RMS Empress of France (1914)

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Empress of France
Name: 1912-1918: SS Alsatian
1919-1934: SS Empress of France
Owner: 1912-1918: Allan Line
1919-1934: Canadian Pacific Ocean Service
Port of registry: Canada
Launched: 22 March 1912
Maiden voyage: 17 January 1914
Fate: 1934, scrapped
General characteristics
Type: ocean liner

RMS Empress of France was an ocean liner built in 1913-1914[1] by William Beardmore and Company at Glasgow in Scotland for Allan Line.[2]

In total, the ship's service history encompasses 99 trans-Atlantic voyages, 5 trans-Pacific voyages, and 8 other cruises in addition to her war service.[2]


This ship was the first North Atlantic liner with a cruiser stern. The vessel was built by William Beardmore & Co Ltd. at Glasgow. She was an 18,481 gross ton ship, length 571.4 ft x beam 72.4 ft, two funnels, two masts, four propellers and a speed of 18 knots. Her initial configuration provided accommodation for 287-1st, 504-2nd and 848-3rd class passengers.[2]

The ocean liner was initially launched as the SS Alsatian on 22 March 1912. She sailed from Liverpool on her maiden voyage to Saint John, New Brunswick for the Allan Line on 17 January 1914. On 22 May 1914, set out on her first trans-Atlantic crossing from Liverpool to Quebec.

A postcard version of a painting of the SS Alsatian which was commissioned by Allan Line for this publicity and advertising purpose. The artist was Odin Rosenvinge.

Her last voyage that summer began on 17 July 1914; and when she returned to Europe, the nascent war in Europe brought a close to this truncated peacetime period of the ship's history.[2]

World War I

During the First World War, the SS Alsatian was converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser; and she joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron patrolling off the Shetland Islands. HMS Alsatian became flagship for Commander Dudley de Chair.[3] Later, HMS Alsatian served as flagship for Vice Admiral Tucker. During the war years, she became one of the first ships to be fitted with the new wireless direction-finding apparatus. After the squadron was retired in 1917, she was re-fitted for peacetime service.[2]

Between the wars

At war's end, the ship was added to the fleet of Canadian Pacific Ocean Services Ltd. (CP), which absorbed the entire Allan Line fleet. On 28 September 1918, the SS Alsatian began her first voyage from Liverpool to Canada as a newly flagged ship of the Canadian Pacific fleet. After a second, trans-Atlantic voyage, the Alsatian was taken out of service for refitting at Glasgow.[2]

The ship was re-named Empress of France on 4 April 1919. This new Empress would have been distinguished by the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) prefix in front of her name because the British government and Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) had decades earlier reached agreement on a contract for subsidized mail service between Britain and Hong Kong via Canada.

The first voyage as a CP Empress began of 26 September 1919. She sailed from Liverpool to Quebec. On 3 May 1922, her regular route was changed; and she sailed between Southampton, Cherbourg and Quebec. On 31 May 1922, the route was modified yet again; and she sailed between Hamburg, Southampton, Cherbourg and Quebec.[2]

File:CPEmpress France India Britain 1926.jpg
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)

The Empress was one of four ocean liners to circumnavigate the world in 1923.[4]

In 1924, the ship was converted from coal to oil fuel.[2]

In July 1926, her interiors were re-configured as 1st-class, 2nd-class, tourist-class and 3rd-class accommodations. In January 1927, the interior was again re-configured as 1st-class, tourist-class and 3rd-class.[2]

On 9 September, the Empress set out on what was to be her final Hamburg - Southampton - Cherbourg - Quebec voyage. On 8 September 1928, she sailed on final Southampton - Cherbourg - Quebec voyage before being transferred to the Pacific.[2]

On October 31, 1928, she sailed from Southampton for Suez, Hong Kong and Vancouver. Subsequently sailed on the Pacific until 17 October 1929 when she left Hong Kong en route to Liverpool.[2]

On 2 September 1931, the Empress of France set out for what was to be her final voyage from Southampton to Cherbourg and Quebec; and in then she was laid up in the Clyde.[2]

The Empress was scrapped at Dalmuir on October 20, 1934.[2]


  1. The disambiguation date used in this article's title is not the year in which the hull is launched, but rather the year of the vessel's sea trial or maiden voyage.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Ship List: Description of Empress of France
  3. Suydam, Henry. "How the British Blockade Works: An Interview with Rear-Admiral Sir. Dudley de Chair, KCB, MVO," Brooklyn Eagle (New York). 1916.
  4. Maxtone-Graham, John. (2000). Liners to the Sun, p. 124.

See also


External links