History of the SS Normandie
Normandie was considered by many to be the world’s ultimate ocean liner, she was the largest and fastest passenger ship afloat when she entered service in 1935, and a pinnacle of French design.
Construction started in January 1931 at St Nazaire, western France, where all previous French ocean liners had also been constructed. The liner was completed in May 1935.
The shipyard Chantiers et Ateliers de St Nazaire (Penhoët) built the liner for the shipping company Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT), which was known as the French Line.
Normandie’s design was created by Russian émigré Vladimir Yourkevitch, and incorporated beautiful lines, a rounded stem and bulbous bow beneath the waterline. The liner’s dimensions were revolutionary, with a length of 1,029 feet and width of 184 feet. The hull design also enabled the ship to achieve a maximum recorded speed of 32.2 knots.
Despite having three funnels, the last one was actually a dummy, used to house kennels.
The interior spaces were lavishly decorated by a number of designers in a modern art deco style.
During sea trials it was revealed that Normandie had vibration issues, this was later corrected at the end of her first season.
Normandie was also fitted with a radar detection device for detecting objects, the first passenger liner to have such a device.
On 29th May, 1935, on her first voyage, the Normandie broke the speed record for crossing the Atlantic and became the Blue Riband holder, and Hales Trophy winner.
For a number of years the SS Normandie provided passengers with luxury ocean travel.
However with the outbreak of war, the Normandie ultimately was seized in New York by the United States, who intended to convert it into a naval transport vessel, and rename it USS Lafayette.
In February 1942 during the conversion from passenger liner to navy ship a fire broke out. The fire department pumped water onto the ship in an effort to put out the fire, however the water ultimately caused the ship to capsize.
Although the liner was refloated, it was impractical to restore her to her original condition, and she was scrapped in October 1946.
History of the SS Morro Castle
The Morro Castle was constructed at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in January 1929 for the New York and Cuba Mail Steam Ship Company (Ward Line).
She was christened in March 1930 and had her maiden voyage on 23rd August, 1930.
On September 8th, 1934 a fire broke out in a storage locker within the First Class Writing Room on B Deck, quickly engulfing the ship in flames. She was around eight miles off Long Beach Island.
Passengers and crew abandoned ship and the hull drifted ashore coming to a stop in shallow water off Asbury Park, New Jersey.
135 passengers and crew were lost.
History of the Michelangelo
The Michelangelo was built in 1965 at the Ansaldo shipyards, Genoa, Italy.
She was launched on the 16th September, 1962.
Her last Atlantic crossing was in 1975 and in 1976 she was sold to the Shah of Iran to be used as floating barracks, spending fifteen years in Bandar Abbas.
There was plans in 1978 to use her as a cruise ship however due to her condition this didn’t happen and she was scrapped in Pakistan in June 1991.
History of the RMS Mauretania
The Mauretania was built at the Cammell Laird shipyard, in Birkenhead, England.
Her keel was laid on the 24th May, 1937 and she was launched on the 28th July, 1938.
The maiden voyage was from Liverpool to New York on the 17th June, 1939.
After a long service, she was retired and scrapped in 1965.
History of the RMS Lusitania
The Lusitania was designed by Leonard Peskett and built by John Brown & Company of Clydebank, Scotland.
Her keel was laid on the 16th June, 1904 and she was launched on the 7th June, 1906.
At the time of her maiden voyage (7th September, 1907), she was the largest ocean liner in service.
She was sunk by German U-boat U-20 on the 7th May, 1915 eleven miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland.
History of the SS Independence
Her keel was laid in 1950 and she was launched on the 3rd June, 1950 and completed January 1951.
On the 11th of February she operated a cruise to the Mediterranean.
On the 12th April the SS Independence departed from New York to Genoa, however the route was later changed from New York to Naples.
History of the SS Ile de France
The SS Ile de France (Isle of France) was a revolutionary French ocean liner, setting new standards in design and style, and the first large liner to be built after World War I.
She was the second of four passenger mail liners to be constructed in an agreement between the French Line (Compagnie Générale Transatlantique) and the French government, and was built at the Penhoët Shipyard, in St. Nazaire, France. Construction started in 1925.
The ‘Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes’ was also in 1925, where the term ‘Art Deco’ was born. The SS Ile de France would incorporate this new style. The liner also included an entire Parisian pavement-café, grand first class entrance hall, and passenger cabins in many different styles.
Thousands of people turned out for the launch of the Ile de France into the River Loire, on the 14th March, 1926.
Fourteen months later she was ready for her sea trails (29th May, 1927). During these trails she reached a 23.5 knot top speed.
The maiden voyage departed Le Havre on 22nd June, 1927, stopping in Plymouth a day later, before continuing to New York.
Interestingly the SS Ile de France carried a small mail plane that could take off 200 miles from shore, delivering mail between Europe and America.
During the Second World War, the Ile de France was laid up at Pier 88 in New York alongside the Normandie. In 1941 she became a British troop-transporter, and was returned to the French Line in 1947 after being decommissioned.
The French Line sent the Ile de France back to the Penhoët ship yard for conversion from a troop ship back to a passenger ocean liner. During this conversion several changes were made, including a change from three funnels, to two. She went back into service in 1949.
Aircraft became the preferred method of crossing the Atlantic in the fifties, and the ocean liner business dwindled. In 1958 the Ile de France was retired, and despite ideas such as using her as a museum, hotel and even tourist center, she was sold to a Japanese scrapping company, departing Le Havre for Osaka on 26th February, 1959. She was renamed Furansu (France) Maru for the voyage.
Used in the movie ‘The Last Voyage’
Prior to scrapping the Japanese company chartered the Ile de France as a prop in the American disaster movie The Last Voyage, for $4,000 a day. The French Line went to court resulting in the funnels being partially repainted, and the original name barred from inclusion in the movie. During production the forward funnel was crashed on to the deckhouse, explosions detonated around the liner, and she was even partially flooded.
Eventually the SS Ile de France continued to Osaka, and was scrapped.
History of the SS France
When her keel was laid in September of 1957, the SS France became one of the last classic ocean liners to be built. She was constructed in Saint-Nazaire, France by the shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique, who also constructed the famous SS Normandie ocean liner, which capsized in New York in 1942.
At a time when transatlantic passenger trade was forecast to decline and the cost of oil increasing, building an ocean liner with public funding was naturally controversial, however after 3 ½ years of debate funding was finally approved for the SS France.
The SS France became one of the longest and fastest ships ever built, a symbol of French national pride. She was 1,035 ft. long and could sail at 30 knots.
At the time of her construction the SS France was the longest passenger ship in the world, with the highest tonnage.
French designers and artists creatively decorated the ships interior.
For thirteen years she sailed the North Atlantic between Le Havre and New York in style, and ultimately operated cruises in the winter season, utilizing her versatile design.
With jet aircraft replacing ocean liners as the preferred transportation across the Atlantic and the loss of government subsidies, the SS France was withdrawn from service in 1974.
The liner remained out of service for years, and in 1979 was sold to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) who renamed her the SS Norway. She proved popular as a cruise ship but as the cruise ships and industry evolved the SS Norway was less competitive amongst rivals, despite several upgrades.
In 2004 Norwegian retired the SS Norway, however due to asbestos on board it took until 2006 to sell the liner for scrap metal. The ship was once again renamed, this time as the SS Blue Lady, in preparation for scrapping.
Destruction of the liner was essentially completed in 2008, in Alang, India.
The Tip from the SS France’s Bow Section is Displayed in France