Afrique and Amiral Fourichon were two of the passenger/cargo steamers running on the Compagnie des Chargeurs-Reunis' extensive West African service at the beginning of the century. Founded in 1872, the company's principal trade was with South America although the route to France's West African possessions, including the Cameroons, was almost lucrative. Amiral Fourichon, 5,045 tons, was launched in 1901 and Afrique followed in 1907. Built on the Tyne by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, the latter was registered at 5,404 tons, measured 408½ feet long with a 48 foot beam, and could make 14½ knots at full steam. Both proved reliable vessels but whilst Amiral Fourichon ended her long career at the breakers, Afrique's end was altogether more spectacular.
Bound for West Africa on the night of 10 January 1920, she developed engine trouble in the Bay of Biscay and soon became unmanageable. Her sister ship Ceylan was the first to respond to her distress calls but could not get a tow aboard due to the high winds and heavy swell. During the next day, the steamer Lapland and the Belgian liner Anversville also arrived on the scene but they too could only look on helplessly as Afrique was swept towards the Roche-Bonne Reefs about 50 miles from La Rochelle. She stranded at about 3 o'clock on the morning of 12 January, filled and sank rapidly; only 32 of the 585 persons aboard were saved and the loss of life was the largest of any French maritime disaster since the sinking of La Bourgogne in 1898.