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SS FRANCE Letters Illuminated

Posted on Thursday, January 20, 2011 by

Philippe Pierre Brebant reports from Le Havre that one of the two original sets of neon letters displayed between the iconic funnels spelling out F R A N C E on board the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique’s SS FRANCE, was preserved and re-lit.  When the ship was transformed into the SS NORWAY in Bremerhaven, the letters were removed and stored in 1979.

Recently, they were fully restored by the Association of the Maritime Museum and Port of Le Havre and lit once more in Le Havre (see video above). The letters will be exhibited in Paris at Musée National de la Marine (The National Maritime Museum) where a huge exhibition covering the 50 year anniversary of the famed ocean liner will run  from February 9 through October 23, with over 800 items on display.

The letters will later return to Le Havre along with the exhibition to be presented to the Musée Malraux, facing the entrance of the harbor.

Postcard of Le Havre with SS FRANCE.

7 Responses to SS FRANCE Letters Illuminated

  1. anthony nicholas

    January 21, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Nice to see something of her saved! Along with the tip of her prow. It’s a bit like seeing the bits of jewellry left behind by some great fashion icon. It gives you an aura of the real thing, like a snapshot. She was magnificent!

  2. Deborah DAmbrosi

    January 21, 2011 at 6:58 am

    This is just wonderful, I’m so glad the letters have been fully restored.

  3. Kenneth Eden

    January 22, 2011 at 4:52 am

    It is nice that some liner lovers seem to dwell on the Normandy, a fabled ship that had a terrible end in the Hudson, by accident – and then, there are the Titanic lovers, devotees of a ship that nobody alive can remember, the saga and mystery of the ship will enduring for future generations.

    It is also nice to know that so many, many people loved the SS FRANCE, and have kept her memory alive, and in fact remeber her, as I do. Fittingly, it is also remarkable the number of people that adored the Norway, and are keeping vigil over their fondness for her.

    The illumination of the F R A N CE is a wonderful tribute to the ship, perhaps the grandest of all in contemporary times. One can not help but wonder, what else has been stored away from the SS France, and hidden, waiting to be found.

    The murals, the Lalique lighting fixtures, the leather chairs from the Riviera Lounge – so much in a sea of memories.

  4. Peter Castellan

    January 22, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    It’s a shame France didn’t show more of an interest on saving the rest of the ship before she was ripped apart on that beach, all they have is some letters and the tip of the prow, big deal ,the country of her berth should have done much more.

  5. Paul Goodwin

    January 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Very cool, touching even, but they don’t look like any “neon” lights I’ve ever seen……they look (and ignite) more like old fluorescent tubes.

  6. George Henry

    January 26, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Yes – I agree with Paul Goodwin on the France letters. If they wanted to do a true restoration, they would have used neon tubing. They took the “cheap” method when “restoring”.

    Look at the cover of the book “Le Paquebot FRANCE”, written by Armelle Bouchet Mazas – it is a photo showing all the NEON in the letters. (Google it, you’ll find it)

    Using fluorescent lamps just do not do the letters justice. Any of you in doubt, I am in the sign profession, so I handle neon glass tubing on a daily basis.

  7. Kenneth Eden

    February 6, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I do recall that when the FRANCE sign was lit at dusk, the lighting tubes “fluttered”, ? correct term, like old fluoresnt tubes – whatever, the sign was saved and maybe not in a prurist way. I had not thought of this sign in years, it was a dim, pun intended, memory from my SS France experience.

    By todays standards, thie FRANCE sign is unique, not just a painted sign with a flood light.

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