Battleship Richelieu

The construction of Richelieu, the first 35,000 ton battleship of the French navy was started in October 22, 1935 and she was launched in January 17, 1939. Construction was done by the Brest Navy Yard. Richelieu was commissioned in June of 1940 and was in service for 27 years after which she was scrapped.

Richelieu had a displacement of 35,000 tons, her length was 247.9m, draught was 9.7m, Beam was 33m and she had a top speed of 30 knots from 4 Parsons turbines that put out 150,000 hp. Richelieu had 8-380mm forward guns on two turrets, 9-152mm secondary aft guns on 3 turrets, and 12-100mm antiaircraft guns on 6 pedestals (This was at time of commissioning).

I started working on the model of Richelieu at about the time I started grade 8 that would make me 13 years old. I was looking through the blueprints my dad had collected over the years and I pulled out the one he had started when we still lived in Poland. His model was scaled 1/200, it was made of heavy construction paper. I remember it vaguely, perched on top of the cabinet in the living room. So I decided to do the model that he built back all those years ago.

Since I was jumping headfirst into something I had no clue about I decided to choose a scale that most of the parts were drawn in, this was 1/100.  I started the construction of the battleship by photocopying all the rib outlines. Once this was done I adhered all the copies to 1/4″ thin plywood and cut them out fallowing the outlines. I then connected all the rib sections to each other with small wooden blocks that were cut to the correct length. This is where I encountered my first issue. The paper that was used as an outline now became a weak link and the frame broke from its own weight every time I moved it. Once the frame was in one piece again I covered it in a thin lair of balsa, this gave the ribs the strength they needed and made the structure resemble a ships hull. Working with balsa I encountered my second issue, I learned that it was not the material of choice for a model of that size and weight. Balsa being a soft wood failed when any substantial pressure was applied to it. I looked at options to make this stronger and discovered fiberglass. Even though I never used fiberglass before I soon learned the basics and was able to resurface the body of the ship making the shell a lot stronger. Having balsa under the fiberglass stopped any sagging that might have occurred if the fabric was suspended between the ribs on its own. I did have some issues with air getting trapped between the fabric and balsa wood causing bubbles, luckily this was easy to fix either by cutting the fabric while it was still wet and rolling out the air or by sending the area out and reapplying fiber and resin once it was dry. When I completed the shell it was big enough and buoyant enough that I could actually sit in the hull in a pool and still have 2-3 inches of drift. This moment of fun also made me realize that I will need a lot of weight to get the ship to sit properly in the water.



At this point all that was left in the completion of the hull was to make the last 3 inches of the bow and stern of the battle ship and a  brace that will support the main deck. The two sections at either end of the ship were made out of a solid piece of wood shaped to the correct size following the contours of the vessel. The brace was sections of wood secured to the hull between the ribs of the vessel along the top where the deck will be attached. Now I was ready for the rudder stabilizers and screws. The rudder was shaped out of a single piece of wood. It was fitted after painting as the shaft holding it would be permanently secured to the rudder. The stabilizers were made from strips of fiberglass sheet. The location of the stabilizers was marked on the hull and cut using a dremal tool. Afterword the strips of fiberglass which were properly shaped were inserted into the cuts in the hull and secured. The screws for the model were an off the shelf part that just happened to fit perfectly.


I used approximately 100 lbs of lead to get the ship lowered in the water close to the ships mark point. With all the mechanical and electrical components I still had a lot of unused space throughout the hull. These areas were filled with styrene and spray foam giving the ship buoyancy in case there was a water leak. In the main section of the haul under the super structure the model was fitted with 2 motorcycle batteries for power, a set of mechanical speed controllers for the motors, and a RC receiver that controlled all the functions I wanted to operate. Each screw of the battleship was fitted with its own direct drive motor. These motors were a standard DC mid range quality RC motors. The vessels rudder was controlled by a ¼ scale servo allowing it more output power then a standard one. All the gun towers were fitted with servo motors to allow the guns to move port/starboard and up/down. The superstructure though never completely finished was constructed of heavy construction paper and balsa wood. The structure was fitted with lights and even a smoke generator for the exhaust. There aren’t many photos of the model unfortunately and the model was scrapped before completion due to the lack of space and the weight of the ship.

Though this model was scrapped and never completed I do intend on building it once again in the future.

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