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Prentout-Leblond, Leroux & Cie (Shipping company, France)

Last modified: 2016-03-21 by ivan sache
Keywords: prentout-leblond leroux | compagnie rouennaise de transports maritimes | societe bretonne de navigation |
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Presentation of Prentout-Leblond, Leroux & Cie

Henri Victor Prentout (1850-1915), born in Honfleur as the son of a sailmaker, appended the name of his wife to his own, being known in business as Prentout-Leblond.
Prentout-Leblond set up a fleet of big sailing ships (1,500 tons) for the transportation of British coal to Paris. An influential member of the Central Committee of the French Shipowners, Prentout-Leblond lobbied for the last big sailing ships against the steamships. To modernize sailing ships, he designed sails with a new shape and a bigger area, which required an increase in the size of the lower yards. He also promoted the use of diesel engine on sailing ships, therefore inventing the dual propulsion.

The Prentout-Leblond shipping company was based in Rouen. Prentout-Leblond established in 1913 the Société Anonyme des Navires Mixtes, whose flagship was the France II, built by the Chantiers de la Gironde. The ship was named as a reference to the France I, the first five-master to sail under the French flag, which had been purchased in England by Bordes in 1890.
The France II was the biggest five-master that ever sailed. She was expected to succeed 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 would be used for the transportation of nickel from New Caledonia, and, additionally as a cruising ship.
The new agenda transformed the building of the ship into a technological challenge. Steel-hulled, the ship was 146 m in length and 17 m in width; the height of the masts was 67 m while the sails covered 6,350 sq. m and weighted, together with the masts, 457 tons. The ship, of 6,255 tons in tonnage, 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 of the time.

The France II passed the official tests in August 1913. Registered for the trade to New Caledonia, sheleft Glasgow on 25 November 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-Leblond, the France II was sold to the CompagnieFrançaise de Marine et de Commerce in late 1916. Equipped with two cannons, she 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 made difficult by hurricanes, blazes, icebergs, and German attacks; the ship transported grains, tallow, leather, coffee, petrol, nickel, mahogany and peanuts.

For her second campaign, the France II was revamped: the diesel engines were removed and the crew was increased to 50. During her first trip, the "new" France II had to abandon her tug in the Channel because of harsh wind gusts. Fortunately not lost, the ship carried on trips to northwestern America until 1921, when 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; when it was considered 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: L'Âge d'Or des Grands Voiliers

When Henri Prentout-Leblond retired in 1914, he managed a big fleet, either as the proper owner, or as a manager, in association with Boniface, Leroux, Heuzey and others:
- one sailing tanker for the Gramont refinery;
- one three-master for Tiberghien Fils in Tourcoing;
- four sailing ships of the Compagnie Rouennaise de Transport Maritimes;
- five sailing ships of the Société Anonyme des Voiliers Normands, formerly Société Bayonnaise de Navigation;
- eight sailing ships of the Société Bretonne de Navigation;
- the five-master France II, of the 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

[Prentout-Leblond Leroux house flag]         [Prentout-Leblond Leroux house flag]

House flag of Prentout-Leblond, Leroux & Cie, as shown by Lloyds (left) and by L'Âge d'Or des Grands Voiliers (right) - Images by Ivan Sache, 12 December 2004

On Lloyd's House Flags & Funnels (1904) (as H. Prentout-Leblond & E. Leroux) and Lloyd's (1912, online version) (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 by L'Âge d'Or des Grands Voiliers has a six-pointed star.

Neale Rosanoski & Ivan Sache, 12 December 2004

Compagnie Rouennaise de Transports Maritimes

[CRTM house flag]

House flag of the Compagnie Rouennaise de Transports Maritimes - Image by Ivan Sache, 27 December 2003

Prentout-Leblond, Leroux also operated the 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 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 (1912, online version).

Neale Rosanoski & Ivan Sache, 27 December 2003

Société Bretonne de Navigation

[SBN house flag]

House flag of Société 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.
Lloyd's House Flags & Funnels (1904) show a similar flag with the letters being "S" and "B".

Dominique Cureau & Neale Rosanoski, 24 August 2005