SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm

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ID4063 USS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm.jpg
Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm
  • 1908–1919: SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm
  • 1919: USS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm
  • 1919–1921: SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm
  • 1921: SS Empress of China
  • 1921–1923: RMS Empress of India
  • 1923–1925: SS Montlaurier
  • 1925: SS Monteith
  • 1925–1929: SS Montnairn
Port of registry:
Builder: J. C. Tecklenborg in Gestemunde, Germany
Launched: October 21, 1907
Maiden voyage: June 6, 1908
Fate: Scrapped in 1929, Genoa
General characteristics
Class and type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 16,992 tons
Length: 590.1 ft
Beam: 68.3 ft
  • Two masts
  • twin propellers
Speed: 17 knots
  • 46 1st class passengers
  • 338 2nd class
  • up to 1,726 steerage passengers

SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm was an ocean liner for North German Lloyd (NDL) from her launch in 1907 until the end of World War I. After the war, she briefly served as USS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm (ID-4063) for the United States Navy returning American troops from France.[1] The vessel was first chartered—and later purchased outright—by Canadian Pacific Steamships (CP) and operated under the names Empress of China, Empress of India, Montlaurier, Monteith, and Montnairn.[2] She was scrapped in 1929.[3]


The ship's keel was laid down to be the SS Washington, but she was renamed SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm before her launch. She was built in 1907–1908 for Norddeutscher Lloyd Line by Joh. C. Tecklenborg in Gestemunde, Germany. The 16,992-ton vessel had a length of 590.1 feet, and her beam was 68.3 feet.[3] She had two funnels, two masts, propellers and a service speed of 17-knots. The ocean liner provided accommodation for 46 first-class passengers and for 338 second class passengers. There was also room for up to 1,726 third-class passengers.[2]

SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm[edit]

The SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm was launched on October 21, 1907. The ship left Bremen on June 6, 1908 on her maiden voyage, stopping at Southampton, Cherbourg and New York City. She was one of several ships in the vicinity of the Titanic when the latter ship sank.[4] Her last voyage as Prinz Frederick Wilhelm was begun on June 13, 1914. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, she cut short a pleasure cruise and sought refuge at Odda, Norway. After the war, the ship was surrendered on March 31, 1919 to the British.

USS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm is inspected by Third Naval District following her initial passage from European waters after the ship entered Navy service as troop transport -- NYC harbor (1919).

For a short period, she was commissioned in the US Navy as a troop transport. From April into August Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm made five trips from France and the U.S., carrying over 15,000 passengers, mainly U.S. Army personnel. She was decommissioned in November 1919 and transferred to the U.S. Shipping Board.[5]

In 1920, she was chartered to Canadian Pacific; and she sailed between Liverpool and Quebec beginning on July 14, 1920.[2]

On May 13, 1921, the vessel was bought outright by Canadian Pacific.[3] She was then reconditioned at Glasgow,[2] and rebuilt to 17, 282-tons.[3] On August 2, 1921 she was renamed the SS Empress of China, but she never sailed with that name.[2] This ship became the second of three CP vessels to be named Empress of China.[6]

Within weeks, the vessel would be renamed yet again as the SS Empress of India, becoming the second of two CP vessels to be named Empress of India..[2][7]

CP Empress of China and Empress of India[edit]

In 1921, Canadian Pacific added two German-built vessels to the Empress fleet; and initially, both were confusingly renamed Empress of China. A quick explanation will help distinguish these the quite different ships which each sailed with the same name.

  • The first SS Empress of China was a 5,905-ton vessel launched in 1891 from Barrow, England. She was wrecked on a reef at Tokyo Bay in 1911, and subsequently scrapped in 1912.[8]
    • A CP sister-ship, the first SS Empress of India was also a Barrow-built, 5,905-ton vessel; but she was launched a few months earlier, in 1890. She would be sold to the Maharajah of Gwalior and renamed SS Loyalty in 1915. The vessel would be scrapped in Bombay in 1919.[2]
  • The second SS Empress of China was a 16,992-ton vessel launched in 1907 from Gestemunde, Germany as the SS Prinz Freidrich Wilhelm. The ship was purchased in 1921 by Canadian Pacific and then immediately, the ship was renamed Empress of China for only a short time.
    • The second SS Empress of India is this same vessel, renamed in 1921. Subsequent names for this vessel were: the SS Montlaurier (1922); and the SS Montnairn (1925). The ship was scrapped 1929.[8]
  • The third SS Empress of China was a 21,860-ton vessel launched in 1913 from Stettin, Germany, as the SS Tirpitz. The ship was purchased in 1921 by Canadian Pacific and curiously, this ship was immediately renamed the Empress of China.[9] Then next year, in 1922, the ship was renamed Empress of Australia after re-fitting at Clydebank. The ship was ultimately scrapped in 1952.[8]

In other words, this vessel from Gestemunde was the second of three ships named Empress of China and she was also the second of two ships named Empress of India.

SS Empress of India[edit]

Three steamships docked together -- the SS Empress of France, the SS Empress of India, and SS Empress of Britain. Note the curved bow of the 1891 Empress of Britain in contrast with the straight-sided bows of the newer ships in the CP fleet. (1926)

On August 25, 1921, the SS Empress of India was chartered to Cunard. She completed two round-trip voyages between Southampton and New York. Then Cunard returned her to Canadian Pacific. On June 23, 1922, she set out on what would be the first of only two Liverpool-Quebec voyages. On August 21, 1922, the Empress set out for what would become her sole opportunity to sail the Southampton-Cherbourg-Quebec route.[2]

SS Montlaurier[edit]

The ship was renamed once more—this time as the SS Montlaurier.[2] She was rebuilt to carry cabin-class and 3rd-class passengers. On May 4, 1923, she sailed from Liverpool for Quebec; but she was forced to return to England because of boiler trouble. After repairs were completed, she left port again on June 29, 1923. Her last voyage from Liverpool to Saint John, New Brunswick began on January 24, 1925. What was expected to have been a return voyage was cut short in February when she encountered steering gear trouble near Fastnet Rock off the southern coast of Ireland. The mechanical malfunction forced the ship to return to Queenstown (now known as Cobh). She was then towed to Liverpool. On April 14, 1925, she was damaged by fire as she lay in port under repair by Cammell, Laird & Co., but the fire-damage was not so extensive that she couldn't be restored.[2]

SS Monteith[edit]

On June 5, 1925, the ship was renamed the SS Monteith, but she never sailed under this name.[2]

SS Montnairn[edit]

On July 2, 1925, the ship was again renamed—this time as the SS Montnairn. She sailed for the next few months between Liverpool and Quebec. In July 1926, she was converted to cabin-class, tourist-class and 3rd-class accommodations. On May 4, 1927, she began sailing the Antwerp - Southampton - Quebec route. On 16/9/1928 she commenced her final sailing from Hamburg to Southampton, Cherbourg and Quebec.[2]

This ship was laid up at Southampton, having successfully completed 62 round-trip North Atlantic voyages as a CP-flagged ocean liner. On December 23, 1929, SS Montnairn was sold for the last time, and the vessel was scrapped at Genoa.[2]


  • 1907—October 21, launched as the SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm for NDL[3]
  • 1908—June 6, maiden voyage Bremen - Southampton - Cherbourg - New York[3]
  • 1914—August, cruising Norwegian coast when WWI broke out; took refuge at prot of Odda[3]
  • 1919—March, surrendered to Britain, chartered to US Navy Depot[2]
  • 1920—July, chartered by CP[3]
  • 1921—May 13, purchased by CP; re-built to 17,282 gross tons[3]
  • 1921—August 2, renamed Empress of China[2]
  • 1921—August, renamed Empress of India[3]
  • 1921—August, chartered by Cunard Line.[3]
  • 1922—June 23, resumed sailing CP's Liverpool-Quebec route.[2]
  • 1922—December, renamed SS Montlaurier.[3]
  • 1925—April, damaged by fire at Cammell, Laird & Co.[3]
  • 1925—July, renamed SS Montnairn.[3]
  • 1929—December, scrapped at Genoa.[3]


  1. ^ US Naval Historical Center: Description of USS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Ship List: Description of SS Prinz Frederick Wilhelm
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Norwegian Heritage: SS Empress of India
  4. ^ Titanic Radio Signals
  5. ^ US Naval Historical Center: US Navy troop transport ship
  6. ^ The first SS Empress of China (1891) was built for CP to sail the trans-Pacific route; and the third SS Empress of China (1919) was built for HAPAG, purchased by CP in 1921, then re-named.
  7. ^ The first SS Empress of India (1891) was built for CP to sail the trans-Pacific route.
  8. ^ a b c White Empress fleet: 20 ships, descriptions
  9. ^ 40-year-old Ship Makes Last Trip; Empress of Australia, Luxury Liner and Troop Carrier, on Way to Scrap Heap," New York Times. May 1, 1952.


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