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Building the French Pre-Dreadnought Battleship Massena

"Jim Baumann shares a very unique experience with us in this full build feature of the French Pre-Dreadnought Battleship Massena, beginning with the short run kit from Festival Dreamworks of Japan, and adding Jim's special touch, to arrive at a very beautiful, and original display subject!"

Massena was the fourth member of a class of conceptual design sisters - with Charles-Martel being the first laid down, followed by Carnot, Jaureguiberry, Massena and finally Bouvet. Despite being of a similar design philosophy these ships differ wildly in appearance, dimensions, shafts, power and speed!

Length-369 ft 7in (112.65m)
Beam-66ft 6in (20.27m)
Draft-29ft (8.84m)
14,200 ihp = 17 knots
Armament 2 x 12in
12 x 3pdr
2 x 10in
5 x 1pdr
8 x 5.5in
3 x 1pdr revolvers
8 x 3.9in
2 x 18in TT

Massena was laid down at Chantiers de Loire in 1892, commissioning in 1898 after successful trials as the flagship of Vice Admiral Barrera, Commander of the Northern squadron, Atlantic Fleet. She was transferred from Brest to Toulon, arriving on 22 October 1898, during which passage she encountered a severe storm—which was to test her watertight integrity.

From her base in Toulon as part of the Mediterranean squadron Massena carried out her duties as the naval presence at various Regattas. After exercise Maneuvers the squadron visited Sardinia on 9 April and anchored at the port of Cagliari along with an Italian Navy squadron.

1899 saw her partake in a diplomatic cruise to Spain...

After a number of prolonged dockyard visits to improve poor ventilation, rudder and steering gear problems as well as addressing the indifferent rates of fire for most of the armament she left Brest with her squadron for Toulon for exercises off the Provence . In January 1901 she was fitted wireless gear and antennas.

1903 saw the Massena return as flagship of the Northern squadron based at Brest.

At the beginning of May 1903 the Northern squadron set sail for Cherbourg, in order to receive King Edward VII accompanied by a royal navy squadron. This was part of the ‘Entente cordiale’ activities.

With Camille Petalan as the new Minister in charge of Naval matter coupled with an economic downturn the activities of the larger Battleships are much reduced, with far less gun firing practice and sea time.

The beginning of 1905 saw Massena weighing anchor again, leaving Brest and heading via Cherbourg for Le Havre where she took part in the Le Havre regatta festivities before returning to Cherbourg. 6 August found the fleet at sea again, dropping anchor at Spithead in the Solent, Great Britain for the great 1905 Fleet Review taken by King Edward VII on board of the Royal Yacht ’Victoria and Albert’. Massena and the other members of the squadron repaying the compliment of the Royal visit of 1903 and thereby further cementing the Entente Cordiale of 1904.

On 19 June the Northern squadron left their bases headed for Algiers via Mers el Kabir, where they joined with the Mediterranean fleet for extensive naval exercises and maneuvers, passing back through the straits of Gibraltar on 10 August thereafter making a diplomatic visit to Tangiers before returning to her home waters of Brest for short sorties and a refit.

Massena spent 1907 alternating between Brest and Toulon partaking in maneuvers in the Atlantic as well as the Mediterranean. In 1908 she was relegated to a gunnery training ship role and thence held in reserve, her presence being required on 27 October 1909 at a large Fleet review as the flag-ship for the carriage of the President Armand Fallieres and other VIPs.

In 1912 Massena was finally consigned to active reserve fleet status, and steaming the usual summer exercises, alternating between Mediterranean and Northern bases.

On 6 January 1913 whilst on passage from Toulon to Bizerte she suffered a boiler room explosion, with 8 crew members killed and further 8 injured. She was able to make port under her own power, however the subsequent investigation and damage report concluded that the repairs, overhauls and updating of Massena would be uneconomic, even if her use was to be restricted to that of a training ship.

Thereafter she was stripped of her armament and useful metals and she became a floating hulk.

During the 1915 Gallipoli campaign the French army decided upon an amphibious landing zone west of Seddul Bahr. This required a temporary harbour - and after a 14-day passage from Toulon to Moudros at then end of a towrope the 7 November saw Massena begin the final task of her career fulfilling the function of the southern breakwater.

She was sold in March 1923 to a Mr. Jost for scrapping.

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