Built by Chantiers et Ateliers de St. Nazaire, La Provence was CGT's
largest ship to date when she was launched in 1905. She made her maiden
voyage from Le Havre to New York on 21 April 1906, and remained on that
route until the outbreak of World War I. Initially commissioned as an
auxiliary cruiser and renamed Provence II, she was converted into a
troopship in 1915. (French naval authorities, like their counterparts
in England and Germany, realized early on that large merchant ships were
not well suited to auxiliary cruiser service and could be put to better
use as troopships.)
On 26 February 1916, Provence II was torpedoed by U35 and sank 65 miles
(115 km) off Cape Matapan. There were 930 fatalities, many of them as a
result of lifeboats' being swamped in the heavy swell. Another 870 were
rescued. Ironically, the commander of U35 was Arnauld de la Péreire, a
distant relative of CGT's founders.
Sources: Bonsor's North Atlantic Seaway; Haws' Merchant Fleets;
Williams' Wartime Disasters at Sea.