Shipwreck M/S Theophile Gautier

The French passenger motor ship Théophile Gautier was constructed at the shipyard of Chantierset Ateliers de France in Dunkirk of France with the construction number 132. It was launched in June 26th 1926 and then its interior was renovated by the company Societé des Services Contractuels des Messageries Maritimes, sister company of the well know shipping company Messageries Maritimes who belonged the ship. After the completion of the renovation in October 26th 1926, the ship integrated in the Mediterranean lines of the Messageries Maritimes registered in Marseille. The Motor Ship Théophile Gautier was the first ship of this company that was equipped with diesel engine. Its technical characteristics were:

Type: Passenger/ Cargo
Flag: French
Gross Tonnage: 8194
Total length: 129.80 meters
Width: 17 meters
Draught: 6.7 meters
Capacity: 4238 m3
Impulsion: 2 Sulzer six cylinder diesel engines
Propellers: 2
Indicative speed: 12.5 knots
Crew: 26 members on the bridge, 25 members for the engines, 84 rest members
Passengers: 105 at the first class, 96 at the second class, 77 at the third class, 310 for the rest parts.

The Motor Ship Théophile Gautier was ordered by Messageries Maritimes in order to replace the ship André Chenier that was taken out of action in 1925 due to its oldness. With the entry of Théophile Gautier in its fleet in January 18th 1927, Messageries Maritimes introduced the new Mediterranean line starting from Marseille to Istanbul connecting with this line many ports of the Mediterranean Sea. In April 27th 1937, Théophile Gautier was moved to the line of the Black Sea that was inactive until the entry of this ship. However, a year later, in 1938, this line closed again and Théophile Gautier returned back to the Mediterranean line. In 1940, Théophile Gautier stayed for a long time at the port of Piraeus due to lack of fuel. In September 16th1940, the ship sailed to Beirut in order to refill its tank with fuel. Two days later, in September 18th 1940, the ship was detected by a hydroplane of the British army and it was commanded to go to the port of Haifa. From there, escorted by two war ships continued its trip to Beirut where it stayed inactive according to the British administration. In June 11th 1941, due to the bombings and British operations in Syria, the ship received the permission to go to Thessaloniki. In June 19th, it arrived there under the commands of the French captain Hontarède. The ship stayed there the whole summer of 1941 under the protection of the Axis Powers. In October 3rd 1941, Théophile Gautier departed loaded with tobacco to Marseille with first stop the port of Piraeus. The ship was part of a convoy with the German ship Delos and the Italian Torcello. The convoy was escorted by the Italian fast attack crafts Monzambano, Calatafimi and Aldebaran. The next day, October 4th 1941, the convoy was detected by the British submarine HMS Talisman (Com. Lt. Michael Willmott, RN) that attacked them with a torpedo at 18.37pm, resulting in the sinking ofThéophile Gautier at the north-east part of the island of Kea. According to testimonies and pictures of the ship taken in October 1941, Théophile Gautier had in both its sides the French flag drawn and framed by its name. This fact though did not prevent the Allied forces to consider it a hostile ship, due to the fact that it belonged in the forces of the Vichy government that came out as a partner of the thenazist Germany , after the French capitulation of Compiègne in June 22nd 1940. During the torpedo attack, there were onboard 105 crew members, 3 militaries and the French naval follower with his assistant. Due to the sinking of the ship, 16 crew members, among them the second officer of the ship CapitaineGuillu, two soldiers and another officer were lost. In total, 13 crew members and an escort officer were injured.

The wreck

The wreck of Théophile Gautieris located in the north-east side of Kea in a distance of almost 8 nautical miles away from Makronisos and 13 miles from Andros. The maximum depth of the wreck is 111meters and the minimum is 95 meters. The bow of the ship is turned to the south with a direction of 180 degrees, while the stern part of the ship is broken, forming almost a right angle with the main imaginary axis of the wreck. The main part of the ship is located in the sea bottom supported on its left side. The anchors of the ship, the two heavers of the fore part and the two characteristic funnels are very clear on their initial position.


Kriegstagebuch des kommandierenden Admirals Ägäis
Kriegstagebuch Marine GruppenkommandoSüd
Kriegstagebuch des Kommandanten der SeeverteidigungSaloniki
War Diary HMS TALISMAN (Archive PlatonAlexiades)
Bois, Paul: Le grand siècle des messageriesmaritimes – Chambre du commerce etd´Industrie Marseille-Provence, 1992