French Line, S.S. Paris (1916) 1921 to 1947
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With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author &
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Photographs are from the ssMaritime historic collection - unless
Let me first introduce you to the S.S.
owned by “Compagnie
(CGT) which was better known as the “French Line”. This 34,569 GRT (Gross Registered Ton) liner became known as the “Versailles
of the Atlantic”, being a reference to her ultra luxurious décor that
reflected the famous palace located outside Paris.
She was ordered in 1908, and she commenced on her Trans-Atlantic service in April
1912, which happened just a week after the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic. The S.S.
was the only French liner among the famous liners of the grand “four
stackers” sailing at that time. However, the France
rapidly became one of the most popular ships on the Atlantic.
During World War I she served as a hospital ship and thankfully she survived
that war, and she had a career that spanned a good two decades.
we see the magnificent S.S.
- 1912 to 1935
proved to the world that the “French Line” had become one of the
world’s most distinguished shipping companies. The company had
deliberately decided not to interfere in the struggle of obtaining the speed
limit of the Atlantic crossings known as the “Blue Riband”, for
their aim was to construct new, larger super luxury liners that featured
interiors that were so luxurious and it was this that attracted passengers, not
the ships speed.
Thus French Line decided to continue the success
of the S.S.
by commissioning another new liner shortly after the arrival of the France.
This time their aim would be even more evident of what “opulent really
meant!” The new liner would be close to 35,000 tons, and have a maximum
speed around 22.44 knots, which was still a good speed for the early 1920s. But
as I already stated, it was not speed hat would attract passengers to this new
liner, for it would be the ship’s magnificent interiors, just like those,
if not superior then the France!
completion of the S.S. Paris:
The new liner was ordered to be built by
Penhoët at Saint
although her first
hull plate had been laid down in 1913, but sadly construction of the
ship soon halted due to the outbreak of WW1 in 1914. The partially
completed hull had already been named ‘Paris’,
but she lay idle on the slipway during the first two years of the war.
Then the French Government decided that they needed every space possible
for them to construct new war-ships.
Thus on September 12, 1916, the Paris
was hurriedly launched to make room for the construction of new war-ships and
she was placed in “Quiberon
however no work would be done for around a year.
Finally, in 1918 the Germans was forced to
surrender and sign the treaty of Versailles, and when the war had ended, every
participating country had to recommence from where they were back in 1914.
However, work did not recommence on the Paris
until 1919, and a great deal of work was required, as she had to be completely
is seen in Quiberon
during her fit-out
Two years later the elegant Paris
was finally completed. She emerged from the shipyard as the largest vessel ever
built in France.
Now that she was completed, the press could catch an eye on what the French
Line had meant in 1913, when they talked about the Paris’
interiors. The ship certainly had something of a magic touch, for she featured
a number of styles of amazing and superb interiors. Passengers could choose to
travel in the conservative Palace-like cabins, but the Paris
also featured Art Nouveau, as well as hints of the Art Deco that the Ile
would boast six years later. The luxury of this ship was something no other
liner in the world could claim at that time. Amazingly, the vast majority of
the First Class staterooms had proper windows rather than the traditional round
portholes. In the cabins guests had a private telephone, which was extremely
rare on board a ship. A valet was available on the Paris, and he was easily
called by phone and he would be there within a minute, as he was locate in an
adjacent room, rather than in a cabin in the second class like on other
companies, which would have been far away. Added to this the Paris,
along with the other French liners, was well known for their amazingly superb
cuisine, which was of a very high five star standard!
Grand Hall and Stairwell
ladies had their own Smoking Room
very popular Tea Saloon
grand Restaurant to say the least and the cuisine was
spacious Promenade Deck
Note: There is a Deck Plan of the S.S. Paris on
Page Two, there is a link at the bottom of this page!
Main Lounge was of such a high standard it would have been up to the standard
of First Class on the best of fine liners!
and Writing Room, also used to show films and other activities
very pleasant Dinning Room
Two Berth Cabin complete with a hot and cold water basin
Completion to Maiden Voyage:
was finally completed at that time she had become the largest liner under the
French flag, as officially she now registered as being, 34,569 GRT (Gross
Voyage Promotional S.S. Paris Poster
During her speed trials she managed a good
maximum speed of 22.44 knots, but her service speed would generally be 21
knots. She was completed and delivered to the French Line on June 5, 1921, and
she was made ready for her maiden voyage, thus she was fully stored up, and
took on board her full crew of 648 members.
Then on June 15, 1921, the magnificent long
and sleek looking three funnelled S.S.
finally departed Le
fully laden and she headed via Plymouth (UK) to New
we see the S.S.
during her maiden voyage to New
was originally, as had all liner had been prior to the war designed with
Europeans immigrating to the USA
in mind. However after the war, the United States
had severely restricted its immigration policy, thus the Paris
now had to aim more and more the lucrative tourist market as well as the
wealthy and famous passengers. Thankfully, the 1920’s turned out to be a
very profitable period for the magnificent luxurious S.S.
and the stars did indeed turned out to sail on this luxurious liner, including
the famous actress Gloria
seen at sea
As I already stated earlier that dining on Paris
was so good, and the service being simply beyond superb and her living spaces
were divinely comfortable and luxurious. Thus with her enormous appeal she
rapidly became known as the liner to sail on during the twenties as she was
“Floating bits of France
itself”, as one brochure aptly stated. But as always, it came back to the
magnificent cuisine for on the Paris,
it was said that was her most outstanding feature. Passengers stated that:
“More sea gulls followed Paris
than any other ship in hopes of grabbing scraps of the haute cuisine that were
The French Line's success took off even
more when a third ship joined the service in June 1927, being the grandiose S.S.
new 43,153 GRT
French Line sailing schedule released December 1927
Troubled times for the S.S. Paris:
The Norwegian cargo steam ship, the 1916 built
which happened to be at anchor on “the Road” in New York
was rammed by the departing S.S.
on October 16, 1927, and tragically, due to the heavy damage caused, the
Norwegian ship sunk rapidly. This collision resulted in the loss of six of the Norwegian crew
lives, whilst survivors were rescued by Paris as well as the harbour ferries “American Legion” and the “Brooklyn”.
All blame was clearly placed on the officers of the Paris.
1929 a really bad year!
Then on April 7, 1929, the
ran aground on the Brooklyn shore, New York,
and she was refloated 36 hours later. Amazingly, just eleven days later on
April 18, 1929, she did it again as she ran aground once more, but this time on
the “Eddystone Rocks”, at
UK. Again she was refloated, but this time it was just two hours later and
she then anchored off Penlee in Cornwall,
where 157 of her passengers were taken off by a tender and landed at Plymouth.
These two incidents did not damage the ship,
unlike the fire that would brake out on board the ship when she was at Le Havre
just four months later.
Next, whilst at Le Havre
on August 20, 1929, the Paris
caught fire and she was severely damaged. Sadly, the much of the ship’s
passenger areas were devastated by the blaze’s smoke, and due to the massive
amount of water sprayed by the fire brigade she partially sank. Then on
September 11, she was refloated and sent to be repaired and refitted.
we see the Paris
on fire at Le Havre
Her repairs and refit took a good six months
to complete. When she was completed she looked her old self, and she returned
to service. However there had been some changed made to her passenger
accommodations that had been lowered; from 2,132 to 1,934 passengers, but
whilst cruising she would accommodate just 300 guests.
Cruise Brochure Cover
With the onset of the Great Depression late in
1929, even the French Line's stylish ships were sailing only a third full. The
French Line avoided the possibility of laying them up by pressing them into
cruise work. To some, it seemed scandalous to have such ships lazily roaming
the Mediterranean or Scandinavia
as cruise ships with just 300 First Class passengers on board.
is seen at sea during a cruise
She did continue to her regular Trans-Atlantic
services, and thankfully passenger numbers had thankfully increased again, and
was making some money one more!
is seen arriving in New York
A Tragic End for a Fine
On April 18, 1939, S.S.
caught yet another fire whilst she was docked at Le Havre
and she would temporarily block the new superliner Normandie from departing
from her brief stay there.
Five hours after the fire had commenced, all
of her promenade deck cabins were ablaze, and just as it was would be with the
great S.S. Normandie just three years later in 1942, the fire brigade pumped far
too much water onto the Paris, that she became top heavy for somehow all the
water was unable penetrate the lower areas of the ship due to the ship’s
watertight compartments having been closed.
is seen ablaze on April 18, 1939.
The next morning at 9.15 am suddenly the S.S.
heeled over onto her port side, which meant that her funnels and masts would
trap the much larger and
magnificent liner the S.S.
who was now berthed alongside the Paris
great 83,423 GRT, S.S.
seen in here in all her glory during her latter years
was unable to be righted and it rapidly became clear that it was impossible to
save the once magnificent S.S.
Two days later her funnels and masts were removed, which was done in order to
allow the Normandie, which had been trapped by them, and allow her to depart
and head for New York.
Great S.S. Normandie is finally able to pass the Paris
and she heads for New York
A few months later, World War II commenced as Germany
The war would mean that the Paris
was of no concern for the French Line, as they had far too many problems on
their hands, thus they decided to leave the Paris
where she was on her side at Le Havre
until the end of WW2.
The once great Line the S.S.
Paris laid where
she had sunk until 1947, and it was finally decided to
have her scrapped, which was done where she lay!
Specifications & Details S.S.
- “French Line”.
Port of registry: Le Havre,
Laid down: 1913.
Launched: September 12,
out, but remained laid up during the war.
Maiden voyage: June
turbines powering four propellers.
ft - 233.4 m.
ft - 26 m.
As Built: 2,115
August, 1929: 1,934
fire, and capsized in Le Havre
on April 18, 1939.
. Dismantled where she lay in 1947.
the Magnificent S.S. Paris
One of the best French Line’s colour Postcards
of the ‘Paris’
the S.S. Paris Deck Plan
visit the 3 page S.S. Normandie Feature - 1935 to 1947
the S.S. Ile de
France - 1927 to
“Blue Water Liners
sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”
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