Normandie (steel liner) 1935 - 1942
hull material : ...................steel
previous name(s) of ship : ........
detailed type : ...................steel liner
type of propulsion : ..............4 propellers
building year of ship : ...........1931
name of shipyard : ................Chantiers & Ateliers de St Nazaire
place of construction : ...........Penhoët
year of entering the fleet : ......1935
length (in meters) : ..............313,75
width (in meters) : ...............36,4
gross tonnage (in tons) : .........79280
deadweight (in tons) : ............14423
type of engine : ..................4 turbo-electric three-phase current voltage 5000 volts
engine power (in HP) : ............160000
nominal speed (in Knots) : ........29-30
Do we need to introduce NORMANDIE, the liner who deserved all the superlatives? NORMANDIE will remain the greatest and the most luxurious liner built by the French Line. She was the greatest ship in the world when put into service in 1935 until the completion of QUEEN ELISABETH in 1940. Her career was shortened due to war, but her design features, her style, the luxury of her accomodations without neglecting her speed performances, have deemed her, for ever, to be the archetype of the transatlantic liner. Her reputation is world wide for a long time and with good reason she will never be undoubtly totally forgotten.
NORMANDIE went into service on the 29th may 1935 on the crossing Le Havre – New York and obtained the Blue Ribbon in both directions for her maidentrip which at the time made her the fastest liner in the world. This title was taken over by the QUEEN MARY in August 1936. NORMANDIE retrieved it again in 1936 before giving it up definitely to QUEEN MARY in August 1938. During the record crossings in 1935 and 1937, the average speed increased from 29.98 knots to 30.58 in the East-west direction and from 30.31 to 31.20 West-east. NORMANDIE was likely to cross the atlantic ocean a little less than 4 days.
During winter 1935-1936, the ship is equipped with new propellers and also modified through bridge wings and a new cafe-lounge. Illuminated letters featuring her name and located between the 2nd and 3rd funnel (a world premiere?) are removed in order to widen the tennis court. Her tonnage then reaches 83000 tons, which allows her to remain the largest ship in the world ahead of QUEEN MARY.
In 1938 and 1939, besides her scheduled trips, she completed two cruises in South America, departing from New York. Three long films were also shot on board in 1937, 1938 and 1939.
During the technical calls in winter 1938-1939, her lifeboats are entirely repainted – beige and orange colour – on a trial basis. On the 24 Aug. 1939, NORMANDIE leaves Le Havre for the last time and on the 28th moors along the pier 88 of the French Line in New York, reaching the term of her 139th crossing. She was forecast to get under way to Europe on the 30th, but the departure was cancelled this very morning and on the 6th September, she is laid up in the vicinity of QUEEN MARY, her great competitor.
In December 1941, the ship is seized by the US Maritime Commission, then entrusted to the US Navy and renamed LAFAYETTE. A conversion plan into an aircraft-carrier is first contemplated then given up to the advantage of converting into a troop-carrier. On the 9th Feb. 1942, some days before a new career, a worker engaged in cutting with a blowtorch the metallic supports of the four candelabra of the 1st class lounge, sets fire to lifejackets stored in the vicinity. For fear of fire spreading up to the harbour fittings, the firemen and the fireboats of New York City pour out torrents of water into the superstructures of the ship. By lack of stability, NORMANDIE capsized in the night from 9 to 10 Feb. The fire claimed one victim among the workers.
In order to disengage and reset afloat the ship (her hull and machine have no damage) it will be necessary to cut it up to the promenade deck. After more than 20 months of effective work, the wreck is upright again. In Nov. 43 it is towed to a shipyard in Brooklyn, many plans of rebuilding are contemplated then set aside due to the involved cost. NORMANDIE was finally sold to a scrap merchant in Oct. 1946, her breaking up will be completed in Oct. 1947.
By way of compensation, French Line will be granted in 1946 the German liner EUROPA, who will be altered and set again into service in 1950 under the name LIBERTÉ.