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S.S. ILE de FRANCE

Compangnie Generale Transatlantique

French Line



Construction of the 791 foot, 43,153 ton S.S. ILE de FRANCE was began at the Penhoet shipyards of Chantiers de l’Atlantique in St Nazire, France in the autumn of 1925, with her launch and christening on May 14, 1926. With aid from the French Government she would be the first major liner built after the end of World War One. The ILE de FRANCE would not be the largest or fastest liner but would represent everything French.

The ILE de FRANCE would be a trend setter being the first liner to use the Art Deco style, and to break away from the traditional use of land based designs. She would spend 14 months being fitted out before her sea trails. Sailing June 22, 1927 from Le Havre on her maiden voyage she would call at Plymouth before crossing the Atlantic to New York. With her running mates S.S. FRANCE and S.S. PARIS the ILE de FRANCE would become one of the most popular ships sailing the Atlantic. In May 1935 they were joined with the new Flagship S.S. Normandie.

At the start of World War Two the ILE de FRANCE was in New York and she would be laid up in September 1939 at pier 88 across from the S.S. NORMANDIE. Her next trip would be under tow to Staten Island where she would again be laid up. Under loan to the British Admiralty in March, 1940 and on May 1 she would be sent to Europe and then to Singapore. With the fall of France she would be formally seized the British. She would return to New York and at the Todd Shipyards to be transformed in to a troop ship. With her piece time interior removed she now had berths for 9,706 soldiers. In tandem with the S.S. NIEUW AMSTERDAM of Holland America Line and Cunard Lines S.S. MAURETANIA (2) the three liners would transport troops and supplies between Cape Town and the Suez. From 1943 to her decommissioning in 1945 she would sail the North Atlantic under Cunard management.

In 1947 the ILE de FRANCE was returned to the French Line and would undergo a two year renovation. Her first post-war voyage starting on July 1949 would again sail from Le Havre to New York. Most notable to her profile was the removal of her third (dummy) funnel and clipper (Normandie) paint scheme on her bow. She would quickly return to her pre-war popularity. In 1950 she would be joined by the former German express liner EUROPA being renamed S.S. LIBERTE.

On July 25th, 1956, the ILE de FRANCE while sailing from New York to LeHavre would come to the rescue of the stricken Italian Liner S.S. ANDREA DORIA after her collision with the Swedish American Liner M.S. STOCKHOLM off Nantucket. The ILE de FRANCE would take 750 of the 1, 706 passengers and crew to New York after the ANDREA DORIA sank the following day.

By the late 1950’s ocean travel was being taken over by jet aircraft, and transatlantic liners were becoming obsolete. In November 1958 the French Lines decided to retire the 31 year old ILE de FRANCE. Many ideas to use the ship as a museum, or hotel on the French Riviera, even the Sheraton Hotel wanted to use her as a tourist attraction in Martinique. The once flagship of the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, French Line was quietly sold to Japanese breakers and on February 16, 1959 she would depart her home port of Le Havre for the last time.

Renamed Furansu Maru (French ship) for the delivery voyage to Osaka, Japan she would be charted for $4,000 dollars a day to a Hollywood film company for use as a movie set. Renamed S.S. CLARIDON for the 1960 movie “Last Voyage” starring Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone. The plot of the movie was the sinking of an ageing transpacific liner after a boiler explosion. The French Line took the film makers to court demanding that all identifying characteristics be removed. The French Line won their case and the film makers could not use the name “Ile de France”, show any French words, had to paint a white diamond with an “M” in the middle on the funnels and also had to repaint the distinctive clipper bow. Positioned in the Inland Sea she would be partly sank, her interiors where blown up and the forward funnel was toppled on the deck house. When filming was finished the ship was refloated and scrapped.

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