SHIP CLASS: Charles Martel-class
SHIPS-IN-CLASS (5): Charles Martel; Bouvet; Jaureguiberry; Carnot; Massena
PROPULSION: 32 x Belleville boilers with 3 x Triple vertical expansion steam engines developing 15,000 horsepower to 2 x shafts.
Detailing the development and operational history of the FS Bouvet (1898) Predreadnought Battleship.
Entry last updated on 6/22/2016.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Bouvet served the French Navy during the early part of the 20th Century and saw her keel laid down on January 16th, 1893 in Lorient. She was launched on April 27th, 1896 and was commissioned during June of 1898 with her assigned homeport of Toulon. The vessel was named after Francois Joseph Bouvet (1753-1832), an admiral of the French Navy.
Bouvet was not officially part of any define warship class but she joined the Carnot, Charles Martel, Jaureguiberry, and Massena in being constructed against a generally similar design (the "lead" ship typically being the Charles Martel). Of the warships in the group, Bouvet was regarded as the best for she showcased improved seaworthiness when compared to her "sisters" thanks in large part to a contained superstructure and inherently good balance.
Bouvet was originally considered a frontline battleship until, like other warships of her time, she was downgraded (at least in name) to "Predreadnought Battleship" following the commissioning of HMS Dreadnought into British Royal Navy service. HMS Dreadnought rewrote the rulebook concerning frontline steel-clad warships with its uniform main battery and balanced performance / protection while being steam-powered. Indeed her very appearance sparked a new naval arms race between world powers in Europe and elsewhere - rendering pre-dreadnoughts as something of an obsolete tool that followed the ironclad into naval history.
As built, Bouvet displaced at 13,235 tons (short) and featured an overall length of 386 feet, a beam of 70 feet, and a draught of 27 feet. Her profile included two smoke funnels arranged inline near amidships. The bridge superstructure was forward and a twin main mast arrangement was used. Her machinery included 32 x Belleville boilers feeding 3 x triple-expansion steam engines and developing 15,000 horsepower and driving three shafts. This, along with her streamlined hull design, allowed for speeds of 18 knots to be reached. Her typical crew complement totaled over 650 personnel though her onboard space could support over 700 in times of war (which proved the case during World War 1). Armor protection consisted of 460mm thickness at the belt, 380mm thickness at the primary turrets, and 305mm thickness at the conning tower.
As a battleship, Bouvet was well-armed for the role. Her primary guns were 2 x 305mm /45 caliber Modele 1893 main guns fitted as a pair of single-gunned circular, low-profile turrets - one mounted fore and the other aft. The primary battery was directly supported through 2 x 274mm /45 caliber Modele 1893 series guns which were also fitted as a pair of single-gunned turrets - these found at midships and arranged as one to port and one to starboard (this sort of "mixed" primary battery was consistent of pre-dreadnought types which is partly what made HMS Dreadnought so revolutionary in naval history). Secondary armament included 8 x 138mm /45 caliber Modele 1888 guns surrounding the superstructure, these weapons fitted in eight single-gunned turrets. Additional firepower came from 8 x 100mm guns and 12 x 3-pounder guns. As was the case with many turn-of-the-century warships and those appearing thereafter, Bouvet was outfitted with a pair of 450mm (18") torpedo tubes.
Commissioned in 1898, Bouvet was originally assigned to the French Mediterranean Squadron before being relocated for service with the Northern Squadron as a successor for FS Devastation. She was involved in a collision with Gaulois in January of 1903 but both ships survived to assist in humanitarian efforts concerning the eruption of Mt Vesuvius during April of 1906. She joined the French fleet in Mediterranean waters for 1908. During 1913, she underwent a refit to keep her a viable system for the coming years - this proved the case with many outmoded pre-dreadnoughts of the period.
When world war broke out in Europe during the summer of 1914, pre-dreadnought warships were forced to continue service despite their generally obsolete status in many navies. Bouvet was used in convoy protection during the early-going but her most notable action was in the Dardanelles during March of 1915. The Dardanelles was a narrow strait networking the Aegean with the Sea of Marmara and her guns were used against Turkish shoreline positions protected in forts. Bouvet was struck several times by return fire but it was not until she struck an unseen naval mine that her troubles began. The resulting damage was so severe that Bouvet went under in a short two minutes along with 660 of her 710-strong crew. The minefield finally became apparent to the Allies when two British warships followed to the bottom and a third was damaged. Because of the threat posed by the minefield, the bombardment was called off and preparations were made for the disastrous Gallipoli campaign that followed.
Bouvet was declared sunk on March 18th, 1915, bringing an end to her short wartime career.