Richelieu in the Suez crisis

Naval discussions covering the latter half of the 20th Century.
northcape
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Richelieu in the Suez crisis

Post by northcape » Thu Mar 31, 2016 9:37 pm

I only read that the french battleship Richelieu was in action during the Suez crisis. Does anybody know more precisely what she did, or in general, up to which point the French and british Navies were involved?

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Richelieu in the Suez crisis

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Apr 01, 2016 5:15 am

The most trust worthy source-Jordan and Dumas- reads that Richelieu was not at Suez at all. According to this source, Rich was mothballed before Suez (Oct, Nov 1956) in Feb 1956. However, Jean Bart was there.

Jean Bart was part of the British/French fire support forces to landings near Port Said on Nov 6 1965. However, the British commander of the combined naval forces, was given orders by London to not utilize guns larger than 4.5". Then the orders were changed cancelling the bombardment altogether. These new orders never got through to the local commanders, or they were ignored by the French, because a bombardment and follow up fire support was carried out by the French warships, including a 15" salvo from Jean Bart. According to Jordan and Dumas only four 15" rounds were fired by Jean Bart during the bombardment.

Other dubious sources report that Rich and Jean Bart were both at Suez and that they operated together there. Yet another source reports that they only operated together one time for a few hours during Jan 1957, before they were both mothballed. Better information makes these claims unlikely.

Rich was in poor shape by 1950 and would have required more money than the French could afford to bring it up to date, according to Dumas. Photos bear this out as Rich is still equipped with older WWII era British radars, with a Type 285M for its one and only firecontrol set, as late as 1953. (Meanwhile Jean Bart was gradually completed, joining the fleet by 1955. Jean Bart can be seen sporting more modern radars that are neither US or British.) Therefore, Rich became a training ship during 1952. Rich was used a flag ship (only) to Indochina during the French engagement there according to another source.

Some books on Suez call the French battleship there the Richelieu, when it was apparently actually the Richelieu class battleship Jean Bart.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

northcape
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Re: Richelieu in the Suez crisis

Post by northcape » Fri Apr 01, 2016 8:19 pm

Thanks for detailed info! It's surprising that so little is documented of the post-ww history of these ships.
I wonder why the Brits did not send Vanguard? Possibly the surprise would have been lost, transferring her through Gibraltar strait?

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Richelieu in the Suez crisis

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Apr 01, 2016 10:30 pm

Anthony Eden was intent on hiding Britain's collusion with Israel and France behind the scenes during this episode. This was because the whole operation was a tough sell to the House of Commons and to the UK public. He was under political pressure for the UK not to be involved. Eisenhower was also not standing by Eden in this one. Sending such a high profile warship such as Vanguard into this fray was politically inexpedient.

Another factor was the risk factor from Soviet submarines. As the crisis progressed the Russians threatened to use submarines against coalition naval forces to protect their client Nasser. Having Vanguard sunk by Russian submarines would have been both a military and political disaster. The French were more forth right and aggressive in their dispositions and actions, and motives.

Here's a pretty good article on this episode:

https://www.usnwc.edu/getattachment/8cd ... -Compromis
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Richelieu in the Suez crisis

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Apr 01, 2016 10:47 pm

Vanguard had apparently been placed into reserve at the beginning of 1956. The irony was that this was right after coming out of an extensive year long refit. Vanguard was in tip top shape. It never returned to active service despite its excellent condition. It came as a shock in 1959 when the Gov announced it would be scrapped during 1960.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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