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French battleship Brennus

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Brennus-Marius Bar-img 3134.jpg
French battleship Brennus
Name: Brennus
Namesake: Brennus
Ordered: 1888
Builder: Lorient
Laid down: 12 January 1889
Launched: 17 October 1891
Commissioned: 16 December 1896
Struck: 1919
Fate: Broken up in 1922
General characteristics
Type: Pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 11,190 t (11,010 long tons; 12,330 short tons)
Length: 110.29 m (361.8 ft)
Beam: 20.4 m (67 ft)
Draft: 8.28 m (27.2 ft)
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Complement: 673

Brennus was the first pre-dreadnought battleship of the French Navy built in the late 19th century. She was laid down in January 1889, launched in October 1891, and completed in 1896. Her design was unique and departed from earlier ironclad battleship designs by introducing a number of innovations. These included a main battery of heavy guns mounted on the centerline and the first use of Belleville boilers. She formed the basis for several subsequent designs, beginning with Charles Martel.

Brennus spent the majority of her career in the Mediterranean Squadron, and she served as its flagship early in her career. In 1900, she accidentally rammed and sank the destroyer Framée. As newer battleships were commissioned into the fleet, Brennus was relegated to the Reserve Squadron in the early 1900s. By the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, her old age and poor condition prevented her from seeing action. She was ultimately stricken from the naval register in 1919 and sold for scrap three years later.


An earlier vessel, also named Brennus, was laid down in 1884 and cancelled under the tenure of Admiral Théophile Aube. The vessel, along with a sister ship named Charles Martel, was a modified version of the Marceau-class ironclad battleships. After Aube's retirement, the plans for the ships were reworked entirely for the ships actually completed, though they are sometimes conflated with the earlier, cancelled vessels.[1] This confusion may be a result of the same shipyard working on both of the ships named Brennus, along with use of material assembled for the first vessel to build the second.[2] The two pairs of ships were, nevertheless, distinct vessels.[3] The second Brennus was ordered in 1888.[4]

Brennus was the first pre-dreadnought style battleship built in the French Navy; the previous Magenta-class ships were barbette ships, a type of ironclad battleship.[3] Brennus formed the basis for the subsequent group of five broadly similar battleships built to the same design specifications, begun with Charles Martel, though they reverted to the armament layout of the earlier Magentas which saw the main guns distributed in single turrets in a lozenge pattern.[5]

General characteristics and machinery

Line-drawing of Brennus

Brennus was 110.29 meters (361 ft 10 in) long between perpendiculars, and had a beam of 20.4 m (66 ft 11 in) and a draft of 8.28 m (27 ft 2 in). She had a displacement of 11,190 tonnes (11,013 long tons). As built, the ship was significantly overweight, and her draft was .38 m (1 ft 3 in) greater than intended, without a full load of ammunition. Most of her armored belt was submerged. Her superstructure had to be cut down and her mainmast, intended to be a fighting mast, had to be replaced with a lighter pole mast. Unlike most battleships of the period, she was built without a ram bow. Brennus had a crew of 673 officers and enlisted men.[6]

Brennus had two vertical triple expansion engines each driving a single screw, with steam supplied by thirty-two Belleville water-tube boilers. The boilers were ducted into a pair of large funnels located amidships.[6] The decision to fit Brennus with water-tube boilers was made in 1887, and she was the first large ship to be equipped with them.[4] Her propulsion system was rated at 13,900 indicated horsepower (10,400 kW), which allowed the ship to steam at a speed of 17.5 to 18 knots (32.4 to 33.3 km/h; 20.1 to 20.7 mph). As built, she could carry 600 t (590 long tons; 660 short tons) of coal, though additional space allowed for up to 980 t (960 long tons; 1,080 short tons) in total.[6]

Armament and armor

Brennus, c. 1896

Brennus's main armament consisted of three Canon de 340 mm/42 Modèle 1887 guns, two in a twin turret forward, and the third in a single turret aft. Her secondary armament consisted of ten Canon de 164 mm Modèle 1893 guns, four of which were mounted in single turrets amidships; the other six were located directly underneath them in casemates. The ship also carried four 65 mm (2.6 in) quick-firing guns, fourteen 3-pounders, and eight 1-pounder guns, and six 1-pounder revolver cannons. Her armament suite was rounded out by four above-water 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes, all of which were later removed.[6]

The ship's armor was constructed with both steel and compound armor. The main belt was 460 mm (18 in) thick amidships, and tapered down to 305 mm (12.0 in) at the lower edge. On either end of the central citadel, the belt was reduced to 305 mm at the waterline and 250 mm (9.8 in) on the lower edge; the belt extended for the entire length of the hull. Above the belt was 100 mm (3.9 in) thick side armor. The main battery guns were protected with a maximum thickness of 460 mm of armor, and the secondary turrets had 100 mm thick sides. The main armored deck was 60 mm (2.4 in) thick. The conning tower had 150 mm (5.9 in) thick sides.[6]

Service career

Brennus before her reconstruction

Brennus was laid down at the Lorient dockyard in January 1889 and launched on 17 October 1891. Fitting-out work was completed in 1896 and she was commissioned into the French Navy.[6][7] In 1897, Brennus served as the flagship of Admiral Jules de Cuverville, the commander of the Mediterranean Fleet.[8] Later that year, the French Navy issued a new doctrine for gunnery control. During gunnery training exercises to test the new system, Brennus and the ironclad battleships Neptune and Marceau got 26% hits at a range of 3,000 to 4,000 m (3,300 to 4,400 yd). Their success prompted the Navy to make the method the standard for the fleet in February 1898.[9]

In July and August 1900, the French fleet conducted maneuvers in the English Channel. At the time, Brennus was the flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron, under Vice Admiral Fournier. On 10 August off Cape St. Vincent, while returning from the maneuvers, she collided with the destroyer Framée.[10] The destroyer quickly sank, and only fourteen men from her crew of 50 were rescued.[11] By 1903, Brennus was transferred to the Reserve Squadron, along with the battleships Charles Martel, Carnot, and Hoche and the three armored cruisers Pothuau, Amiral Charner, and Bruix.[12] There, she flew the flag of Rear Admiral Besson during the annual summer maneuvers in July–August 1903.[13]

Brennus continued on in the Reserve Squadron through 1907, during which time she was again the flagship of Vice Admiral Fournier.[14] Fournier was the commander in chief of the annual summer maneuvers, which began in late June and concluded on 4 August 1907.[15] The following year, the Mediterranean Fleet was reorganized into three squadrons; Brennus again repeated her role as flagship, of the Third Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral Germinet.[16] Due to her age and condition by the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Brennus was not mobilized and did not see action. Brennus was ultimately stricken from the naval register in 1919 and sold for scrapping in 1922.[7]

Origin of the name

Brennus depicted on the figurehead of the battleship named for him.

The ship was named for Brennus, chief of the Gauls who sacked ancient Rome in 387 B.C. He was depicted on the ship's figurehead.


  1. ^ Ropp, p. 222
  2. ^ Brassey (1889), p. 65
  3. ^ a b Gardiner, p. 283
  4. ^ a b Ropp, p. 230
  5. ^ Ropp, p. 223
  6. ^ a b c d e f Gardiner, p. 292
  7. ^ a b Gardiner & Gray, p. 191
  8. ^ Robinson, p. 187
  9. ^ Ropp, p. 301
  10. ^ Brassey (1901), p. 41
  11. ^ Johnson, pp. 682–683
  12. ^ Brassey (1903), p. 57
  13. ^ Brassey (1903), p. 140
  14. ^ Brassey (1907), p. 103
  15. ^ Brassey (1907), pp. 103–106
  16. ^ Brassey (1908), p. 68


  • Brassey, Thomas A., ed. (1889). "The Naval Annual". Portsmouth, UK: J. Griffin & Co.
  • Brassey, Thomas A., ed. (1901). "The Naval Annual". Portsmouth, UK: J. Griffin & Co.
  • Brassey, Thomas A., ed. (1903). "The Naval Annual". Portsmouth, UK: J. Griffin & Co.
  • Brassey, Thomas A., ed. (1907). "The Naval Annual". Portsmouth, UK: J. Griffin & Co.
  • Brassey, Thomas A., ed. (1908). "The Naval Annual". Portsmouth, UK: J. Griffin & Co.
  • Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-8317-0302-8.
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1984). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-907-8.
  • Johnson, Alfred S., ed. (1900). "The Cyclopedic Review of Current History". 10. Boston, MA: Current History Company.
  • Robinson, Charles N., ed. (1897). "The Fleets of the Powers in the Mediterranean". The Navy and Army Illustrated. London: Hudson & Kearns. III (32): 186–196. OCLC 7489254.
  • Ropp, Theodore (1987). Roberts, Stephen S., ed. The Development of a Modern Navy: French Naval Policy, 1871–1904. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-141-6.
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