French battleship design had a style all of its own, backed up by intensive work and study on ship behaviour, though this was often of a theoretical rather than practical kind.
Deck plan: the Jauréguiberry carried eight gun turrets on a cramped deck space that included more than 30 guns of various sizes in total.
For around 10 years from the mid-1880s, no new battleships were built for the French Navy, due to the influence of the so-called jeune école (young school) of designers. In their view, the commerce-raiding cruiser was the vessel to concentrate on, rather than the line-of-battle ship, which they considered outmoded, too expensive, too slow and too vulnerable to torpedo attack. However, since the British, the Germans, the Russians and the Americans were continuing to build battleships, the French eventually resumed, and from 1895 a range of ships of distinctive and individual appearance appeared. Certain basic characteristics were common to all, including the lozenge arrangement of big guns set in single turrets, with the fore and aft ones placed very close to stem and stern, which was continued until 1903. All had massive ram bows, and heavy masts. Jauréguiberry had many up-to-date features when completed, including watertube boilers, but was in poor condition by 1914.
Battleships were controversial in the French Navy, with some strategists and naval architects arguing that they were unnecessary and even outmoded as ships of war. The Jauréguiberry class were the first French battleships to have guns mounted in turrets rather than in barbettes.
Named for a famous naval commander, Bernard Jauréguiberry, the ship was officially classified as a cuirassé d’escadres (fleet armoured ship). Laid down at La Seynesur-Mer on 23 April 1891, it was constructed to plans by the naval architect Amable Lagane, launched on 27 October 1893 and entered service on 30 January 1896. Although four other ships formed a class with it, their appearance was different in each case, and all they had in common was the main armament. Known as the ‘fleet of one-offs’, they were not a particularly successful set of ships, with another shared factor being their instability. Jauréguiberry was the most intensively used of the five.
Jauréguiberry was 7m (23ft) shorter than any of the other ships in the ‘class’, and the main guns were placed at extreme positions fore and aft. Its maximum beam was 23m (75ft 6in) but the bulging ‘tumblehome’ construction of the hull meant that the main deck was relatively narrow. Two massive sponsons just aft of the after funnel supported two 274mm (10.8in) guns. The ship was solidly armoured with Le Creusot nickel steel, applied in a waterline belt with an upper belt above. The armoured deck was placed at the upper level of the waterline belt.
The positioning of the big guns gave the ship a field of fire in all directions, with up to three able to fire a ‘broadside’. The firing arc of the 305mm (12in) guns was 250 degrees, and at maximum elevation of 15 degrees could send a 340kg (750lb) shell 12,000m (13,000yd), which was rather more than the maximum range anticipated for ship-to-ship fighting in the years before 1910. Secondary armament was installed with anti-torpedo defence in mind, and consisted of eight 138mm (5.4in) guns in twin turrets placed at the four corners of the superstructure.
Two vast columnar masts with fighting tops and lookout posts rose above. With both funnels forward of the centre-line, the ship had a long-tailed look. Although Lagane was a highly gifted ship designer, the ‘tumblehome’ form was somewhat discredited after the sinking of Russian battleships of the similarly-hulled Borodino class at Tsushima in 1905, and it was not perpetuated.
Jauréguiberry’s career was marked by a series of minor disasters. On 30 January 1896 trials began, but were held up by a burst boiler tube and damage to the firing mechanism of one of the 305mm (12in) guns and did not resume until January 1897; then in March of that year a torpedo’s air chamber exploded, fortunately with only minor damage, and it became the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet in May. In February 1904 it was transferred to Brest and the Northern Squadron, and was damaged after hitting a rock off Brest.
On a visit to Portsmouth in 1905 it collided with an English steamer and in the same year suffered damage to its propellers from a torpedo fired from the Sagaie. During repairs in 1906 the torpedo tubes were removed. In 1907 it was based at Toulon and placed in the reserve division of the Mediterranean Squadron until April 1908.
From then it remained in service alternately at Brest and Toulon, and in October 1913 became the flagship of the Training Division. In World War I, the oldest French battleship still on the active list, it went on service in the Mediterranean, initially as a troop carrier and escort, and from March to August 1915 was French flagship in the Gallipoli campaign, firing on shore fortresses (and receiving minor damage); then it was based at Port Said to defend the Suez Canal until decommissioned in 1917. Two of the 305mm (12in) guns were unshipped and left behind to provide canal defences. On 6 March 1919 Jauréguiberry returned to Toulon for disarming, and was struck from the list on 20 June 1920. It continued in use as an accommodation hulk for engineers at Toulon until 1932. In July 1934 it was sold for scrap.
Length 112.6m (377ft 4in), Beam 22.15m (72ft 6in), Draught 8.45m (27ft 9in) Displacement 10,919 tonnes (12,036 tons) full load
24 Lagrafel d’Allest watertube boilers, 2 vertical inverted triple expansion engines, giving 10,769kW (14,441hp), 2 screws
2 305mm (12in) guns in single turrets, 2 274mm (10.8in) guns in single turrets, 8 138.6mm (5.4in) guns in twin turrets, 8 100mm (3.9in) and 16 3-pounder guns, 4 457mm (18in) torpedo tubes
Waterline belt 400–160mm (15.7–6.3in), Upper belt 170–120mm (6.7–4.7in), Armoured deck 90mm (3.5in), Main turrets 370–280mm (15–11in), Conning tower 250mm (9.8in)
7260km (3920nm) at 10 knots