RMS Empress of France (1928)

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Empress of France Merseyside.jpg
Empress of France
Name: 1928-1947: SS Duchess of Bedford
1947-1960 RMS Empress of France
Owner: Red Ensign Canadian Pacific Steamships
Port of registry: Canada
Builder: John Brown, Clydebank, United Kingdom
Yard number: 518
Launched: 24 January 1928
Completed: May 1928
Out of service: 1960
General characteristics
Class and type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 20,123 tons
Length: 177.4 m
Beam: 22.9 m
Propulsion: two steam turbines, twin propellers
Speed: 27.5 knots

RMS Empress of France was an ocean liner built in 1928 by John Brown at Clydebank in the United Kingdom for the Canadian Pacific Steamships and launched as the SS Duchess of Bedford in 1928. She was renamed Empress of France in 1947.[1]


The Duchess of Bedford 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 Richmond and SS Duchess of Atholl.

Among the Duchess' better-known passengers in 1931 was Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, who was en route from Canada to England when he received word the United Kingdom had permanently abandoned the gold standard.[3]

The writer Elspeth Huxley worked on her biography of Lord Delamere while crossing the Atlantic in 1933.[4]


At the outbreak of war in September 1939, the Duchess of Bedford was comandeered by the Admiralty to bring civil and military officials from England to India.[5]

The Duchess was amongst the ships which evacuated Singapore in 1941.[6] The Duchess transported 1955 men of the 18th Infantry Division to Singapore before it fell, departing Bombay on January 19, 1942 and arriving ten days later. The Duchess was joined by an "empress" sister ship in this convoy duty. The troopship SS Empress of Japan carried 1981 men of the 18th Division.[7] The convoy departed with evacuees on January 30.[8]

Her war service included support for the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943.[9]


She was refitted in 1947, then renamed in that same year as the Empress of France.[1] Preliminary plans to re-name the ship Empress of India were laid aside when India's independence was declared in August 1947.[10]

The ship was taken out of service in 1960; and she was broken up at Newport in late December of the same year.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Haworth, R.B. Miramar Ship Index: Empress of France, ID#1160482.
  2. Buchan, William. (1982) John Buchan: a Memoir‎, p. 224.
  3. Toniolo, Gianni et al. (2008). Central bank cooperation at the Bank for International Settlements, 1930-1973, p. 116.
  4. Nicholls, Christine Stephanie Nicholls. (2003). Elspeth Huxley, p. 105.
  5. Kaye, Mary Margaret. (1999). Enchanted evening, p. 296.
  6. McBryde, Brenda. (1985). Quiet Heroines: Nurses of the Second World War, p. 94.
  7. Netherlands Navy: "Singapore convoys," BM11.
  8. Singapore evacuation 1942: Civilian evacuation lists; January 30, 1942
  9. Atkinson, Rick. (2008). The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, pp. 197-198.
  10. Miller, William H. (2001). Picture History of British Ocean Liners, 1900 to the Present, p. 66.


See also