To maintain its position relative to other major navies, the French navy authorized two 35,000-ton battleships in 1935, to be named Richelieu and Jean Bart. They were basically enlarged editions of the 26,000-ton battlecruisers Dunkerque and Strasbourg, also with high speed and two quadruple turrets forward, but much heavier armament and protection.
The design which emerged was unique, with two large quadruple turrets well forward and widely spaced, and an ugly backward-angled funnel forming part of the after superstructure. They were, however, powerful and well-protected ships and their only drawback was low endurance, a result of being intended to operate primarily in the Mediterranean.
The Richelieu bore a charmed life, for she was running her trials at Brest when France fell in June 1940, but managed to escape to North Africa. She went to Dakar, and escaped without damage when a British motor launch tried to drop four depth charges under her stern. Early ori the morning of 8 July she was attacked by six Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers from HMS Hermes. One 457-mm (18-in) torpedo struck the Richelieu's stern, and flooding caused her to settle on the bottom of the harbour. However, her 380-mm (15-in) guns were still functioning, and accurate salvoes helped to defeat an attack by British and Free French forces in September despite the fact that the ship was unable to steam, and that three of her guns were unable to fire.
As soon as her refit was completed the ship sailed to the UK via Toulon, and joined the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, covering convoys to Murmansk and working up to full efficiency. In March 1944 she left the Home Fleet and was sent to Trincomalee to serve with the Eastern Fleet. She saw no great battles but took part in a number of bombardments and came under air attack on several occasions. Apart from a short refit at Casablanca from October 1944 to January 1945 she remained in the East Indies until October 1945, when she sailed for Indo-China.
Specification Richelieu Displacement: 41,000 tons standard, 47,500 tons full load Dimensions: length 247.9 m (813 ft 4 in) overall; beam33.0 m (108 ft 3 in); draught 9.7 m (31 ft 10 in) Machinery: 4-shaft geared steam turbines delivering 150,000 shp (111855 kw) Speed: 30 kts Armour: belt 343 mm (13.5 in); decks 50-170 mm (2-6,75 in); turrets 170445 mm (6.75-17.5 in) Armament: eight 380-mm (15-in), nine 152-mm (6-in) DP, 12 100-mm (3.9-m) AA, 1637-mm AA and eight 13.2-mm (0.52-in)AAguns Aircraft: three Loire-Nieuport floatplanes Complement: 1,550 officers and men