Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Yes, France had an aircraft carrier

Well, sort of. The Béarn was laid down in 1914 as a Normandie class battleship, but WWI interrupted her construction. By the time work recommenced in 1922, the French Navy had decided to complete her as an aircraft carrier (having first cast a covetous eye on Britain's HMS Argus). Béarn was designed to carry 40 aircraft, but she remained a battleship at heart and had a maximum speed of just 21.5 kts. By the beginning of WWII, she had to strain every sinew to manage 20 kts and 18 was more realistic. From the beginning of the war until the Fall of France, the Béarn aided in the Anglo-French effort to hunt down German commerce raiders in the Atlantic. It was intended that she be equipped with two squadrons of American-built Vought Vindicator dive bombers, but instead, these were committed to the Battle of France and rapidly decimated by German Bf-109s. Béarn then sat idle at Martinique until 1944. Obviously too slow to be a fleet carrier, she served in the Free French Navy as an aircraft transport. 
She continued as a transport after the war, moving men and landing craft to Vietnam. Béarn was scrapped in 1967 having never once launched aircraft in combat. 

Here's my effort, complete with deck decal:
I think she turned out quite well. In reality, Béarn would've been painted the medium grey color of the French Atlantic fleet, but I've gone with the light grey used by the Mediterranean fleet instead. It makes her more useful for "what if" scenarios. GHQ has recently released an aircraft pack that includes Vindicators, so she'll soon have her intended air group. 

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