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Naval Warfare

FS Dunkerque

Fast Battleship [ 1937 ]

FS Dunkerque was scuttled on November 27th, 1942 to prevent her falling into German hands during World War 2.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/02/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

In response to the rearming German Navy's new Deutschland-class armored cruisers (the "Pocket Battleships") built from 1929 to 1936,the French government authorized the design and construction of a new "fast battleship" class all their own to become the two-strong Dunkerque-class. The group would be of considerable speed and firepower but lack the needed protection scheme in an effort to stay within the restrictions of the 1923 Washington Naval Treaty. The class' design would also be inspired by the British Royal Navy's Nelson-class (appearing in 1927) which saw fit to install all of the main battery at the forecastle.

The two ships of the class, FS Dunkerque and sister FS Strasbourg, became the first French warships laid down after the close of World War 1 (1918) and the first constructed after the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty. Lead-ship Dunkerque was named after the storied French city, laid down on December 24th, 1932 and launched on October 2nd, 1935. She was formally commissioned for service on May 1st, 1937.

Displacement reached 27,000 tons under standard load and 39,000 tons under full load. Overall length measured 704 feet with a beam of 102 feet and a draught of 29 feet. The warship was given a rather atypical profile with her main battery concentrated forward of the bridge. This set the bridge superstructure closer to midships than what was typically conventional. This further moved the smoke funnels aft of midships. The main mast was incorporated as part of the bridge superstructure and the secondary mast was fitted aft of the smoke funnels. Over the aft section was installed a hangar and catapult station to operate up to four recoverable floatplane aircraft from her deck. The operating crew numbered between 1,380 and 1,430 personnel made up of officers and enlisted. Armor protection included 225mm at the belt, 115mm at the main deck and 330mm at the primary turrets. The conning tower was protected in up to 270mm of armor plate.

Internally, propulsion power was had through 6 x Indret boiler units feeding 4 x Parsons geared steam turbines driving 4 x Shafts under stern. This propelled the warship to speeds reaching nearly 30 knots out to ranges of 7,850 nautical miles with available fuel supplies.©MilitaryFactory.com
Dunkerque was somewhat unique in displaying all of her primary armament in just two forward turrets, these being quadrupled-gunned emplacements set over the forecastle with clear firing arcs over the bow and to either side. The weapons were of 330mm caliber Modele 1931 naval guns packing a considerable punch at range and were spaced just far enough apart so as to not have both knocked out in a single direct hit. Secondary armament was spread out over 16 x 130mm Dual-Purpose (DP) guns and airspace denial was granted through use of 8 x 37mm autocannons and 32 x 13.2mm heavy machine guns.

Dunkerque's construction was financed under the earlier 1931 French defense budget of 1931 and built in the French port city of Brest. From there, she sailed out to undertake her requisite seat trials which lasted into 1937. When war broke out with neighboring Germany in September of 1939, Dunkerque and her sister were actively used in the Atlantic to help protect vital French shipping convoys. During October of that year, Dunkerque served as flagship of "Force L" and was part of the contingent charged with hunting down the German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee.

FS Dunkerque officially served with the French fleet until the Fall of France in May-June of 1940. The following month, the ship was shelled where she berthed at Mers-el-Kebir (French Algeria, North Africa) by the British and, just a few days later, took damage from aerial torpedoes which left her crippled (the overall action also claimed 210 French sailors). Basic repairs were applied to the ship so she could be moved to relative safety in French waters - to which point she was relocated across the Mediterranean to the port city of Toulon in the south of France. It was there, on November 27th, 1942, that FS Dunkerque was scuttled by her crew to prevent her being taken over by the Axis. The Italians assumed initial ownership and stripped her of her war-making usefulness but then the hull fell to the Germans after the Italian surrender of September 1943. The French government finally reclaimed the vessel in 1945 after Toulon was liberated but her hull was not raised until after the war in 1955. She was unceremoniously scrapped in 1958.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


France (retired)
Operators National flag of France
National Origin
Decommissioned, Out-of-Service
Project Status
Hull Class
FS Dunkerque; FS Strasbourg

Offshore Bombardment
Offshore bombardment / attack of surface targets / areas primarily through onboard ballistic weaponry.
Offshore strike of surface targets primarily through onboard missile / rocket weaponry.
Maritime Patrol
Active patroling of vital waterways and maritime areas; can also serve as local deterrence against airborne and seaborne threats.
Airspace Denial / Deterrence
Neutralization or deterrence of airborne elements through onboard ballistic of missile weaponry.
Fleet Support
Serving in support (either firepower or material) of the main surface fleet in Blue Water environments.
Flag Ship / Capital Ship
Serving in the fleet Flag Ship role or Capital Ship in older warship designs / terminology.

704.0 feet
(214.58 meters)
102.0 feet
(31.09 meters)
29.0 feet
(8.84 meters)

6 x Indret boiler units feeding 4 x Parsons geared steam turbines developing up to 135,585 horsepower to 4 x Shafts.
30.0 knots
(34.5 mph)
Surface Speed
7,864 nm
(9,050 miles | 14,565 km)
1 knot = 1.15 mph; 1 nm = 1.15 mile; 1 nm = 1.85 km

8 x 330mm /50 caliber Modele 1931 main guns in two quadruple-gunned primary turrets.
16 x 130mm (5.1") /45 caliber Dual-Purpose deck guns.
8 x 37mm Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns
32 x 13.2mm AA machine guns

2 x Floatplane aircraft (recoverable).

Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War period
Military lapel ribbon for early warship designs
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Military lapel ribbon for the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2


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Image of the FS Dunkerque
Image from the Public Domain.

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