Book Review by Steve Backer

Les Cuirasses Dunkerque-Strasbourg, Richelieu, Jean Bart by Robert Dumas can only be described with one word, Superb! This collective work has been recently reprinted by Marines Editions and consists of three soft back volumes contained in a hardbound slipcover. The three volumes in this collection consist of single volumes on Richelieu and Jean Bart, with the third volume covering both Dunkerque and Strasbourg. Each volume is a beautiful reference in its own right. To be able to purchase all three volumes in one presentation is one of the best values that I have seen in warship reference books.

Dunkerque et Strasbourg 

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Whether you are building the Samek Dunkerque (click for review) or the WSW Strasbourg (click for review) you will not find a better reference source than this volume. The volume is 117 pages in length and consists of seven chapters.

1. French Naval Politics from 1919 to 1945- This chapter contains a short overview of the establishment of French Battleships at the conclusion of the First World War and general overview of the battleship race leading into World War Two.

2. Genesis of the Dunkerque Class Battleship- This contains a discussion of the factors that resulted in the design of these two graceful battlecruisers. It covers the three designs considered by the French Navy, a 17,500 ton design, a 23,333 ton design and finally the one chosen, the 26,500 ton design.

3. General Characteristics of the Battleships, Dunkerque and Strasbourg- Contains detailed listings on displacement, dimensions, armor, propulsion, armament, aviation, boats and equipment of the class in text along with six tables. It has further detailed studies of the armor, propulsion, armament, aviation, modifications and color schemes of the ships with three drawings and additional eight tables. 

4. History of the Two Battleships- Contains a year by year history of each ship with four maps of the action at Mers-el-Kebir on July 3, 1940.

5. Document Annexes- Consists of extracts of battle damage reports of October 1, 1940 on damage to Dunkerque sustained at Mers-el-Kebir with five drawings, and other battle damage report of Strasbourg and a report on the chronology of Mers-el-Kebir and passage to Toulon.

6. Photographs- Although each chapter is richly supplied with photographs, this chapter concentrates on photographs of the ships fitting out and detailed shots of equipment.

7. Plans- Eight pages of plans in 1:500 scale with profiles of Dunkerque in May 1937 and July 1940 and profiles of Strasbourg in August 1939 and April 1942. 

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There are a total of 103 photographs in the volume.

Richelieu 

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This volume contains the history of the Richelieu from 1935 to 1968 and consists of eight chapters with 128 pages.

1. Introduction- The origin of the Richelieu with two tables.

2. General Characteristics- Overview of the ship’s systems with plans for the seven design studies undertaken before selecting the design to be used. Four tables and seven drawings.

3. Detailed Studies- In depth coverage of armor, propulsion, armament, aviation, modification, and paint schemes/camouflage. Three drawings and thirteen tables.

4. Activity from 1939 to 1956- The history and citations of the Richelieu with one table of the captains and admirals of the warship.

5. Document Annexes- Extracts from official documents of torpedo and other damage sustained when attacked by the British at Dakar in September 1940, chronology of the Dakar action, operations journal at Dakar, and 15" gun performance at Dakar. With six drawings and five tables.

6. Bibliography

7. Photographs

8. Plans- 41 pages of plans in 1:600, 1:400, 1:200 and 1:100 scales. Plans and profiles are in 1:600 and show Richelieu in June 1940, September 1943, February 1945 and last fit. Each of the five different camouflage patterns carried by Richelieu is shown in 1:600 profiles.

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There are a total of 68 photographs.

Jean Bart 

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This volume contains the history of the Jean Bart from 1939 to 1970 and is presented with 127 pages in 13 chapters.

1. Ship’s Characteristics- This is an overview of the ship’s systems with three drawings and six tables.

2. Work Undertaken at Casablanca - This contains chronological listings of continuing construction of Jean Bart when she was at Casablanca.

3. Reconstruction of Jean Bart 1946 to 1951- Coverage of the completion of the battleship with six tables.

4. The Service Career of Jean Bart- This chapter is more of a ship characteristic and capability study rather than a service history, with eight tables.

5. Modernization- This covers her final modernization as well as plans to convert Jean Bart into a guided missile ship.

6. Paint Schemes and Camouflage-

7. Activity of Jean Bart- Service History of the battleship from 1940 to 1970.

8. Document Annexes- Extracts of official reports of battle damage sustained by Jean Bart at Casablanca, received from USS Massachusetts on November 8 & 9, 1942, with seven drawings.

9. Genesis of the Battleships Clemenceau and Gascogne- Origins for the follow on class of French Battleships with 12 plans.

10. The Battleship, Clemenceau- Brief history of the ship that was laid down January 17, 1939 but never finished with4 tables.

11. The Battleship, Gascogne- Brief history of the ship that was planned but never laid down with 4 tables.

12. French Battleship Projects in 1940- Description of planned future construction with three plans.

13. Plans- 18 pages of plans in 1:600 scale. Shows profiles and of Jean Bart in June 1940, November 1942, 1950, 1955, Clemenceau Project of 1939 and Gascogne Project of 1939. Additionally it has two plans and profiles of proposed completion as an AA battleship in 1943. Deck plans for June 18, 1940, June 24, 1940, September 16, 1940, January 1942, April 1942, and June 1942, along with deck plans for Clemenceau and Gascogne.

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The volume has 95 photographs, six of which are in color. It also has 2 two-page paintings, one of Clemenceau and the other of Gascogne.

VERDICT

As I mentioned at the start, this collective work is superb. Production values for all three volumes are of the highest quality, being printed on heavy weight, glossy paper. Although written in French, the huge amount of photographs, plans and data included, make these volumes the outstanding references on these four French warships, built with typical Gaulic panache and flair. Buy a copy while they are still available. I purchased my copy from Chapitre.com and it arrived 11 days after purchase.
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