|Île de France
1927 - 1959
the beginning of steam ship development in the early 19th century, the French had always been in the background
concerning ship building. This was changed somewhat in 1912, when the country
had their first prestige liner completed; the France. The 23,000-ton
vessel opened up new ways in creating ocean liners, with her very ‘French’
style. This ship continued to be the French Line’s (or the Compagnie Générale
Transatlantique) flag ship until the 1920s. The ship that would
end the glorious days for the France was commissioned by the French
Line in 1924. This ship was ordered along with three other ships, but they
were not sisters. The first of these appeared in 1921, and she was the
35,000-tonner Paris. She was followed by the smaller De Grasse.
These two vessels sailed together with the France, making the French
Line a distinguished shipping company. The most interesting and passenger-attracting
feature on board the French liners was
their fabulous interiors. This would also set the pattern for the last
of the quartet.
|The new Île de France
upon another arrival in New York.
since the war, no ship had been launched to match the pre-war giants. The
British was satisfied with their German war prizes, and the Germans had
to rebuild their country from scratch, and could therefore not afford to
commission new liners. One nation was left to do this: France. So, after
a popular trio, the French Line expanded into a quartet when they launched
the new Île de France in 1926. The Île de France showed classical
external lines and moderate speed, but was the first liner commissioned
after the war to exceed 40,000 tons. Of course, the White Star Line’s 56,000-tonner
Majestic started to serve in 1922, but had been ordered in the early
1910s, and put on hold during the war. No, the interesting part
about the Île de France was her gorgeous interiors.
had been snooping around the Chantiers de l’Atlantique Shipyard for months
trying to find anything out about the new liner. Rumours came up, telling
the public that this ship would be something extraordinary somehow. The
rumours proved to be true.
the Île de France’s sea trials on May 29, 1927, she was showed to
the public and the press. Their reaction was extremely positive and enthusiastic.
Never before had a ship shown its own style in interior design like the
Île de France. In the past years, ships had imitated the shore-style.
The Deutschland, the Olympic and the Imperator had
all shown an interior that could be found on any castle or chateau situated
upon the ground. The Île de France was a ‘Floating Hollywood’, a
floating luxury resort in itself. The
vessel had been launched after the famous ‘Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs
et Industriels Modernes’ in 1925, and had obviously inspired the French
Line. The term ‘Art Deco’ was born.
|One of the most stunning
features on board the Art Deco-inspired Île de France was her First
Class Dining Room.
de France’s maiden voyage started off from Le Havre on June 22. The
warm welcome the ship had received in Europe continued when she reached
America. Many Americans was tired of the old style and required something
new. The Île de France came very appropriately, and the Americans
seemed to love the new-style interiors of the ship they had renamed the
de France had been meant by the French to represent their country on
the high seas, and that was not difficult to realise. The vessel included
an entire Parisian pavement-café, a grand first class entrance hall
and a dining room never dreamed of before, all very French – in Art Deco.
years before the war, ships had mainly been profitable because of the immigrants
from Europe, but now the more distinguished group of people was aimed at.
The Île de France had three classes, but the third class had not
at all the leading position in passenger-statistics as on earlier pre-war
liners. The first class staterooms were in many different styles, and the
ship had the greatest number of de luxe suites on the seas. The third class
was also something new. Steerage had almost disappeared from ocean travelling,
and the staterooms were highly improved. People such as teachers and students,
and budget-tourists were now found in third class. The
other classes were for the rich and famed.
though the Île de France could not claim to be the fastest vessel
in the world, she had the quickest mail-system between Europe and America.
On board, she carried a small mail-plane that could take off 200 miles
from shore, making the French liner the fastest in one aspect.
the Depression arrived in 1929, many old ships went to the scrappers because
they were not wanted by those who could still afford to cross the Atlantic.
The Île de France was one of the favoured ships and did not suffer
notably in the hard years. She continued to serve into the thirties with
a steady group of passengers returning to her for her voyages. On one crossing
in 1936, the Île de France encountered the brand new Queen Mary
on the Atlanic. The French ship sent the following message to the Queen:
'You are a very lovely lady'. The Queen Mary responded with: 'And
you will always be a queen'.
|The Île de France
In 1939, another
world-wide war broke out. The Second World War had started, and almost
every ship was take over by their countries' navy. The Île de France
was laid up at Pier 88 in New York harbour, adjacent to the French Line’s
new flag ship; the 80,000-tonner Normandie. However, the Île
de France was not to be used by the French during the hostilities.
She was turned over to the British as a troop-transporter in 1941 and made
several runs for them until 1945, when she was decommissioned and handed
back to the French Line in 1947.
the war, the Île de France was once again the prime ship of the
French Line, since the Normandie’s tragic end in New York harbour in 1942.
The French Line immediately sent their ship to the Penhoët ship yard
for conversion back to a passenger vessel. Many were the changes that occurred.
Inside, the numbers of staterooms shifted to a lower number, in order to
increase the still existing ones. The most apparent change was that of
the exterior. The three funnels were removed and replaced by a more stylish
duo. The straight black hull had been turned up to meet her upper fore
peak, to resemblance with the French Lines new look as on the Normandie.
These changes resulted in an increased gross tonnage, and now the French
vessel could boast a 44,356-tonnage. The Île de France went back
into service in 1949, and proved to be just as popular as before the war.
She was still the ship for the rich and famed, and in 1950 she was given
a sister; the Liberté. That ship had been the former German
Blue Riband-holder Europa, so the French now operated a very distinguished
group of ships, just as when the France of 1912 once had sailed.
|A picture showing the Île de France in her wartime livery.
de France continued to sail the North Atlantic for the rest of the
forties, very profitably. At about 11.00 p.m. on July 25, 1956, the Île
de France was on one of her voyages from New York to Le Havre. At the
same time the Swedish liner Stockholm collided with the Italian
liner Andrea Doria. The French liner received a distress call from
the stricken vessel, but hesitated somewhat before telling the Andrea
Doria that she turned her bow and speeded towards the given position.
When the Île de France arrived at the scene, she could hardly see
anything. The French liner’s captain came up with the idea to lighten his
entire ship to see better himself, and to help the Italian liner’s passengers.
He could now see what was the matter; the Andrea Doria was listing
heavily to starboard, and the Stockholm – who seemed to remain afloat
– had a totally crushed bow. Since the Stockholm did not seem to
be a very safe place to be, the latter ship’s lifeboats shipped the remaining
Andrea Doria’s passengers to the Île de France. At 06.15
a.m., the French ship prepared to sail back to New York and land her new
passengers. The Île de France made a wide circle around
the Andrea Doria and
blasted her whistle whilst hoisting the French flag thrice in order to
honour the doomed liner.
end of the fifties, the passenger aeroplanes had taken many of the ocean
liners’ passengers. In the turn between the fifties and the sixties, the
jet planes were introduced, and the transatlantic liner service seemed
to vanish at a rapid pace. The Île de France had become old, and
there was no reason why she should not go to the scrappers. As always,
the Japanese offered good prices, and on February 16, 1959, the Île
de France, renamed Furansu Maru for this sole voyage, left Le
Havre for her last time in order to meet her fate.
|The new and restyled
Île de France, sporting only two funnels.
would not come just yet, as it would show. During her period in Japanese
hands, she was hired by an American Hollywood film team, who partially
sank the ship, and used her in a disaster film called ‘The Last Voyage’
(very appropriate for the Île de France). After having finished
the film, the Americans left and the Japanese scrappers raised the vessel
and towed her to the scrap yard.
though the Île de France received this somewhat undignified end,
she is remembered as one of the most beloved and trend-setting ocean liners
in history. The Île de France has left her marks as the first vessel
with its own style; today many shore-buildings copies the design of the
Great Ocean Liners.
|The Île de France - Specifications:
||791 feet (241.6 m)
||91 feet (27.8 m)
||43,153 gross tons
||Steam turbines powering
||1,786 people (537 in
first class, 603 in cabin class and 646 in third class.)