Compagnie Generale Transatlantique

The French Line
The S.S. France:

Launched: 1912
Volume: 23,666 gross tons
Length: 713 feet
Speed: 24 knots
Demise: Scrapped in 1934

The ocean liner industry was well underway before the French entered the race with their first liner: the
France. This may have been France's first liner, but they had the style down well. Large and luxurious, the France was decorated with famous such as Louis XIV and Moorish. She was so successful, that the newly formed Compagnie Generale Transatlantique (French Line) ordered four more ships, progressively getting larger. The France sailed many times until the outbreak of WWI, when she was converted to a hospital ship, called the France IV. After the War, she was returned to Atlantic service and resumed a profitable career, affectionaltely known by millionaires as "the chateau of the Atlantic." During the Great Depression, the France fell under hard times and was sent to the scrappers in 1934
The S.S. Liberte':

Launched: 1930 (as Germany's
Europa)
Volume: 49,746 gross tons
Length: 936 feet
Speed: 27 knots
Demise: Scrapped in 1962

Built in 1930 as HAPAG-Lloyd's
Europa, the Liberte' was a war prize. Her rusting, abandoned hulk was captured by Americans in 1945. After extensive repairs, the former Europa was handed over to the French as a replacement for the burned-out and capsized Normandie. She became the Liberte' and her funnels were repainted in that famous red and black of the CGT. While being converted into a distinctively French superliner, the Liberte' was blown from her berth and into the still-capsized wreck of the Paris. Liberte' was critically damaged and sank, but upright and in shallow water. (In the photo generated by clicking on the link, the half-sunk Liberte' is shown, and the wreck of the Paris is just to her stern.) She was eventually raised and repaired, and began service in 1950. After all of the mishaps, fires and the sinking, the French still managed to create a beautiful "new" liner. The Liberte' sailed glamourously for twelve years, and then she was scrapped in 1962.
The Paris:

Launched: 1921
Volume: 34,569 gross tons
Length: 764 feet
Speed: 22 knots
Demise: Burned in 1939

If the success of the French Line's career were laid out as a great symphony, the four-funnelled
France would have been the grand prelude, and the Paris would have been the sophisticated first movement. Her optimistic debut set for 1916 was held off until 1921 because of the World War. Each of the French ships' interiors would show a gradual change from one style to the next, as the post-war planet was evolving. The Paris' innards reflected much of the classical grandness from the France's Edwardian interior, but with a style less gaudy and still graceful. This new style was Art Nouveau. There were even hints to a rapidly popularizing style that the world would come to know as Art Deco. French ships quickly became known as the aristocrats of the ocean, and were very successful. The Paris served in a partnership with her sister France, making travel between the US and France a legendary experience. Passengers were even allowed to tour the engine rooms of these French masterpieces if so inclined. Dining on the Paris was excellent, her service was supurb, and the living spaces were divinely comfortable and luxurious. The French Line's success took off when a third ship joined the relay: the Ile de France. These three ships served their company well. Then, with the onset of the Depression, even these stylish French beauties were sailing only a third full at most. The Paris was to be put to cruising, much to everyone's dismay. Unfortunately, in April 1939, the Paris became a total loss when she caught fire in Le Havre and blocked the new superliner Normandie from exiting drydock. She keeled over and sank at her berth where she remained until after WWII, almost a decade later.  She was yet another of the nearly dozen French ships to burn in the years prior to the Second World War.
The Ile de France:

Launched: 1927
Volume: 43,153 gross tons
Length: 791 feet
Speed: 23.5 knots
Demise: Scrapped in 1958.

After the enormous success of both the
France and Paris, the French Line wrote yet another movement in the symphony with the creation of the legendary Ile de France. Commissioned in 1926, the brand-new French lady shocked the maritime world with her very modern and simple nearly-Art Deco interiors. Spacious and neat, this elegant new scheme made such an impression that the Ile de France became known as the mother of the Ocean Liner Style. The French Line sailed to the forefront of naval architectural technique and inspired many other companies to construct ships in similar style. Luxury on board ship was no longer sumptuous and gaudy, but sleek and modern, reflecting the beauty of simplicity. The Ile de France had quite a career. Auspicious sailings with the very rich and famous lasted up to the outbreak of WWII in 1939, when she was trapped with her new running mate Normandie in New York Harbor. She was loaned to the British Admiralty for armed merchant work from America to Europe, then Singapore, where the crafty English seized her. She had an excellent war career and was returned to the French Line in 1945, when she becan a two year refit. When she reapeared, she was a new ship. The third "dummy" stack was removed while the other two stacks had their designs updated. She sailed until 1959 when she was renamed Furansu Maru for her final voyage, then was the stage for the film The Last Voyage where she was partially sunk. She was refloated and taken to be scrapped the same year.
The Normandie:
Launched: 1935
Volume: 82,799 gross tons
Length: 1,028 feet
Speed: 29 knots
Demise: Burned and capsized in 1941

On to the S.S. Normandie

The
S.S. France (1961):

Launched: 1961
Volume:
Length:
Speed: 30  knots
Demise: Sailing today as the
M/S Norway of Norwegian Cruise Line.

The Compagnie Generale Transatlantique's
France has the distinction of being the last vessel built specifically for the transatlantic trade. When she was launched in 1961, she set the record for the longest passenger vessel yet built. The new France was of a strikingly bold new design. Her most prominant feature was the pair of distinctive winged funnels designed to keep soot off of the passengers strolling on deck. The France immediately stole the show and was acclaimed for her services and comfort. She sailed proudly for the French Line until 1972, when she began cruises around the world. The oil crisis in 1974 forced the CGT to lay up the ship in Le Havre. The line was offered twenty-two million dollars to make the ship a floating hotel in Florida, but nothing came of it. The France was eventually purchased by Norwegian Cruise Line and renamed Norway. She underwent a serious refit and emerged a beautiful blue, much slower, but more economic cruise ship. She still sails the beautiful waters of the tropics today.
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