RMS Empress of Canada (1928)

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For other ships of the same name, see Empress of Canada.
Name: 1928-1947: SS Duchess of Richmond
1947-1953: RMS Empress of Canada
Namesake: Duchess of Richmond
Operator: Red Ensign Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd
Port of registry: London,  UK
Route: Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal (Apr-Nov), Liverpool to St. John (Nov-Apr)
Builder: John Brown & Company, Clydebank
Yard number: 523[1]
Launched: 18 June 1928
Maiden voyage: 15 March 1929
Refit: 1946/1947
Fate: Caught fire and capsized on 25 January 1953
Scrapped in La Spezia in 1954
General characteristics
Type: Passenger liner
Troopship during Second World War
Tonnage: 20,022 (1947, 20,325)
Length: 601 ft (183 m)
Beam: 75 ft 3 in (22.94 m)
Propulsion: Geared turbines, twin screw
Speed: 18 knots
Capacity: As built 580 cabin, 480 tourist and 510 3rd class passengers, 1947, 400 1st class, 300 tourist
Crew: 510

SS Duchess of Richmond was an ocean liner built in 1928 for Canadian Pacific Steamships by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland. In 1947 she was renamed SS Empress of Canada.


The Duchess of Richmond was one of the several "sturdy Canadian Pacific liners which were known as "Drunken Duchesses" for their lively performance in heavy seas."[2] She was built as a sister ship to SS Duchess of York, SS Duchess of Bedford and SS Duchess of Atholl.

In March 1929 the 20,022-ton ocean liner began transatlantic summer service from Montreal Canada to Liverpool in the United Kingdom with winter service out of the port of Saint John, New Brunswick.


The merchant ship SS Duchess of Richmond disembarking soldiers at Algiers, November 1942.

During World War II, the Duchess was requisitioned as a troopship. Early in the war, she transported men to the fighting in North Africa, stopping briefly in Algiers to disembark troops on November 14, 1942.[3]


War losses reduced the Canadian Pacific fleet considerably and post war only the Liverpool to Montreal service was resumed. The two surviving cabin class Duchesses were upgraded to "Empress" status and refitted with accommmodation for 400 1st class and 300 tourist passengers (down from the pre-war three class total of 1,570). In May 1946 "Duchess of Richmond" arrived at the Govan yard of Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering for her overhaul and refit. Upon completion she was renamed "Empress of Canada" on July 12th 1947 and sailed on Canadian Pacific's first post-war Liverpool-Montreal sailing four days later.

On 25 January 1953 "Empress of Canada" caught fire and heeled over against the dock wall at Gladstone Dock, Liverpool. Re-floated after being righted by parbuckling,[4] the following spring she was taken to La Spezia, Italy where she was scrapped. The difficulty of her recovery has been likened to that of USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor in 1943 and SS Normandie in New York harbor in 1942.[4]


  1. ^ "1160631". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 21 June 2009. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ Buchan, William. (1982) John Buchan: a Memoir, p. 224.
  3. ^ Netherlands Navy: "Mystery photos". Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
  4. ^ a b Liverpool Ships. "The Canadian Pacific Liner EMPRESS OF CANADA was destroyed by fire in the Gladstone Dock at Liverpool on 25th January, 1953.". Liverpool Ships. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 


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