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French Battleships 1914–45

French Battleships 1914–45 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review January 2019 Title French Battleships 1914–45
Author Ryan K. Noppen Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2019 ISBN 9781472818195
Format 48 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $19.00


Ryan K. Noppen tells the absorbing tale of French Battleships 1914–45 in the 266th installment of Osprey Publishing's vast "New Vanguard" range.

Spanning just 48 pithy pages, coverage chronologically courses through five periods:

  • pre-WWI
  • WWI
  • between-wars
  • WWII
  • post-WWII

Coverage actually spans 60 years – from ca. 1910 to 1970.

Vessel notes include design, construction, modifications, service, and, in notable cases, fate. And two whole sections recap French battleship actions during each World War.

It's full of fascinating facts, too. I had forgotten that Britain's Operation Catapult targeting French warships at Mers El Kébir, Algeria ironically "proved to be the largest naval campaign [sic: action] involving the Marine Nationale [French Navy] during World War II".

Ditto for the fact that Richelieu remains the only battleship to have fought both Allied and Axis powers during the same conflict.

Osprey's picture-packed commentary sports B&W photos, color profile and plan views, and action paintings. A single color shot shows scuttled Strasbourg at Toulon in November 1942. But you can't glean many useful modeling details from the small image.

Tables, sidebars, extended captions, references, and an index also augment the account. But occasional sloppiness taints text.

Noppen reports, for instance, that during Operation Menace, "a shell from one of Richelieu's secondary turrets hit [HMS] Barham in the bilge". But just a few lines later, he claims that "Richelieu achieved no hits against the British".

I also think he means "alone" – not "along" – on page 41.

Nitpicks notwithstanding, Noppen's slim study offers a useful introduction to 20th-century French battleships. Make it your launchpad to further exploration of this fascinating topic.


My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!