FOUND! Théophile Gautier: A French ocean liner at the seabed of the Aegean

Interviews, Shipwrecks, WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

The Aegean seabed is a silent witness of many dramatic events during the Second World War. The research team located and positively identified the wreck of the French ocean liner Théophile Gautier, at a depth of 112 meters below sea level.

“Following information received from local fishermen, and thorough research in the historical archives, and despite the adverse conditions encountered, strong currents and poor visibility, we have been able to identify the wreck” says scuba diver Nikolas Vasilatos

“During the dive we saw that the stern was completely destroyed, apparently by the explosion caused by a torpedo of the British submarine”


The “Greek Woman of the Abyss” Helen Tsopouropoulou, team photographer said: “The ship is well preserved , although more than seven decades have passed since her sinking. The two funnels still stand upright offer an impressive sight”


The last voyage 

On October 3, 1941,  «Théophile Gautier» sailed with a convoy from Thessaloniki, with final destination France. Filled with flour and other supplies, to be unloaded at Piraeus, the French ocean liner sailed to her Nemesis. The next day at 6:37 pm, while she was between Euboea and Kea, a violent explosion shook the ship.

A torpedo from the British submarine HMS Talisman  hit the ocean liner in the stern and at 7:20 the large ship disappeared beneath the waves.

Of the 109 people on board, 18 were killed by the explosion or drowned, two succumbed to their injuries later and 13 were injured. Survivors were collected from the escort ships of the convoy and were transferred to Piraeus.
The identity of the «Théophile Gautier»

The ocean liner « Théophile Gautier », 8194 GRT and at a length of 136 meters, was built in Dunkirk, France, in 1927. She could carry 728 passengers and was the first ship of her kind in France with combustion engines rather than steam ones.

She was launched from Marseilles and her maiden voyage was to Alexandria, with stopovers in Piraeus, Beirut, Istanbul and Naples. She also made cruises to the Greek islands and had traveled up to the Black Sea.