Richelieu Battleship Upgrade Set

L'Arsenal Models, 1/700 scale

Reviewed by Martin J. Quinn

The battleship Richelieu - which was named after the French Cardinal and Statesman - was the lead ship of a class of French battleships designed in the 1930ís to counter the growing threat from the Italian Navy. Basically an improved and enlarged Dunkerque design, the ship was laid down in October, 1935 and launched in January 1939 at Brest, France. With the fall of France imminent in the spring of 1940, the as yet to be finished ship was quickly made ready for sea, escaping just ahead of the Germans. Sailing for Dakar, in Africa, she helped the Vichy resist Allied attempts to take the strategic port. As part of that campaign, she was attacked, severely damaged and immobilized by an attack by Swordfish aircraft launched from the carrier Hermes in July, 1940. In September, 1940 she dueled with the British battleship Barham while immobilized alongside a Dakar quay. During this engagement, an explosion in the barrel of a gun on turret two put two guns out of action.

With the fall of French North Africa in November, 1942, Richelieu came under Allied control. She sailed for the United States in January, 1943, arriving in New York in February for repairs. Richelieu spent the next 7 months at the New York Navy Yard undergoing repairs and upgrades. Along with the repairs to the damage sustained in Dakar, she had her 380mm guns rebored to 381mm (to accept British ordinance), lost her aircraft & catapult and received 14 quadruple 40mm anti-aircraft mounts and fifty 20mm mounts.

After trials in Chesapeake Bay, Richelieu sailed for the Mediterranean Sea October, 1943, then joined the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow in November of that same year. The following February, she provided cover for carrier strikes against German positions in Norway. While serving with the Home Fleet, she has her AA armament upgraded with the addition of 11 single 40mm guns and the removal of nine 20mm mounts.

In March, 1944, Richelieu sailed for Ceylon, to join the British Eastern Fleet. In April, she joined the British carrier Illustrious and the US carrier Saratoga in strikes against Japanese held Sabang. Following shore bombardment duties, she returned to France for crew replenishment, then sailed to Casablanca and finally Gibraltar, where she underwent another refit. Upon completion of her refit in March, 1945, she accompanied the British battleship Queen Elizabeth back to the Far East, where they worked together hammering Japanese positions In Singapore.

In May, 1945, Richelieu joined a mixed force of cruisers and destroyers hunting the Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro, which was found and sunk by the French battleships escorting destroyers.

Richelieu traveled to Durban, South Africa, for another refit in July 1945. While here, her captain decided not to make use of a new floating dry-dock, which he felt was too small for his ship. It was the right decision. When the smaller British battleship Valiant was put into the dock, the dock broke in two and the Valiant was heavily damaged. At the time of the Japanese surrender, Richelieu was back in Ceylon.

In September, during a transit of the Straits of Malacca, Richelieu set off a magnetic mine, but suffered minor damage as she continued onto Singapore to accept the Japanese surrender with the battleship HMS Nelson. She spent the rest of the year shuttling around the Far East, escorting troop ships to Indo-China and showing the French flag in her former colonies. In December, she left the Far East and headed back to France, where she underwent a complete overhaul in Cherbourg in 1946.

The rest of her career was spent in maneuvers, with stints as the flagship of the French Mediterranean Fleet in 1950 and 1953. Some of the highlights of her later career were maneuvers with the HMS Vanguard and US carriers in 1953 and with the Jean Bart in 1956. After 1956, she was mainly stationary, serving as a school ship in Brest before stricken from the French Navy list in December 1967. She was then sold for scrap and broken up in Genoa, Italy.


The upgrade set consists of both resin and photo-etch parts. The photo-etch sheet is fairly extensive, with parts for boat and raft cradles, floater net baskets, cranes, inclined ladders, accommodation ladders, ladders, 20mm guns and lots of parts to dress up the 40mm guns and gun tubs. Overall, very nicely done.


Included in the upgrade set are resin parts for the 20mm and 40mm AA guns Richelieu carried after her New York refit. There are fifty 20mm resin pedestals (to hold the aforementioned photo-etch 20mm guns), fourteen quad 40mm bases and twenty-eight pairs of 40mm guns for the bases.

For the most part, the resin parts are well done. They are crisply cast, especially for 1/700 scale. However, some of the 40mm gun barrels were warped and a few of them were separated from the "tree" in the bag when I opened the box.


The instructions are 6 pages long, with drawings that show the what the upgrade consists of, and where the photo-etch and resin are attached to the Trumpeter kit. They are clear and well done, but I'd like to see a plan and profile view included with these sorts of upgrade sets, to give an overview of where parts go.

The L'Arsenal upgrade set for the battleship Richelieu is a "must have" for the Trumpeter 1/700 kits. Not only does it come with an extensive photo-etch set and plenty of resin parts, but is very nicely done. Highly Recommended for those building the 1943 and/or 1946 versions of this ship. For those of you who want a pre-USA refit Richelieu, further upgrades are in the pipeline.

Thanks to Tony Bunch of L'Arsenal USA for the review sample.