1/350 French Navy Quad 380mm/45 (14.96") Model 1935 Guns x3 (Alsace Class)
1/350 French Navy Quad 380mm/45 (14.96") Model 1935 Guns x3 (Alsace Class). Modelled using dimensions from ship builders plans and many reference photographs. These were the proposed main weapons for the Alsace Class Battleships.
- Contains x3 Quad Mounts
- Details include: Rivets & Hex Nuts, 46ft Rangefinder in each Turret, Armour Join Lines, Venting, Access Hatches and Ladders to Turret Roof
- Barrels are printed separately and can be angled up to a maximum of 35º
The last battleship guns developed by France, these weapons had an unfortunate war history.
Richelieu had fired only six shots from each of her guns during abbreviated gunnery trials on 13-14 June 1940 before she had to flee to Africa to escape the invading Germans. At the time of her escape, she carried 296 APC rounds, but only 198 quarter charges and her ammunition handling equipment was barely functional.
During the first day of the British attack on the French Fleet at Dakar in September 1940, Richelieu returned fire from Turret II - the crew of Turret I having been placed ashore to man coast defense batteries - but the two starboard guns of this turret both failed at the first salvo. The inner gun No. 7 was shattered and the outer gun No. 8 bulged with the rifling gashed for 8 meters (26 feet). Guns No. 5 and No. 6 remained in action for the rest of the first day, but the next day the gunnery crewmen were switched to Turret I. Rounds fired from this turret used propellant charges that produced less pressure than the ones used on the previous day and thus did not suffer bore prematures. However, these lower pressures also gave significantly less range than estimated which caused fire control problems. Richelieu fired a total of 24 rounds during both days of the battle but she failed to score any hits. A few days after the battle, the French attempted to clear No. 5 and No. 6 guns by fire, but No. 5 gun failed in the same manner as had No. 8 and the gun stuck in the recoil position at an angle of 15 degrees. After this, No. 6 gun was cleared by hosing down the charges and then removing them and the projectile through the breech.
The cause of these problems was eventually traced to a defective shell design. The original APC projectiles had 4 cavities in the base which were designed to accept cartridges containing toxic war gases. These cavities were protected by a base cap, but this broke under the pressure generated when the guns fired. Splinters from the broken base cap smashed through the gas cavities and into the burster charge which then detonated. After this incident, a new base cap was produced and the gas cavities were filled in with cement.
Sister-ship Jean Bart had only her Turret I guns installed when France fell in May 1940. Of the four guns intended for her Turret II, two were at dockside at St. Nazaire as France collapsed. One of these was loaded onto the cargo ship Mécanicien Principal Lestin but the transfer crane failed when trying to load the second gun. The cargo ship sailed for North Africa, but she was attacked and sunk by German aircraft off the Gironde shortly after leaving harbor. The second gun was reportedly mutilated on the dock before being captured by the Germans. The third gun was captured in transit to St. Nazaire as was the fourth gun which was still at the gun factory at Ruelle.
A total of seven guns were captured by the Germans and three of these were taken to Norway. It was planned to install them in a coastal battery at Vardaasen, but this battery never became operational. After the war, at least five of the captured guns were returned to France where they were then refurbished at Ruelle.
During Richelieu’s refit in the USA in 1943, her three ruined guns were replaced by guns removed from Jean Bart’s Turret I. It is apparently untrue that Richelieu’s guns were bored out to 15.0” (38.1 cm) during this time, as French records indicate that they remained at 380 mm (14.96”). Sometime after this refit, new APC projectiles designed to meet French specifications were specially built for her by the Crucible Steel Company of America.
Postwar, additional guns were built and these were primarily used to arm Jean Bart.
Richelieu had delay coils for the center guns of each turret fitted in 1947-1948 when a tighter dispersion pattern was desired in order to take the maximum advantage of radar fire control. During tests at Mers el-Kébir in May 1948, the measured average dispersion at 26,500 meters (29,000 yards) was 525 meters (575 yards) without the firing delay and 300 meters (330 yards) with a 0.060 second firing delay (at this time the guns had all fired more than 200 shells without refit).
These weapons were mounted in quad turrets, which were really more of a dual-twin arrangement. The quad mounting was chosen as a result of weight considerations, as it meant less turret and protective belt armor was required, an important consideration for ships designed under Treaty limitations. However, this configuration did mean that a single hit could destroy half of the main armament. The individual guns were sleeved, but the relative motion of the guns in each pair was limited. The French were apparently unhappy with the all-forward arrangement, as the design for the last ship in the class, Gascogne, returned to the more traditional fore-aft arrangement.
These guns were of complex assembly and a curious mix of modern and traditional French methods. Model 1935 had 31 components consisting of an A tube, breech bush, twenty hoops, breech ring, four tubes to the muzzle ending in the muzzle bush and a locking ring. Used a stepped loose liner that was held in place by a ring screwed into the breech end of A tube. Model 1936 was simpler, having only 20 components with the number of hoops reduced to ten and the number of tubes reduced to three. Both models were autofretted.
The Welin breech mechanism opened upwards automatically as the the gun ran out after firing. It was hydro-pneumatically powered and balanced by counterweights. An automatic lock with ten electric tubes for firing was fitted to the breech mechanism.
A total of 21 guns were built between 1936 and 1940 with an additional 9 guns built post-war. All of the post war guns were scrapped, but the pre-war guns have fared better. One gun from Richelieu is on display at the military harbor of Brest, near Recouvrance Bridge. A second gun is on display at Gâvres, a third at Ecole Navale Lanvéoc Poulmic and a fourth is at Ruelle. A fifth gun was removed from Richelieu as she was being scrapped and then used by the Italian Navy during the 1960s to test high-velocity projectiles. This gun is now on display at the Naval Arsenal in La Spezia.