|Opening Salvo: War at Sea|
|Part 7 - Richelieu|
RICHELIEU - BACKGROUND
The Richelieu was the first of a new class of French battleship designed to counter the threat of the growing Italian navy. The arrangement of its 380mm guns allowed it, amongst other things, to fire all guns forward for a powerful barrage. Although three other ships of this time were being constructed, only the Jean Bart was completed before the German occupation of France. The Richelieu was mostly, but not entirely, complete as the German forces advanced, and quickly left the port from Brest to the French naval base in Dakar with its destroyer escort.
The formation of the Vichy France government led the British to fear that the French would hand the navy over to the Germans. Before this could happen they launched Operation Catapult; a pre-emptive strike against the French Navy. A commonwealth force, consisting of the British carrier HMS Hermes, and the Australian cruiser HMAS Australia, which had been shadowing the Richelieu, launched Swordfish against her. Only one torpedo hit, but it caused significant damage, resulting in the stern of the Richelieu touching bottom. However the crew was eventually able to pump out the water and the Richelieu was able to move, though still severely damaged.
Battle of Dakar General Charles De Gaulle believed that the Vichy French troops stationed in Dakar could be persuaded to change sides and was loathe to see his people killing each other. Prior to the battle, Allied aircraft began propaganda drops on the port of Dakar. Later, Free French aircraft took off from the Ark Royal and landed on the airfield, only to be taken prisoner. De Gaulle attempted to enter the port, but his ship was fired upon. Free French troops then attempted a landing, but were called off after heavy bombardment from the coastal batteries.
The British fleet, consisting of the battleships HMS Resolution and Barham, the carrier Ark Royal, three county class cruisers – the HMAS Australia, HMS Cumberland, and HMS Devonshire – and one light cruiser, the HMS Delhi, as well as ten destroyers and eight thousand soldiers in troop transports began the attack. Defending were the Vichy France forces, including the Richelieu, two cruisers, four destroyers, and three submarines. However the damage from the previous battle with the HMS Hermes had left the Richelieu little more than a floating weapons platform. The Vichy France cruiser Gloire was en route to the battle, but intercepted by the HMAS Australia.
In the ensuing battle the Allied forces were driven off, with the Richelieu scoring a hit on the HMS Barham, and the Resolution torpedoes by a sub. Two of the cruisers also received some damage. In return the Vichy France forces lost only one destroyer and two of their subs. Two of the Richelieu’s guns were damaged and wouldn’t set out again until April 1941.
With the success of Operation Torch and the German occupation of Vichy France, many of the French forces in North Africa switched sides and joined the Allies, the Richelieu among them. She set sail for New York where she would receive a major overhaul, especially on her AA guns. After the modifications were completed she served with the British Home Fleet from late 1943 until early 1944, used in operations against the Norwegian cost. She was then was sent to join the British Eastern Fleet, since the King George V class battleships were being refitted.
As part of the British Eastern Fleet, the Richelieu joined Task Force 69 and began numerous operations against the Japanese. In Operation Cockpit her force joined Task Force 70 for a successful raid on the Japanese at Sabang Island, catching them off guard. In Operation Transom she made a sortie against Surabaya with Task Force 65. A mother later she took part in Operations Councilor and Pedal. In Operation Crimson she was sent to join the British East Indies Fleet’s Task Force 63 to once more attack Sabang Island. The Richelieu was sent to attack the Japanese cruiser Haguro, but British forces sunk the cruiser before she could arrive; instead the Richelieu was attacked by Japanese aircraft, but managed to fend them off and take only superficial damage. After another refit she would aid in the British re-occupation of Malaya. The Richelieu would end the war witnessing the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.
During 1946 the Richelieu was involved in the French Indochina War, escorting troop ships to Indo-China in an attempt to re-establish French control in the area. She returned to France near the end of the year, then visited North Africa, Great Britain, and Portugal. In 1947 French President Félix Gouin toured the African Colonies, and then was refitted once more.
She then operated in the Mediterranean as a training ship from 1951 where, in 1956, for the first time in her history she was with her sister ship, the Jean Bart. The Richelieu was placed in reserve two years later, and on 1968 the Richelieu was condemned and scrapped, though one of her guns remains on display in Brest.
RICHELIEU - War AT SEA
While the Richelieu doesn’t quite have the impressive firepower of ships like the Yamato or USS Iowa, she still packs quite a punch. Only the Iowa matches her extended range of 5, and with Excellent Spotting she can outgun the Bismarck. The main drawback of the Richelieu is that she doesn’t have a flagship rating.
An Extended Range of 5 is not to be underestimated. At best any ship without extended range will hang back at range six, and then move into range four – which is still out of their range. This effectively allows the Richelieu a free round of firing at cruisers or smaller ships. Of course terrain can get in the way, depending on the map you’re playing on. Even against other battleships the Richelieu can be a fearsome opponent. If you go second you can simply move back and outrange any ship in the game save the Iowa. Going first can be trickier since you have to anticipate where your opponent will move to, and how he might attempt to block your extended range. At the very least you can use it as a deterrent, forcing your opponent to take cover while your units move in.
Excellent Spotting further enhances the Richelieu and, in part, represents the superior technology and later upgrades to the ship. It’s not quite as good as just having an extra die, but not bad at all. The best way to set up excellent spotting against a battleship is to have a second smaller ship closer to the target; the speedy Le Terrible is good for this, though any ship will do. Have that ship fire only it’s worst gunnery at the target (unless of course your main gunnery can actually hurt it). Whether or not the attack this the Richelieu, or any other ship with excellent spotting for that matter, will get the bonus but not waste a higher attack rating if it has one. Since battleships are usually escorted, you can fire the main gunnery from at it, while the Richelieu pounds the enemy battleship.
Defensively the Richelieu is a little better than average, having good amour values. It will be difficult for cruisers to harm her, and with Torpedo Defense 1 even torpedoes will have a harder time – though Japanese Long-Lance Torpedoes are still fairly effective. Her AA is a little low, though still more than enough to deter most aircraft, and five hull points means she can slug it out for a few rounds. She’s not quite the behemoth the Yamato is, but nor is she anywhere near as costly.
Offensively her dice, when adding the +1 from excellent spotting, are good against most ships, though only moderate against other advanced battleships. The secondary and tertiary gunnery can also benefit from excellent spotting, and are useful in fending off annoyances such as destroyers and torpedo boats. She probably won’t be able to take on the Yamato or USS Iowa toe to toe, but will fare well against most other battleships. Planes are her worst enemy, as they can knock out the extended range before you get to use it – a severe handicap to the Richelieu. Keep an escort handy, especially a unit like the USS Atlanta, or fighters from an escort carrier.
The Richelieu is quite a good ship for an only moderate cost, allowing you to build a nice fleet around her. However the low cost may be due in part to her low flagship value, something she needs to be fully effective. Also, unlike the Axis, the Allies lack any cheap flagship units so you may be entirely dependant on luck, especially if your opponent has a high rating. It’s also interesting to note that you can make a fleet out of only French units; the Richelieu, two Gloires, and two Le Terrible come to exactly 100 points.
Opening Salvo #8
In next week’s opening salvo we’ll take a look at a unit many of you have been waiting to see for some time. With examples from the Regia Marina and United States Navy we’ll take a look at sub hunting and smoke screens. These general purpose units are vital component to many, if not all, fleets. Until then, feel free to discuss this on our message boards.