Ville du Havre was a French iron steamship that operated round trips between the northern coast of France and New York City. Launched in November 1865 under her original name of Napoléon III, she was converted from a paddle steamer to single propeller propulsion in 1871 and, in recognition of the recent defeat of her imperial namesake, the Emperor Napoleon III, was renamed Ville du Havre.
In the early hours of 22 November 1873, Ville du Havre collided with the Scottish three-masted iron clipper, Loch Earn and sank in 12 minutes with the loss of 226 lives.
Only 61 passengers and 26 crew members survived, rescued by Loch Earn and subsequently, an American vessel, the Tremountain.
On 15 November 1873, the Ville du Havre sailed from New York with 313 passengers and crew on board, under the command of captain Marino Surmonte. After a week's steaming across the Atlantic ocean, she collided with the iron clipper, Loch Earn at about 2 am in the morning of Saturday, 22 November at the position 47°21′N 35°31′W. At the time of the collision, Ville du Havre was proceeding under both steam and sail at about 12 knots.
The captain of the Loch Earn, after first sighting the Ville du Havre and realising she was dangerously close, rang the ship's bell and ported his helm. The helm of the Loch Earn was put to starboard, but Ville du Havre came right across the Loch Earn's bow. The Ville du Havre was violently shaken by the collision and noise, and woke all the passengers. Confused, most passengers went on deck, only to discover the ship was rapidly sinking. The captain assured them that all was fine, but in reality the cruiser had been nearly broken in two, and it didn't take long for passengers to realize the situation was desperate. Commotion and chaos overtook panicked passengers. They started grabbing life preservers and trying to push lifeboats into the water. Unfortunately, these had recently been painted, and they were now stuck fast to the deck. Finally a few of them were yanked loose, and passengers fought desperately to be one of the few travelers to board those rescue boats.
Shortly after the collision, Ville du Havre's main and mizzen masts collapsed, smashing two of the liner's life boats and killing several people. The time for saving life was very short as the ship sank in less than 12 minutes, and finally broke into two pieces as she went. Captain Robertson of the Loch Earn did all he possibly could to rescue the drowning and eventually 61 passengers and 26 of the crew were rescued and taken on board that ship.
However, 226 passengers and crew perished.
The Loch Earn, herself in danger of sinking, was subsequently rescued by the American cargo ship, Tremountain and all Ville du Havre passengers and crew were transferred to that ship. The Loch Earn, with its bow smashed in, commenced to sink as the bulkheads gave way, so she was abandoned at sea by her crew and sank shortly afterwards.