While I was uploading my old stuff onto the new site, I realized that many... read ALL... of my early pre-WWI french battleships and armoured cruisers really no longer have any business in the archive. These fascinating steampunky ships deserve better treatment than what I inflicted on them back then. So I decided to redraw them, as many of them anyway as my time and motivation allows, in no particular order; along the way, I might even fill in some remaining gaps.
Let's start with the largest entry first:
French Republique- and Liberte-class battleships (my old drawings of them were out of scale, a tad too long and way too high).
In 1900, France had only five battleships which were (more or less) individual matches for the nine British Majestics, and the Brits were busy constructing fourteen more similar vessels. Germany and the USA also had just embarked on veritable building sprees. This situation resulted in the order of six new battleships under the 1900 Navy law, which were laid down in 1901 (one), 1902 (two) and 1903 (three), but took till 1906 (first two) and 1908 (other four) to complete. They differed from all previous French battleships by their adequate size (14.600 to 14.900 tons, 2.500 tons more than the previous Suffren) and a high belt of which a significant part actually was above water at combat load. Armour thickness was 280mm amidships, which was very much for a predreadnought, and they had full-length torpedo bulkheads which all other navies did not introduce until well into the dreadnought era. The four 305mm/40 main guns were of an obsolescent type. While earlier French battleships had tumblehomed sides - to an almost comical extent on ships like the Massena or Carnot - which made them violent rollers and prone to capsize, these six vessels had only slightly inclined hull sides and were considered good seaboats.
They came in two distinct groups. The first two - Republique (built at the Brest Navy Yard) and Patrie (built at FCM La Seyne) - had a secondary armament of 18 165mm guns in six twin turrets and six casemates, plus 25 47mm guns for close defence. Although they looked much alike from a distance, there were some differences allowing to tell them apart. The ladder boom folded forward in Republique and backward in Patrie; Patrie had slightly higher funnel casings but shorter funnel caps; and most importantly both ships had distinctly different looking boat cranes. There also were minor differences in the shape of ventilators. In case there still was confusion, Patrie had her main gun barrels painted black.
Both were repainted gris-bleu between 1909 and 1910. By 1912/3 they also had received paired rangefinders placed side by side on the charthouse and their mainmasts were shortened.
Patrie for a time wore a white band around the forefunnel for identification; she also at one point had her secondary turrets painted white, probably during maneuvers.
Both served in the Mediterranean in 1914-8, but did not see much action. They had their tertiary battery reduced to 20 47mm guns, four of them on AA mounts; otherwise they were very little changed.
Republique was discarded soon after the war, Patrie lingered till 1928 as a TS before she was scrapped too.
The second group differed by an improved secondary and tertiary armament. They carried ten 195mm guns in six single turrets and four casemates; the tertiary battery was now 13 65mm (all hull-mounted 47mm guns were replaced by these) and only 10 47mm. All were completed with long masts and painted black-white. As with the Repunliques, there were sundry minor differences, most not easily spotted. Democratie, the first unit in service, had funnel casings of equal width over their full height and low funnel caps, and her ladder boom folded forward. All main and secondary barrels were painted black.
Justice had only her main gun barrels painted black; the 195mm turrets had white barrels. Her funnel casings had slightly reduced diameter at the upper end. The bridge wings were one level lower; that level was however slightly raised. Most visibly, her boat cranes were of an unique shape.
The last one in service, Verite, had shorter funnel casings and longer funnel caps; her bridge shape and cranes were as on Democratie.
All were soon repainted gris-bleu and had their masts shortened, like the Republiques. Liberte, the class ship, had the same cranes and funnels as Democratie, but the same bridge shape as Justice. She wore two white stripes around the second funnel for identification. She was lost by a spontaneous cordite explosion in 1911.
Of the other three, Democratie had one stripe around the aft funnel and Justice two around the forefunnel; Verite was identified by her lack of funnel markings. By 1914/5, all had received two rangefinders on the charthouse, mounted abreast the military mast (slightly more forward in Justice)
Like their older half-sisters, the Libertes saw little action in the first world war. All served in the Mediterranean. They were little altered; most visible was the addition of 47mm AA guns on the aft turrets. Some of the 47mm battery was landed, although sources differ how many. All were discarded by 1922.