Richelieu Class, Bismarck & The Kriegsmarine

Richelieu Class, Bismarck & The Kriegsmarine

Battleships
The French battleship Richelieu underway in the Atlantic Ocean on 26 August 1943. After her refit at the New York Naval Shipyard (USA).

The Richelieu-class French battleships were a powerful and innovative class of ships that had a significant influence on the design of the German Battleship Bismarck and the Kriegsmarine, the German Navy, during World War II.

The Richelieu class was the first battleship class in the French Navy to be equipped with 15-inch (380mm) guns, which were among the largest in the world at the time. The use of these powerful guns allowed the French to engage in long-range battles. In addition, potentially outgun many of their opponents.

Recognition drawing of Littorio. Construction of which prompted the French response with Richelieu

The Bismarck, which was launched in 1939, was heavily influenced by the Richelieu class. Like the French ships, it was equipped with 15-inch guns and was designed to engage in long-range battles. The Bismarck was also designed with a similar level of protection, with heavy armor around the main gun turrets and the magazine spaces.

However, the Bismarck received improvements that the Richelieu class lacked. Such as rate per fire. The French guns had a much lower rate per fire than the German guns. For example, the French 380mm guns achieved a rate of fire of only around 1.33 rounds per minute. As compared to the Bismarck’s 380mm which saw rates well above 2 rounds per minute.

Furthermore the Bismarck had a modern radar system and could utilize the Seetakt system for rangefinding.
An illustration of a German World War II Seetakt “Large Coastwatcher” Radar from TM E 11-219 “Directory of German Radar Equipment”.

However, Bismarck’s armor belt was less thick than Richelieu, but Richelieu had underwater flooding protection. Though Bismarck had the superior fire control.

The overall Kriegsmarine tactical thinking became heavily influenced by the Richelieu class.

The German Navy had been seeking to modernize its fleet and had been studying the latest trends in naval design, including the use of large-caliber guns and improved protection. The Kriegsmarine ultimately adopted similar design principles to the Richelieu class for its battleships, including the use of large-caliber guns and heavy armor. Lastly, the Kriegsmarine’s decision to arm Bismarck with 38-cm guns was a direct result of the Richelieu’s becoming equipped with 38-cm guns.

Bismarck at Blohm & Voss

The Kriegsmarine had wanted to match the speed of the Richelieu and there was talk of going with a 16-inch vs 15-inch gun set. But neither happened in the end. Matching the speed with such a larger displacement would have been a very tough job for the engines. As a result of Bismarck boasting a displacement of 41k vs 37k for Richelieu. Furthermore, Bismarck enjoyed a greater armored citadel as a percentage of her overall size.

In conclusion, the Richelieu-class French battleships had a significant influence on the design of the German Battleship Bismarck and the Kriegsmarine, as they demonstrated the effectiveness of large-caliber guns and heavy armor in naval warfare.

Jean Bart under repair in Casablanca, January 1943

The French ships served as a model for the German Navy, which sought to modernize its fleet and to build battleships that could compete with the world’s most powerful navies.

Bismarck’s shipbuilder Blohm & Voss still operates! Lady Moura built in 1990

Battleships

Richelieu Class, Bismarck & The Kriegsmarine

references:

Bismarck Design (kbismarck.com)