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Joachim Sparkuhlís Miscellany

The unhappy history of hull 161

In December of 1938 the firm Messageries Maritime ordered a new addition to its fleet of passenger ships. Intended to carry passengers between France and French Indochina, the new vessel was designed to be luxurious and fast, with dimensions that would enable her to manoeuvre in the river port of Saigon. Her keel was laid on June 15, 1939 at the yards of Societe Provencale de construction Navale of La Ciotat situated in the south of France between Marseilles and Toulon. Work on the hull, designated number 161, did not continue for long. Construction was suspended due to the outbreak of the Second World War in September and did not resume until after the defeat of France in December of 1940. Although the newly installed Vichy government had suffered major naval losses and needed to re-establish its merchant fleet, construction progressed slowly, hindered according to some reports by resistance sabotage. Whatever the case, it was not until† June 8, 1944 that the still unfinished hull was launched on the order of the German† Kriegsmarine. She was christened Marechal Petain in honour of the President of Vichy and towed to Port Bouc. The launch came too late to be of any use either to Vichy or to Germany. Two months later, in August 1944, Allied forces invaded the south of France and German soldiers scuttled the ship during their retreat.

 

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Fig 2.

†Launch of the Marechal Petain 1944

 

Source: Photo Collection Alain de Bressy

 

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Fig 2.

†Launch of the Marechal Petain 1944

 

Source: Photo Collection Alain de Bressy

Fig 2.

†Launch of the Marechal Petain 1944

 

Source: Photo Collection Alain de Bressy

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