in the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, though a mutiny in the French fleet in April 1919 led to the fleet's withdrawal. Justice was sold for scrapping in 1922.


Line-drawing of the Liberté class

Justice was laid down at the La Seyne shipyard in Toulon in April 1903, launched on 27 October 1904, and completed in February 1908,[1] over a year after the revolutionary British battleship HMS Dreadnought, which rendered the pre-dreadnoughts like Justice outdated before they were completed.[2] The ship was 133.81 meters (439 ft 0 in) long between perpendiculars and had a beam of 24.26 m (79 ft 7 in) and a full-load draft of 8.41 m (27 ft 7 in). She displaced up to 14,860 metric tons (14,630 long tons; 16,380 short tons) at full load. Justice had a crew of between 739 and 769 officers and enlisted men. The ship was powered by three vertical triple expansion engines with twenty-four Niclausse boilers. They were rated at 18,500 indicated horsepower (13,800 kW) and provided a top speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). Coal storage amounted to 1,800 t (1,800 long tons; 2,000 short tons).[1]

Justice's main battery consisted of four Canon de 305 mm Modèle 1893/96 guns mounted in two twin gun turrets, one forward and one aft. The secondary battery consisted of ten 194 mm (7.6 in) guns; six were mounted in single turrets, and four in casemates in the hull. She also carried thirteen 65 mm (2.6 in) guns and ten 3-pounders. The ship was also armed with two 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes submerged in the hull. The ship's main belt was 280 mm (11.0 in) thick and the main battery was protected by up to 350 mm (13.8 in) of armor. The conning tower had 305 mm (12.0 in) thick sides.[1]

Service history[edit]

Justice at the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in the United States

In September 1909, Justice, Liberté, and Vérité visited the United States for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. The three battleships, commanded by Admiral Jules le Pord, were the first foreign contingent to arrive.[3] The ships departed from Brest and arrived New York seven days later, having run at an average of 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph); the performance of the ships' propulsion systems was regarded as satisfactory by contemporary naval experts, including the United States Naval Institute.[4] In early 1911, the French Navy conducted experiments with wireless telegraphy, and used Vérité and Justice for the tests. The wireless transmitters could pick up messages as far as 72 miles (116 km) away.[5] On 11 October 1911, an accidental fire aboard Justice threatened to destroy the ship in a way similar to the explosion that destroyed her sister ship Liberté the month before. The fire was believed to have been started by a short circuit in the electrical system near the forward magazines. The fire nearly reached the ammunition in the magazines when the ship's commander ordered the magazines to be flooded, averting a catastrophic explosion. This occurred just days after the battleship Suffren had to flood her magazines to put out another accidental fire.[6] Later that year, the ship was featured in the film A Day on the French battleship "Justice".[7]

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Justice was assigned to the 1st Division of the 2nd Squadron in the Mediterranean, along with Démocratie.[8] The French fleet was initially used to cover the movement of French troops—the XIX Corps—from Algeria to metropolitan France. As a result, the fleet was far out of position to catch the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben.[9] For the majority of the war, the French used their main fleet to keep the Austro-Hungarian fleet bottled up in the Adriatic Sea. In 1914 she participated in the Battle of Antivari, where the battle line caught the Austro-Hungarian cruiser SMS Zenta by surprise and sank her. The French battleships then bombarded Austrian fortifications at Cattaro in an attempt to draw out the Austro-Hungarian fleet, which refused to take the bait.[10]

Justice leading the French fleet

The French operations in the area were hampered by a lack of a suitable base close to the mouth of the Adriatic; the British had given the French free access to Malta, but it was hundreds of miles away. The Austrians also possessed several submarines, one of which torpedoed the dreadnought Jean Bart in December 1914. The threat from underwater weapons greatly limited French naval activities in the Adriatic.[11] As the war progressed, the French eventually settled on the Greek island of Corfu as their primary naval base in the area.[12] Later in the war, Justice was sent to Mudros along with her sister ships.[13]

In 1919, after the end of the war, Justice participated in the French naval intervention in the Russian Civil War in the Black Sea, and was based in Sevastopol. On 19 April, a mutiny gripped the French fleet, starting on the battleship France, the squadron flagship. At one point during the mutiny, the crew of Justice briefly flew the red flag, though they remained relatively calm. The situation worsened after a group of Greek soldiers fired into a crowd of demonstrators ashore; one French sailor was killed and another five were injured. Justice's crew was enraged, and began discussing opening fire on the Greek battleship Kilkis, moored nearby. Justice's captain ordered his ship's guns disabled by removing their breech blocks to prevent an attack. The situation was eventually defused by returning the French squadron back to France, one of the mutineers' primary demands.[14] Ultimately, Justice was stricken from the naval register in 1922 and sold for scrap.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Gardiner, p. 297
  2. ^ Gardiner & Gray, p. 21
  3. ^ Levine & Panetta, p. 51
  4. ^ Alger, p. 1415
  5. ^ Alger, p. 283
  6. ^ "Fire on French Battleship". The New York Times. 27 October 1911. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Munden, p. 271
  8. ^ Guernsey, p. 180
  9. ^ Halpern (1995), pp. 55–56
  10. ^ Halpern (2004), p. 4
  11. ^ Halpern (2004), pp. 3–4
  12. ^ Halpern (2004), p. 16
  13. ^ Preston, p. 29
  14. ^ Bell & Elleman, pp. 88–91
  15. ^ Jackson, pg 153


  • Alger, Philip R., ed. (March 1911). United States Naval Institute Proceedings. Annapolis, MD: US Naval Institute. 37.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Bell, Christopher M.; Elleman, Bruce A. (2003). Naval Mutinies of the Twentieth Century. Portland, OR: Frank Cass. ISBN 0-7146-5460-4. 
  • 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. 
  • Guernsey, Irwin Scofield (1920). A Reference History of the War. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Co. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-352-4. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (2004). The Battle of the Otranto Straits. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34379-6. 
  • Jackson, Robert (2000). The World's Great Battleships. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press. ISBN 1-57145-262-1. 
  • Levine, Edward F.; Panetta, Roger (2009). Hudson–Fulton Celebration of 1909. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub. ISBN 978-0-7385-6281-0. 
  • Munden, Kenneth White, ed. (1971). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21521-4. 
  • Preston, Antony (1972). Battleships of World War I. New York, NY: Galahad Books. ISBN 0-88365-300-1.