Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Henri IV: The Strangest Battleship of the Great War

Henri IV Postcard

Henri IV (launched 1899, completed 1903) was a pre-dreadnought battleship of the French Navy built to test some of the ideas of the prominent naval architect Louis-Émile Bertin. She began World War I as guardship at Bizerte. She was sent to reinforce the Allied naval force in the Dardanelles campaign of 1915, although some of her secondary armament had been removed for transfer to Serbia in 1914. Henri IV participated in the fire support for the 25 April landings at Kum Kale on the eastern side of the straits.  Afterward, she was relegated to second-line roles before being sent to Taranto as a depot ship in 1918. She was struck from the navy list in 1920 and scrapped the following year.


Almost everything about Henri IV was out of kilter with the standard naval designs of the turn of the century beginning with its very low stern at only 4-feet freeboard and near-vertical sides. It was also smaller than its predecessors in most European navies. Furthermore, its main battery consisted of only two turrets with one 10.8-in. rifle for each. The secondary armament was seven 5.4-in. guns. The overall appearance and capabilities to many observers seemed to be that of a large monitor rather than a battleship. In operational conditions many problems were uncovered, such as the unanticipated blast effects from the 5.4-in. gun mounted above the rear main turret. There were also problems discovered with the placement of the ship's torpedo room and tubes.  All that said, Henri IV served France honorably  in the war and survived to be scrapped in 1921.

Side View

Sources:  Wikipedia, French and English

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