Last modified: 2010-12-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: prentout-leblond leroux | star (blue) | star: 6 points (blue) | letters: cr (blue) | compagnie rouennaise de transports maritimes | societe bretonne de navigation | letters: sb (blue) |
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Henri Victor Prentout (1850-1915) was borne in Honfleur, where his
father was a sailmaker. After his marriage, he appended the name of his
wife to his own name, and was known in business as Prentout-Leblond. He
set up a fleet of big sailing ships (1,500 tons) for the transportation
of British coal to Paris.
Prentout was an influential member of the Central Committee of the French Shipowners, in which he lobbied for the last big sailing ships against the steamships. In order to modernize the sailing ships, Prentout designed sails with a new shape and a bigger area, which required an increase in the size of the lower yards. Prentout also promoted the use of diesel engine on sailing ships, therefore inventing the dual propulsion.
The Prentout-Leblond shipping company was based in Rouen. In 1913, Prentout created the Société Anonyme des Navires Mixtes, whose flagship was the France II, built by the Chantiers de la Gironde. The France II was named after the France I, which had been purchased in England by Bordes in 1890. The France I was the first five-master to sail under the French flag.
The France II was the biggest five-master that ever sailed. She was
expected to succed the four-master Quevilly used since 1898 by
Prentout-Leblond for the transportation of American oil to Europe.
However, the shipowner decided short before signing the contract with
the shipyard that the new five-master should be used for the
transportation of nickel from New Caledonia and also as a cruising
The new agenda transformed the building of the ship into a technological challenge. The France II was made of steel; her length was 146 m, her width 17 m; the height of the masts was 67 m, the area of the sails 6,350 sq. m and their weight (masts and sails) 457 tons; her tonnage was 6,255 tons and she was powered by two 900 hp engines moving two lateral propellers with a revolution speed of 240 rpm. The expected speed of the ship was 10 knots, for a crude oil consumption of 220 g per horse hour. The ship had an oil authonomy of 47 days, that is 11,000 miles, twice the round trip between New York and Europe. Because of her dual propulsion, the France II was expected to reach New Caledonia in 80 days, that is in a shorter time than any other cargo ship.
In August 1913, the France II passed the official tests and was registered for the trade to New Caledonia. On 25 November 1913, she left Glasgow with a full load of coke, coal and passengers, and a crew of only 45. The ship reached New Caledonia after 92 days and achieved her return trip in 102 days.After the death of Prentout, the France II was sold to Compagnie Française de Marine et de Commerce at the end of 1916. The ship was equipped with two cannons, and left Glasgow for Montevideo on 21 February 1917 with a full load of coal. During the next two years, the France II sailed to America, Australia, New Caledonia and Africa, and eventually came back to Le Havre via Bordeaux in 1919. The campaign was very difficult because of hurricanes, blazes, icebergs and German attacks; the ship transported grains, tallow, leather, coffee, petrol, nickel, mahogany and peanuts.
The France II was revamped, the diesel engines were removed and the
crew was extended to 50. During her first trip, the "new" France II
had to abandon her tug in the Channel because of harsh wind gusts.
Fortunately, the ship was not lost and carried on her trips to
north-western America until 1921, and was then sent to New Zealand.
During the night of 11 to 12 July 1922, the France II ran onto the Ouano reef in New Caledonia. The Australian Salvage Company sent a tugboat, but it was decided that the refloating of the France II would not be profitable. The ship was despoiled of everything worth being sold and its hull was eventually sold as a wreck.
Source: Grand Voilier website
When Henri Prentout retired in 1914, he managed a big fleet, either as
proper owner, or in association with Boniface, Leroux, Heuzey and
others, or as a manager:
- one sailing tanker for the Gramont refinery
- one three-master for Tiberghien Fils in Tourcoing
- four sailing ships of Compagnie Rouennaise de Transport Maritimes
- five sailing ships of Société Anonyme des Voiliers Normands, formerly Société Bayonnaise de Navigation
- eight sailing ships of Société Bretonne de Navigation
- the five-master France II from Société Anonyme des Navires Mixtes His successors Leroux, Heuzey and Chastellain maintained the company until 1967.
Source: Jean Randier. Grands voiliers français, 1880-1930
Ivan Sache & Dominique Cureau, 29 August 2005
House flag of Prentout-Leblond, Leroux & Cie, as shown by Lloyds (left) and by Grands voiliesr (right) - Images by Ivan Sache, 12 December 2004
On Lloyds House Flags & Funnels (1904) (as H. Prentout-Leblond & E. Leroux) and Lloyds (1912) (as Prentout-Leblond, Leroux & Cie), the house flag of the company is shown red with a white bend charged with a blue star slightly angled
towards the upper hoist so that the top point is towards the start of
the fly red.
The flag shown on the Grands Voiliers website has a six-pointed star.
Neale Rosanoski & Ivan Sache, 12 December 2004
House flag of Compagnie Rouennaise de Transports Maritimes - Image by Ivan Sache, 27 December 2003
Prentout-Leblond, Leroux also operated Compagnie Rouennaise de Transports Maritimes with a similar flag, again a white band but with the star point upright and the star placed between the blue letters "C" and "R" with both being also placed erect.
The house flag of the company is shown as #2026, p. 133, section "sailing vessels", in Lloyd's book of house flags and funnels of the principal steamship lines of the world and the house flags of various lines of sailing vessels, published at Lloyd's Royal Exchange. London. E.C. (1911), also available online thanks to the Mystic Seaport Foundation.
Neale Rosanoski & Ivan Sache, 27 December 2003
House flag of >ociété Bretonne de Navigation - Image by Dominique Cureau, 24 August 2005
Société Bretonne de Navigation, based in Nantes, was another shipping company managed by Henri Prentout-Leblond.
Lloyds House Flags & Funnels (1904) show a similar flag with the letters being "S" and "B".
Dominique Cureau & Neale Rosanoski, 24 August 2005