RMS Empress of Canada (1920)

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For other ships of the same name, see Empress of Canada.
Empress of Canada
Name: 1922-1943: RMS Empress of Canada
Owner: 1922-1943: Canadian Pacific Steamships
Operator: 1922-1939: Canadian Pacific Steamships
1939-1943: British Admiralty
Port of registry: 1922-1939: Canada
Ordered: 1920
Builder: Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, Govan, Scotland
Yard number: 528
Launched: 17 August 1920
Completed: Mai 1922
Maiden voyage: 5 May 1922
Fate: 13 March 1943 -- sunk off coast of Africa
General characteristics
Class and type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 21,517 tons
Length: 627 ft
Beam: 77.8 ft
Propulsion: Six steam turbines
Speed: 18 knots
Capacity: 488 1st class passengers
109 2nd class passengers
926 3rd class passengers
Notes: CPR's fist ship to undertake a round-the-world cruise in December 1924

RMS Empress of Canada was an ocean liner built in 1920 for the Canadian Pacific Steamships (CP) by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company at Govan on the Clyde in Scotland. This ship -- the first of two CP vessels to be named Empress of Canada[1] -- regularly traversed the trans-Pacific route between the west coast of Canada and the Far East until 1939.


In 1920, Canadian Pacific Steamships ordered a new ship to be built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company at Govan near Glasgow in Scotland.[2] This Empress was a 21,517 ton, 653-foot ocean liner. She undertook her maiden voyage on 5 May 1922. Based at the port of Vancouver, British Columbia, the first Empress of Canada was intended to provided service to Japan, Hong Kong, and China. Her sister ships included Empress of France and Empress of Britain.

Great Kantō earthquake[edit]

On 34 September 1923, the Empress of Canada arrived at Tokyo harbor—just three days after the devastating Great Kantō Earthquake struck the city. She found that the Empress of Australia had been converted to a command post from which the British consul was directing relief work; and the Empress of Canada transported refugees to Kobe -- 587 Europeans, 31 Japanese, and 362 Chinese.[3]

World War II[edit]

Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, she was converted for use as a troopship. She was one of the ships in the first Australian/New Zealand convoy, designated US.1 for secrecy, destined for North Africa and at that time not yet fully converted for full troop capacity with few ships of the convoy carrying more than 25% more than their normal passenger load.[4] Empress of Canada departed Wellington 6 January 1940 with the New Zealand elements, joined the Australian ships and arrived Aden on 8 February from where the convoy split with all ships heading for Suez.[4]

SS Empress of Canada's ballroom was cleared for sleeping as ANZAC troops are transported from the Antipodes to the war zones in the Northern Hemisphere. This specific image was captured at sea in January 1940 near Fremantle, Western Australia.

She continued to transport ANZAC troops from New Zealand and from Australia to the war zones in Europe until sunk. The return voyage from Europe was not less dangerous than the trip north had been. On 13 March 1943, while en route from Durban, South Africa to Takoradi carrying Italian prisoners of war along with Polish and Greek refugees,[5] the SS Empress of Canada was torpedoed and sunk by the Italian submarine Leonardo Da Vinci approximately 400 miles (640 km) south of Cape Palmas off the coast of Africa. Of the approximate 1800 people on board, 392 died. Nearly half of the fatalities reported were Italian prisoners.[6]


  1. ^ The second SS Empress of Canada (1961) was built for CP.
  2. ^ Johnston, Ian. "Govan Shipyard" in Ships Monthly. June 1985.
  3. ^ "All Ships Aiding Relief," New York Times. 9 September 1923.
  4. ^ a b Gill, G. Hermon (1957). Royal Australian Navy 1939-1942. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 2 – Navy 1. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. pp. 85–94. 
  5. ^ Dictionary of Wrecks
  6. ^ Jordan, Roger: The World's Merchant Fleets, 1939: The Particulars And Wartime Fates of 6,000 Ships. Naval Institute Press, 2006. Page 110. ISBN 1-59114-959-2

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 1°13′0″S 9°57′0″W / 1.21667°S 9.95000°W / -1.21667; -9.95000