Welcome back to your weekly installment of the ship of the week! Back again by unpopular request, I'm sealclubbing moderator Tsukiumi. Have your baguettes ready?
It’s time to talk about my most played battleship!
The Dunkerque class began as an answer to the increasing gap in performance and ability of capital ships available to the French navy in the 1930s. This had come to be because French shipbuilding and war manufacturing priorities had been drastically altered during World War I. Having had to cancel the modern Lyon class before they had been laid down, even the preceding Normandie class was suspended, and in fact, construction never resumed due to wartime manufacturing needs, the enormous expense incurred by the war, and consequent reconstruction. This had left France in the possession of the aging Bretagne-class battleships as well as the entirely obsolete Danton-class ships, which were pre-dreadnoughts. The London Naval Treaty made allowance for 70,000 tons of new capital ship construction by France. As expense, lack of necessary slipways, and political realities rendered construction of anything approaching 35,000 tons impossible, smaller ships had to be considered. The first discussions centered on four lighter battlecruisers to counter the new Italian treaty cruisers. As the existing French battleships were considered comparable to their Italian counterparts, the need for new, large battleships was not believed necessary. While the suitability of this proposal was eventually challenged by the construction of the Deutschland class cruisers in Germany, the preliminary proposal for an all-forward, eight-gun main armament stuck. With the construction of the Deutschland cruisers, the proposed design shifted to three full, if small, battleships of approximately 23,000 tons. However, they were to retain the higher speed and lighter armament of the battlecruiser proposal. Further iterations on the design saw displacement rise to 26,000 tons with thicker armor, a reduced top speed of 29 knots, and an up-gunned main battery, from 305mm to 330mm. The number of proposed ships was reduced from three to two. This became the basis for the final design of Dunkerque, though the second ship of the class, Strasbourg, would receive significant modifications after the design and construction of the Italian Littorio class became known.
Dunkerque began service in April 1936 while still not fully complete. Work remained to be finished on her superstructure and her light anti-aircraft complement had not been installed. She continued sea trials through 1937, and represented France during the coronation review for Britain’s George VI in May. Afterward, she embarked on a series of colonial visits, returning to France in early 1938, at which time she actively joined the fleet as the flagship of the Atlantic Squadron. In early 1939, Dunkerque was attached to the Raiding Force, operating as part of a French neutrality patrol and observation force off the Spanish coast during the end of the Spanish Civil War. Based in Brest, Dunkerque visited Britain and was back in port at the outbreak of World War II. Dunkerque spent most of 1939 operating in support of Atlantic convoys or attempting to intercept German raiders, ending in a joint sortie with HMS Hood at the time Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were also raiding in the North Atlantic. She sustained damage from heavy seas and returned to port for repairs. On 11 December 1939, Dunkerque sailed from Brest for Halifax, Nova Scotia, carrying gold to pay for weapons. On her return, she escorted a troop convoy to Britain. Returning to Brest in late December, she underwent refit, repairs, and trials until deployed in April to Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria with the Raiding Force as a counter to the increasingly belligerent Italy. Dunkerque stayed less than a week, redeploying back to Brest in support of operations in Norway, but was again sent back to Mers-el-Kébir before April had ended. She sortied several times in attempts to intercept Italian ships, but all proved to be failures. Still in port at Mers-el-Kébir, Dunkerque was in port when the British launched Operation Catapult. Force H, consisting of several battleships, bombarded the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir on 22 June 1940, in the belief that crippling or sinking the French ships would keep them out of German hands. Dunkerque sustained heavy damage. The British, not believing Dunkerqueto have sustained sufficient damage to prevent her use if captured, attacked again, this time with aircraft from HMS Ark Royal. Though sustaining one direct torpedo hit only, two further torpedoes struck auxiliary ships moored alongside, one carrying a load of depth charges. These were detonated by the torpedo strike, causing massive damage, and combined with the direct torpedo strike on Dunkerque herself, caused sufficient flooding to settle her in the harbor. Dunkerque was made watertight and floated off the bottom by September 1940, but repairs, several fires, and consequent delays prevented her from returning to France until January 1942. Reaching Toulon, Dunkerque went into drydock two years to the day after the initial attack in Mers-el-Kébir for full repairs. Still in drydock in November 1942, the German militarization of Cosmopolitan Vichy France saw an attempt to seize the various ships of the French fleet in dock or at anchor in Toulon. To prevent her falling into German hands, the crew of Dunkerque scuttled her, detonating charges throughout the ship and setting her afire. She settled in dock, where she remained until 1944, when she was stripped down, her bow removed, and refloated to clear the dock. Dunkerque was never repaired. She was sold for scrap in 1958.
Turrets are not compartmentalized.
Catapult fighter is the Dewoitine HD.780, a floatplane derivative of the D.520. Only one prototype was built and it never flew or entered service.
Dunkerque’s camouflaged hull resembles the late war British Admiralty Standard paint scheme, which was actually applied to Richelieu in 1945.
Demounting the premium camouflage will reveal Dunkerque’s historical appearance, but at the cost of the camouflage's bonuses.
Early 1940 overall dark grey 'Atlantic' livery is missing. Dunkerque was still wearing this paint scheme in February 1942.
The tricolour bands on Dunkerque’s turrets indicate she is in 1942 condition, when she was under Vichy control; the HD.780 catapult fighter was scrapped in 1940 and the British Admiralty Standard paint scheme was only painted on French ships that sided with the Allies.
So, what’s she like in game?
Do you want a ship that will make you excited one salvo, and make you want to punch yourself in the groin on the next salvo? Boy, do we have just the ship for you! Hey! Get back here! You can’t run away!
How to become a masochistic sealclubber:
Dunkerque is known for it’s extremely thick side armor… NOT. You don’t show your side unless you want to award free citadels. So, what do you do? Bowtank? NOPE. Get that idea out of your head too unless you want to award free damage.
“So Tsukiumi, it can’t tank on the sides, or the front, and it can’t shoot to the rear. What good is this thing?”
I’m glad you asked! To master the Dunkek, you stay mobile. You have really nice ruddershift and maneuverability. You abuse that. While you can’t stay perfectly nose-in to everything, you don’t have to show much side, and you can easily switch that side too. Suck it, Izumo. This is what your turrets need to be. Cock your ship to the side just a little to trigger the mighty bounce noise as enemies do nothing to your glorious French armor, folded 1000 times in a croissant. Find the nearest cruiser who’s showing her side too much, and shoot the AP at it! You’ll either nuke it, or do 970 damage. You’re going to have to accept that those bad salvoes will happen. Once I mastered aim in mine though, I’ve had really good luck with my salvoes. I average 62,000 damage in mine over 492 battles (Yes, I know- I am a masochist to have 500 battles in the Dunkerque). Or…. Am I?
My Dunkerque winrate of 66% is one of my highest in any ship- even on par with my Fujin winrate. It’s all in the way I see the Dunkerque. Sure, she can make BBs have a miserable time. But, if you want a Tier VI Premium BB to make other BBs cry, get a Warspite. Use Dunkerque to target cruisers and…. Wait for it… destroyers. Seriously.
Dunkerque is one of the best Anti-DD battleships in game. Load HE, and nuke. Your turrets and ruddershift make you a foe to be reckoned with. You can keep your guns tracked on most DDs, and evade those pesky metal fish too. I can confirm that Dunkerque HE can one-shot a full-HP Shinonome.
Her AA isn’t bad either. No, you won’t be the hero that we all need, shooting down every plane in the sky. But, I’ve had some dual CV games where the enemies have just stopped targeting me while I was on their cap. You can do a LOT of hurt to a carrier over time if they’re not expecting much fight from you.
Get the idea? Stop treating Dunkerque like a traditional battleship. Look at her more like a Tier VI battlecruiser, and go to town. You’ll be called a masochist, but who cares- the most dangerous ship is often the one that is underestimated. Play a Dunkerque, and that’ll be you. Use that to your advantage, and in the late game, make the enemy look at the scoreboard and just say “Damn”. You can do it. And the best part: Almost no enemy will think you can.
Thank you Wargaming for the Dunkerque reload buff. I really didn’t need it, but I won’t complain at all 😉
Thanks for taking one of my favorite ships that was already a delight to play, and making her just a little bit easier to succeed in. It’s a positive change that should help a lot of players…. once they look at Dunkie with the right mindset.
HON HON HON.
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