The French Line’s Ill-Fated Normandie

This, the most famous posters of Normandie, was by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre.

The previous post comparing Cunard Line’s Queens Mary and Elizabeth with the French Line’s Normandie brought me to add more about Normandie which was unquestionably one of the jewels of the Art Deco era.

The designers of the new French superliner intended to construct their new ship similar to French Line ships of the past, but they were approached by Vladimir Yourkevitch, a former ship architect for the Imperial Russian Navy, who had emigrated to France after the revolution. His ideas included a slanting clipper-like bow and a bulbous forebow beneath the waterline, in combination with a slim hydrodynamic hull. Yourkevitch’s concepts worked wonderfully in scale models which supported his design’s performance advantages. The French engineers were impressed and asked Yourkevitch to join their project. Reportedly, he also approached the Cunard Line with his ideas but was rejected because the bow was deemed too radical. Interestingly, most modern ships, including Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 use the bulbous forebow first used on Normandie.

QM2 forebow

The Captain of Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 standing on the forebow, a concept first used on Normandie to reduce drag, increase speed and save fuel, a concept rejected by Cunard in the 1930s as being “too radical.”

Normandie met a sad end. Caught in New York harbor when the Nazis overran France, the U.S. government seized her, renamed her U.S.S. Lafayette and began converting her into a troop ship. She caught fire, capsized and sank in the harbor. She was salvaged and scrapped. Sad end aside, let’s take a look at her in her splendor.

Normandie interior Normandie main lounge

Main lounge


Entry into main lounge

Normandie 1st class dining room

First class dining room



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Normandie stacks

I’ve always felt her smoke stacks were needlessly large and distracted from the otherwise graceful lines of the ship.

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The sad end of the Normandie: burned and capsized in New York harbor.

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Normandie carte-postale


Add yours →

  1. The interier was definitly SUPER classy. WOW! She was a beauty!


    • Yes! Can’t you imagine dressing for dinner and dining in that beautiful First Class Dining room – or sipping a glass of a fine Bordeaux in that lounge? One photo of the interior I didn’t post showed people having dinner in the First Class Dining room – they were beautifully dressed. It was all quite elegant. These days, people would show up in t-shirts, flip-flops and sweat pants (sigh) …


  2. chris houck 15/04/2015 — 10:20

    Excellent work Paul! I’m going to share this with the crew of the Red Oak Victory.


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