Canadian Pacific RMS
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With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, Author, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer and Maritime Lecturer
Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime & cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or travel or cruise agencies, etc! Although having been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, I am now retired but having completed features on well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships, I trust these will continue to provide you the classic ship enthusiast the information you are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!
Ex: Empress of
The North German Lloyd, a rival of the
Hamburg-Amerika Line, placed
However, the Hamburg-Amerika Line also had a
four-funnelled ship on order, the 16,000-ton SS Deutschland,
which entered service in 1900. Amazingly, she was also able to capture
the Blue Riband from the SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, having crossed
Postcard of the SS Deutschland 1900-1910, later renamed: SS Viktoria Luise 1910-1921, SS Hansa 1921-1925
Mr. Albert Ballin decided that the Hamburg-Amerika Line would follow White Star
Lines ideology, deciding that speed was not an issue as it had been, but
instead aim for their new ship’s size and luxury! These plans truly
became reality in 1913, when the first of three new huge liners were built and
entered service, being the SS Imperator. At more than 52,117 tons, this
ship exceeded even the White Star Line’s Olympic-Class liners in
The Hamburg America Line grandest liner, the SS Imperator
On her bow we can see the grandiose “Bow Eagle” of the Hapag Company
However, the SS Imperator and the
two sister ships that followed were intended for the prestigious
It was planned for the Tirpitz after her
completion to commence a service between
Her machinery was of a brand new kind, for she was fitted with steam turbines, but the problem with these were that they could only turn in one direction, thus this made it necessary for a special reversed turbine to going astern. In addition to this, the quality of her gear-cutting equipment was low and created a big problem for the ship’s engineers. To solve the problems with the gears, the company had decided to adopt a new German invention - hydraulic transformers instead of conventional mechanical gearing. This type of machinery had already been placed on the company’s new 2,163 ton Ferry, the SS Konigin Luise, and it was hoped that it would perform equally well on the SS Tirpitz.
The Hamburg-Amerika Line ferry the SS Konigin Luise
Where-as the new SS Tirpitz had a luxurious interior with state of the art machinery, and generally for the time she was a relatively attractive looking three-funnelled liner, but certainly not one of the greatest we have ever seen, for British liners were generally beautifully proportioned and the new German ships just were not in their league!
As it appears, Albert Ballin’s
fears of a war were indeed justified, for in 1914 war became a horrible
reality, with the shots in
Fitting out the Tirpitz at the
Vulcan AG shipyard,
Amazingly later in 1914, the Germans were very confident of victory, and work now recommenced to turn the Tirpitz into a Royal Yacht, as Kaiser, Wilhelm II decided that he would use her to lead in and greet the defeated British fleet. Instead, the SS Tirpitz never became what the Kaiser had planned on at all, in fact far from it!
In March of 1919, the Tirpitz was
officially handed over to the
Having been completed in
November 1920, the HMT Tirpitz departed
In 1921 “Canadian Pacific
Railway,” purchased two German-built ships from the War Reparations
Commission, first being the 1908 built 17,083 GRT SS Prinz Friedrich
Wilhelm, which was obtained on May 13, 1921, followed by the SS Tirpitz, which
was purchased on July 25, 1921. Tirpitz (although still with her previous name
remaining on her bow, had been renamed the “Empress of China 2”)
was returned to “Vulcan AG shipyard” in
She is seen here at the Vulcan AG shipyards in 1921
Seen at her stern is the SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm during their refit
completion she headed for the John Brown ship Yards at
The SS Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm had also been renamed the “Empress of China,” but whilst the Tirpitz was number “2” she was number “3”, however she was then renamed Empress of India 2. but in 1923 she was again renamed, RMS Montlaurier.
Postcard of the RMS Montlaurier
Due to the refit, the Empress of Australia had increased her tonnage somewhat, from her original 21,498 GRT to 21,861 GRT (Gross Registered Tons). The Dining Room was in the French Regency style and there was a spacious Main Lounge designed in the Empire style, which included a huge central dance floor.
A postcard of the First Class Lounge
The Writing Room was fitted in the style of Louis XVI, with tinted walls and mahogany furniture, as was the Smoking Room which had oak panelled walls. There was also an indoor swimming pool and fully equipped gymnasium. PS: Many interior photographs will be shown on Page two!
This new looking and very smart looking liner
RMS Empress of
Her regular schedule
for the next five years would be as follows; sailing from
It was on July 28, 1922 that the RMS Empress of
Although her repaired boilers did allow the Empress of Australia’s workings, but the ship remained a disappointment for Canadian Pacific for operations on these long Trans-Pacific voyages.
On August 18, 1923 the RMS Empress of
Here wee the sinking SS Loong Sang and the Empress of Australia heading out to sea
However somehow, Canadian Pacific decided to keep the Empress of Australia on her current service. But the most dramatic event of her career was yet to come on September 1, 1923.
On Saturday September 1, 1923 the RMS Empress of Australia was in Yokohama, Japan, and at 11.55 am she was getting ready to slowly pull away from the docks, where several hundred family and friends were on the docks, holding streamers from departing passengers lining the railings, and shouting their farewells and joyfully waving goodbye. As tugs were about to ease the ship away from the dock, suddenly without warning the 21,861 ton liner was flung violently from side to side in the water. Around her, the earth trembled as several great and violent shocks occurred and sections of wharf collapsed under the feet of the panic-stricken crowd. The land and remaining dock structure suddenly began to roll in wave like motion up to six to eight feet high. In only a few minutes the worst of the shocks were over, but after-shocks, some of which were quite heavy, continued for a long time. In addition, winds had risen up to 70 mph (110 km/h). And from the city a great horrible rumbling sound could be heard as hundreds of buildings were collapsing making it became a city that in a very short space of time had rubble everywhere.
This was the “Great Kanto Earthquake of
1923,” that devastated
Obviously the Empress of Australia was in a very dangerous position, as she was crowded with passengers, and she was still alongside the remains of what was the dock, and there was a freighter moored close behind her, thus she could not clear without the aid of tugs. Meantime, Lyons Maru that was moored to the east had lost her cable and she drifted across the harbour, and she ended up colliding with the Empress at her stern. Having done that, she then hit amidships, shattering a lighter loaded with lumber that had drifted alongside. This small vessel thankfully acted as a buffer between the two large ships and prevented serious damage. Tugs had disappeared in the confusion, the docks were now on fire, and it was spreading rapidly. All available crew as well as passengers were put to work hosing down the ship to put out sparks and embers that were falling on her timber decks. Ropes and ladders were lowered over the side in order that people who were trapped on the dock could climb aboard and escape the fires. Captain Robinson then tried to push the freighter moored astern with his ship, to allow enough room to manoeuvre away from the flaming docks. The Empress was able to carefully move the nearby freighter, the Steel Navigator; and then the Empress slowly pulled away. However, as the Empress of Australia moved forward, her port propeller fouled in the anchor cable of the freighter. Fortunately the liner was now about 60 feet (18 m) away from the flames, and the winds had shifted, blowing the fires away from the ship.
By 3.00 pm the fires had died down and the wind dropped off to a light breeze; even though the ship was immobile but she was safe for the moment. In the distance huge fires could be seen in the city. The ship's lifeboats were lowered and manned by members of the crew and passenger volunteers, who formed rescue parties to help those ashore, working throughout the night.
The next morning, the ship was again in danger from a large mass of burning oil that was moving across the harbour. The Empress could not steer because of her damaged propeller, but she was able to avoid the oil fire long enough to get assistance from the Dutch tanker, the Iris. Her captain agreed to tow the bow of Empress of Australia around, and she was then relocated to a safer anchorage. When taking a count on Sunday, there were over 2,000 refugees onboard.
On Monday September 3, the RMS Empress of
On Tuesday September 4, the Imperial Japanese
Navy's second Fuso-class battleship Yamashiro arrived
RMS Empress of
The Empress of Australia finally departed
With the RMS Empress of Australia having returned to Canada from Asia after her twenty-first voyage, as well as being her final Pacific voyage, CPL decided that after almost five years of operations sailing across the Pacific it was vital to do something regarding those engines, which continued to performing badly. Thus in August 1926 she arrived at the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, at Govan for a massive re-engineering programme. The work would take a good ten months as well as just over cost over half a million pounds sterling to complete. Work included the installation of new Parson’s Turbine-Engines. However, the re-arrangement of her boilers was a very difficult affair and as Canadian Pacific Lines had no desire to damage any of the ship’s superb interiors, her old boilers had to be cut up in pieces in the boiler rooms, and then they would be carried from the ship piece by piece. Her new boilers came onboard in a very different manner, for they were lowered into her forward hold, and then slid into position on special skids through the opened up bulkheads.
Here we see one of the 1922 installed oil-fired boilers
With the work s completed she was virtually like a new ship, as she was now driven by Parsons Turbines with six double-ended boilers. During her sea trials the Empress of Australia made a good 20.34 knots and required 50 tons a day less oil then she did previously.
The ship continued operating as a three-class liner, providing accommodations for 1,180 passengers in luxurious appointments, as she had been fitted out to the highest of specifications, featuring the finest of décor in each class.
Canadian Pacific decided to transfer the
Empress of Australia to Atlantic duties, and on June 25, 1927 she departed from
Southampton on her first voyage bound for
A rare colour photograph of the Empress of Australia
As from December 1928 the Empress of Australia would become a luxury all First class cruise ship operating with a maximum of 370 very fortunate guests, as she commenced to operate an annual four-month around the world-cruise. After she returned from her first cruise and sometime in 1929 she was painted all white with a thin blue band around her hull, making her look more like a glamorous cruise ship!
She is seen here during one of her winter cruises
The ship was now being promoted as being “The Dream Ship of Cruises.”
A 1929 CPL Trans-Pacific schedule of the now all white Empresses
The Empress of Australia the cruise ship, with an all white hull and a blue ribbon
Canadian pacific Lines actually printed a comprehensive book for each passenger, which contains not only a full itinerary, but also complete details of each port of call as well as a full description of every land excursion, which were included in the cruise fare, some excursions, such in India an overland tour, was 8 days in length.
The author has a copy of a high quality hard cover book, entitled; “The World is Round” for the 1929 cruise, which was printed for each passenger and it contains 104 pages, filled with information, her complete schedule in the most intricate detail, the ships facilities, ports of call, and countless photographs! It includes the cruise fares for the 137-day voyage, which included all land tours, and some of these excursions were overland road and rail tours lasting up to 8 days long. One of these was as follows: A Tour of the Holy Land (today’s Israel), including Haifa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Mt of Olives, rail to Cairo visiting all highlights including the Pyramids and the Cairo Museum, etc, a River Nile cruise, and passengers rejoin the ship at the port of Suez. Fares commenced at US$2,000. There was also a full description of the interiors of the ship with countless photographs of many, as well as ports of call. For your enjoyment, I have placed the many of the details contained in my copy of the 1929 cruise book with photographs on Page Two of this feature!
Cover of the 1929 passenger World Cruise Book, which can be found on Page Two
A postcard of the Empress of Australia seen during her 1929/30 world cruise
After the Empress of France was withdrawn from
the service, RMS Empress of
After three Atlantic crossings Empress of
Australia was chosen by HRH King George VI and Queen Elizabeth as their Royal
Yacht for their official tour of
The Empress of Australia was sent to Southampton, where she was to be converted into a troopship, painted in that traditional drab camouflage wartime grey, as well as being fitted with three-inch (76 mm) guns and other weaponry, and given a capacity of transporting some 5,000 service men. Amazingly, she would remain in this role for the next 13 years.
Canadian Infantrymen of The Toronto Scottish Regiment embarking in HMT Empress of Australia en route to Britain on December 7, 1939
Photograph by & is ©Michael Guilbeault
HMT Empress of
Photograph obtained from the “Imperial War Museums” & are © IWM (A 5176) Photograph obtained from the “Imperial War Museums” & are © IWM (A 5176)
On September 28, 1939 the HMT Empress of
A Crossing the Line Ceremony
onboard HMT Empress of
Photograph obtained from the “Imperial War Museums” & are © IWM (A 5176)
A contingent of the Kings Royal African Rifles are seen during boat drill
Photograph obtained from the “Imperial War Museums” & are © IWM (A 5090)
Throughout the war Empress of Australia
was very fortunate. In 1941, it was widely reported that she had been torpedoed
off the coast of
Throughout the war Empress of Australia
was very fortunate. In 1941, it was widely reported that she had been torpedoed
off the coast of
HMT Empress of
Photograph obtained from the “Imperial War Museums” & are © IWM (A 30749)
Photograph above: The HMT Empress of
After World War II, the Empress of Australia
continued operating as a troopship around the world, including later carrying
military personnel to
In 1946 whilst anchoring off
In 1947, she ferried home the last British
The HMT Empress of
It is worth remembering, that from all the ships that had resulted from Mr. Ballin’s grandiose plans well over forty years ago, the Empress of Australia 1, ex Empress of China 2, Tirpitz, launched as the Admiral von Tirpitz, was the one ship that was the longest survivor of them all!
When Empress of Australia was scrapped in
1952, the famed bronze tablet that commemorated the amazing work done by the
ship, crew and passengers in
In Addition, her magnificent oak carved panelling from the smoking room was installed in the ‘”Ships Room” in the Visitor Centre of the “Glenfarclas Distillery” at Ballindalloch on Speyside when it was built in 1973.
Specifications: Including details after her refits in 1922 & 1926.
by: Vulcan AG shipyard in
Owner & Registry: 1913-1919 Hamburg
. 1920-1921 P&O Line - United Kingdom.
. 1921-1952 Canadian Pacific -
Launched: December 20, 1913.
Maiden Voyage: December 1, 1919.
Tonnage: 21,498 GRT - 32,800 Displacement as built.
. 21,861 GRT after rebuilding in 1922.
Length: 187.45m - 615ft.
Beam: 22.9m – 75.1ft.
Engines: 2 steam turbines with Fottinger Hydraulic Gearing Steam Ship, 16,000 HP, as built.
. 2 oil fired Parson's turbines, 20,440 HP, after her refit in 1926.
Boilers: 6 double-ended boilers, 1926.
Propellers: Twin Screws.
Speed: 16.5 knots service speed, 17 knots max, as built.
. 19 knots service speed, 20.3 knots max, 1926.
Accommodations: 370 First, 190 Second, 415 Third Class & 1,000 Steerage, as built.
. 400 First, 150 Tourist & 635 Third Class, 1922.
. 400 First, 150 Tourist & 630 Third Class, 1927.
. 387 First, 394 Tourist & 358 Third Class, 1933.
Officers & crew: 500, as built.
. 520, 1922.
Remembering a Great Liner, Troop and Cruise Ship
ENTER - Page Two: TSS Empress
The magnificent RMS Empress of
service including her first 2 years operating as the Troopship HMT Tirpitz
Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”
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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found only on http://www.ssmaritime.com), in order that due credit may be given.
This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displayed on each page, that is, when a page is updated!
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