WHITE EMPRESSES
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CANADIAN PACIFIC STEAMSHIP COMPANY

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The initial few pictures regarding the EMPRESS OF ENGLAND were kindly provided by Ms. Christina McKerrow who sailed on her maiden voyage April 18. 1957. 

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EMPRESS OF ENGLAND - Courtesy Christina

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Above, Staff Commander Richard Walgate, R.D., R.N.R., in the wheelhouse of the "EMPRESS OF ENGLAND" newest of the Canadian Pacific fleet.  He is seen giving a commentary on interesting sights on the St. Lawrence between Quebec & Montreal to the more than 1000 passengers aboard

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Commander Walgate looks over the passenger list and talks things over with Captain C.L.de H. Bell, D.S.C., R.D., R.N.R.  Staff Commander Walgate started his naval career when he was awarded a Canadian Pacific scholarship at the age of 16 while a sea cadet in Port Arthur, Ontario.

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Courtesy Christina

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EMPRESS OF RUSSIA AT NAGASAKI 1917 Courtesy Coos DeVries

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EMPRESS OF FRANCE - Courtesy James L. Shaw SM JULY/87

Above, Canadian Pacific's 18,357 ton EMPRESS OF FRANCE steams across the isthmus of Panama on May 16th. 1925 during a world cruise. The liner, launched as ALSATIAN for the ALLEN lINE IN 1913, was broken up in 1934/35.

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Courtesy Claude Meldrum Collection

The EMPRESS OF BRITAIN (II) was built in 1956 for Canadian Pacific. 25,516 gross tonnage, 640ft overall, geared turbines, twin screw, 21 knots, 1050 passengers. She operated between the U.K. and Canada and as a cruise liner. She was sold to the Greek Line in 1964 and became the QUEEN ANNA MARIA eventually being bought by Carnival Cruise Lines in 1975 and renamed CARNIVALE.

The picture below shows the memento given by the city of New Orleans to the Captain of the EMPRESS OF ENGLAND on her first visit to that port.  Seated is Captain Walgate and behind him, in a dark suit, is Don Chapman's (see R/O Gallery) father, Bill Chapman, who was the CPR European Passenger Sales Manager at the time. To the right is Bert Johnston, CP's London office General Manager. The other gentleman, to the left, is a New Orleans representative.

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The Second World War dealt a severe blow to the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company with a large portion of its fleet being lost, including the prestigious North Atlantic flagship EMPRESS OF BRITAIN (1931/42,348grt) which was sunk in 1940. Of the major pre-war ships, only three survived: the DUCHESS OF BEDFORD (1928/20,123GRT), DUCHESS OF RICHMOND (1928/20,022grt) of the North Atlantic fleet and EMPRESS OF SCOTLAND(1930/26,032grt) of the Pacific fleet. The DUCHESS OF BEDFORD and DUCHESS OF RICHMOND were the second and third ships respectively of an original class of four. When these entered service they set new standards for Cabin Class liners.
They carried three classes of passengers, Cabin (580), Tourist (480) and Third (510); there was no 2nd class designated, as at this time it was considered unfashionable.
From a maritime engineering aspect the ships were special, in being the first major units to be propelled by high-pressure steam turbines (14,00shp, 19 knots maximum) at a pressure of 370 lbs per sq.in, which afforded them considerable economy of operation compared with previous low-pressure driven vessels.

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EMPRESS OF SCOTLAND Courtesy Barry Ledsom - SM JAN/90

The EMPRESS OF SCOTLAND was originally names EMPRESS OF JAPAN but this was changed to the new name on October 16th. 1942 following Japan's entry into the Second World War. As EMPRESS OF JAPAN she was the fastest passenger ship on the Vancouver-Yokohama Pacific service, breaking the speed record for the run by some four and a half hours immediately she entered service. This record was still unbeaten when war broke out in 1939. Driven by Parsons single-reduction geared turbines of 34,000shp, she was designed for a service speed of 21 knots but managed 23 knots on her trials. Passenger accommodation comprised 400 First Class, 164 Second Class, 100 Third Class and 548 Asiatic Steerage.

The DUCHESS OF RICHMOND was the first of the pair to be released from Government trooping duties and she was sent to Fairfields of Glasgow for overhaul and refit, arriving there in May 1946. On July 12th. 1947 the ship was named EMPRESS OF CANADA and she re-entered service on the Liverpool-Montreal run on July 16th of that year. The DUCHESS OF BEDFORD was not released from Government service until March 1947, when she joined her sister ship at Fairfields, arriving there on March 3rd. 1947. Initially she was renamed EMPRESS OF INDIA but this was changed to EMPRESS OF FRANCE in October of that year.

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EMPRESS OF FRANCE Courtesy Barry Ledsom - JAN/90

Both ships were completely transformed inside and out, with passenger numbers being reduced from 1,570 in three classes to 400 First Class with 143 cabins and 300 Tourist Class with 100 cabins. Thus Third Class was completely abolished, the space being utilised to improve the crew's accommodation and to increase the cargo capacity of each ship. The former open promenades on Promenade Deck were glazed and the public rooms redecorated, in some cases being enlarged in the process of rebuilding.

The ships emerged with 'EMPRESS' white hulls replacing their black 'DUCHESS' livery. The green boot topping and green coach line went very well with their twin funnels painted in C.P.'s buff, enhanced with a replica of the company's red and white chequered house-flag painted on them. Modifications to the turbines of each ship resulted in a service speed of 18.5 knots being possible. The EMPRESS OF FRANCE and the EMPRESS OF CANADA were perfectly proportioned and complemented the larger EMPRESS OF SCOTLAND to perfection. The EMPRESS OF SCOTLAND accommodated 458 First Class passengers and 250 Tourist Class passengers in her new role as an Atlantic liner.

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Courtesy B.J. Eagles - SM OCT/89

Above, the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II is seen arriving at Quebec on her first trans-Atlantic crossing from Southampton in May of 1931.

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EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II Courtesy Claude Meldrum Collection

EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II
She was imposing, stately and dignified. Many called her beautiful but a few critics found fault in the size of her funnels and the heaviness of her stern. Her white hull and three funnels made her easily identifiable on the North Atlantic, while her size distinguished her at once at numerous ports on world cruises. The EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II, Canadian Pacific's largest passenger ship, was launched on June 11th. 1930 at John Brown & Co. of Clydebank. She made her maiden crossing from Southampton to Quebec the following year. Until the Second World War interrupted her routine, she spent her summers on the St. Lawrence-Europe route and her winters on world cruises.
The 'BRITAIN' had a gross registered tonnage of 42,348 and was 760 feet 6 inches in overall length while her breadth was 97 feet 6 inches. Although at that time motor ships were gaining in popularity, the latest addition fo CP's fleet was a steamship. Her engines and boilers were built by Brown's. The four screws were driven by quadruple-geared singel-reduction turbines. The ship's propelling machinery was designed to develope 62,500 shaft horspower in order to maintain a normal speed of 24 knots under North Atlantic weather conditions.

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Courtesy C.P. Rail Corporate Archives.

An impressive view above of the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II'S engine room. The ships engines and boilers were built by Brown's.

On February 15th 1940 the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II arrived at Liverpool and then moved to Southampton. She left Southampton on March 17th and made her way to Suez, Aden, Colombo, Fremantle, Melbourne and Wellington. On her second visit to Fremantle on May 12th she was part of a convoy which included the QUEEN MARY, AQUITANIA, MAURITANIA(II), EMPRESS OF JAPAN(II), EMPRESS OF CANADA(I) and ANDES(II), a group which remained together as far as Capetown. The EMPRESS OF BRITAIN reached Britain then departed from Liverpool on August 6th 1940 in Convoy WS2 and called at Capetown and Durban before sailing for Suez. On her return voyage, with military personnel and some civilians as passengers, she stopped again at the South African ports before being routed to Britain. She never arrived at her destination. Off the north-west coast of Ireland, travelling without an escort, she was sighted on October 26th 1940 by a long-range Focke-Wulf Condor which made several passes over the ship dropping bombs and raking her with machine gun fire. The first attack set the Mayfair lounge ablaze and soon the ship was filled with black smoke. Captain C.H. Sapsworth quickly assessed the damage and ordered the crew and passengers to abandon ship.

Of the 643 people on board, all but 45 survived. The tugs Maurader and Thames took the stricken ship in tow in an attempt to save her. The German aircraft had meanwhile notified its base of the attacks and messages were sent to U-boats in the vicinity giving the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II's location. U32, commanded by Oberleutnant Hans Janisch, was nearby and at once altered course towards the liner. He found the burning ship and stalked her until a suitable moment arrived which occurred on October 28th. The first torpedo exploded prematurely. The second hit the ship amidships and caused an enormous explosion. Janisch, wanting to make sure that his work was effective, swung his submarine around and discharged a third torpedo, this one finding its mark just aft of the midships section of the liner. The ship began to list rapidly and within a few minutes she capsized and slipped beneath the surface. U32 herself was sunk two days later by the British destroyer H.M.S. Harvester.
The announcement of the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II's sinking led to many tributes in the press on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps "The New York Times" said it best:
"No ship ever fitted her name more truly than the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II. She was, indeed, an empress, with pride and grace and dignity in every inch of her.....She now lies blackened and twisted on the ocean bottom, the largest of all the ships that have gone down in this war but she lived up to the traditions of her flag to the very end".

The EMPRESS OF BRITAIN II is seen below on fire off the north-west coast of Ireland after being bombed by a German aircraft on October 26th. 1940. Two days later the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U32.

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Courtesy Imperial War Museum

In the early fifties Canadian Pacific was at last considering new tonnage. Cunard was engaged in a newbuilding programme of four 22,000grt SAXONIA vessels designed specifically for the Canadian trade to replace their ageing pre-war fleet. Canadian Pacific countered by ordering two 25,000grt ships, one from Fairfields at Govan and one from Vickers Armstrong on the Tyne. The first of these twin sisters was ready for launching at Fairfields on June 22nd. 1955, and was named EMPRESS OF BRITAIN by Her Majesty the Queen. The new liner was the third CP vessel to bear this name.

The EMPRESS OF ENGLAND was launched on the Tyne on May 9th. 1956 by Lady Eden, wife of the former Foreign Secretary. This was the first time that this particular name was used. Narrowly missing being caught up in a strike at her builder's yard, her maiden voyage began from Liverpool on April 18th.1957.

The new 5.5 million pound 'Empresses' were quite distinctive and unusual ships. Heralded as the first completely air-conditioned Atlantic liners, they had the appearance of being long and low with minimal superstructure. The ships had straight, modestly raked stems and cruiser sterns with an aft anchor pocket centrally fitted. First and Tourist Classes were each provided with a full range of public rooms. In addition they shared a permanent cinema, an indoor swimming pool and a ballroom (the Empress Room). The EMPRESS OF BRITAIN was dubbed 'the ladies ship' because of extensive tests performed on board the ship in Liverpool using blondes, redheads and brunettes to discover the most flattering combination of lightning and decor to compliment their respective complexions!

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The picture above is typical of what might have been seen around Gladstone Dock in the late fifties. Although passengers would be joining the ship at the passenger terminal by the Liver Building within the next day or so crew members would join in advance. This scene shows off a series of attractive cars of the time, the family surrounding the Ford Zephyr wishes their father 'bon voyage' as he joins the EMPRESS OF ENGLAND for another trip to Montreal.

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Author's File

On New Year's Day 1957 the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN sailed from Liverpool with some 500 Hungarian refugees seeking a new life in Canada. The EMPRESS OF FRANCE continued in service until December 1960. Surprisingly, she was given an extensive refit during the winter 1958/59 which included the fitting of cowl tops to her funnels and the reorganisation of the accommodation to provide 218 First Class berths and 482 Tourist Class berths. Right up until the end she maintained her Atlantic schedules and was never deployed in seasonal cruises. In December 1960 she was sold to shipbreakers at Newport, Gwent, and arrived at the yard on 22nd. of the month. She was replaced in service several months later by a new EMPRESS OF CANADA which sailed on her maiden voyage on 24th. April 1961 - the last "Empress".

The 8.2m pound EMPRESS OF CANADA was built at Vickers Armstrong and was laid down in January of 1959. She was launched on May 10th. 1960 by Mrs. John G. Diefenbaker, wife of the Canadian Prime Minister. The third EMPRESS OF CANADA, she was built to the same general dimensions as the earlier postwar ships except for a slight increase in length due to a curved stem and a modest increase in beam. The new improved EMPRESS OF CANADA was of a more modern 'built-up' appearance. Although her tonnage was greater than the other ships, she carried less passengers. Cargo capacity was also reduced.

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EMPRESS OF CANADA Courtesy Barry Ledsom - SM JAN/90

Designed from the outset to be dual purpose, it was envisaged that she would maintain trans-Atlantic schedules for most of the year with off-season cruising. The bulbous bow fitted to the EMPRESS OF CANADA was claimed to give her an excess of 2 knots speed advantage over her fleet mates using the same machinery. The hull was strengthened for in ice and stabilisers and full air-conditioning was fitted, as with the earlier pair. The indoor pool was augmented by a fibre glass insert which could be installed and filled for use on cruises. Passenger numbers were 1,048 two class passengers trans-Atlantic, this being limited to 750 one class passengers on cruises.
The aluminium funnel of the new "Empress" was of a different design to that of the previous ships and was placed amidships with divided uptakes in the pattern set by the earlier pair, thus ensuring the 210ft. vista through the public rooms, found popular on the other "Empresses". Aesthetically, the EMPRESS OF CANADA was spoilt by a pair of derricks placed against her bridge front, souring high above the wheelhouse.

CONVERSION FOR CRUISING:
The three "Empresses" had hardly settled into a seasonal routine before the general swing away from liner travel to air travel began to make serious inroads into the number of passengers sailing the Atlantic. In January 1962 the EMPRESS OF ENGLAND sailed on Canadian Pacific's first cruise for many years departing from Liverpool. The seventeen-day cruise included visits to Tenerife, Las Palmas, Casablanca, Tangier and Lisbon.
Towards the end of 1963 the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN and EMPRESS OF ENGLAND were chartered to Travel Savings Association (TSA), an organisation headed by the South African Max Wilson with equal representation of Canadian Pacific, Royal Mail and Union-Castle lines. TSA promoted cheap, 'no frills' cruises with passage fares saved for in advance by a savings scheme. On October 25th 1963 the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN departed on her first such cruise with over 900 passengers embarked.
In February 1964 the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN was offered for sale as the number of trans-Atlantic passengers continued to decline and the results of cruise operations had been disappointing. By the end of February the eight year-old EMPRESS OF BRITAIN had been sold to the Goulandris Group Greek Line for 8 million dollars and was handed over to her new owners on November 16th. 1964. Two days later she was renamed QUEEN ANNA MARIA and proceeded to Mariotti shipyards in Genoa for an extensive refit.

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Author's File

In January 1970 Canadian Pacific announced the impending withdrawal of the EMPRESS OF ENGLAND. On the basis of the previous year's operation it was projected that a loss of several million dollars was forecast for 1970. Canadian Pacific stressed their determination to keep the EMPRESS OF CANADA in service. The EMPRESS OF ENGLAND was withdrawn on April 1st. 1970 and two days later was sold to Shaw Savill, being renamed OCEAN MONARCH. OCEAN MONARCH proved to be a dismal failure, suffering from faulty air-conditioning, high fuel consumption, high crew costs, mechanical unreliability and loss of image. After severe engine trouble iin September 1974 she was sold to Taiwanese breakers.

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Courtesy Stephen M. Payne - SM FEB/90

Above, the former EMPRESS OF CANADA became the MARDI GRAS in February of 1972. The 27,250grt vessel was described as "the largest cruise ship sailing ouf of Miami" at that time, when making her maiden departure the following month

The EMPRESS OF CANADA continued to cross the Atlantic and sail on cruises. Late in 1970 she operated out of Southampton rather than Liverpool for her winter cruise season but transferred back to Liverpool for the following season's trans-Atlantic voyages. Suddenly, on November 9th 1971, the company announced that they were going to withdraw the ship following her arrival at Liverpool on November 23rd. The liner had been plagued with undustrial unrest; in particular the stewards department persistently demanded the use of passenger facilities at various times throughout the day whilst at sea. With other mounting problems such as increasing costs and dwindling passenger numbers, Canadian Pacific saw no hope in struggling on. In January of 1971 EMPRESS OF CANADA was sold to Carnival Cruise Lines of Miami.

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Courtesy Stephen M. Payne - SM MARCH/90

For information regarding the EMPRESS OF ASIA which was bombed entering Singapore on February 5th. 1942 please click here. Site created by Nelson Oliver.

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