SS Duchess of York (1928)

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Duchess of York
Name: SS Duchess of York
Namesake: Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Duchess of York
Owner: Red Ensign Canadian Pacific Steamships
Port of registry: Glasgow
Route: Liverpool to Saint John, New Brunswick
Builder: John Brown & Company, Clydebank
Yard number: 524[1]
Launched: 28 September 1928[1]
Completed: March 1929
Fate: Crippled by German air attack 11 July 1943 and sunk the next day by the Royal Navy
General characteristics
Class and type: 1928-1940: Ocean liner
1940-1943: Troopship
Tonnage: 20,021 GRT
Length: 183 m (600 ft)[2]
Beam: 22.9 m (75 ft)[1]
  • Steam turbines
  • Two propellers
Speed: 18 kn (33 km/h)[1]

SS Duchess of York was a 20,021 ton ocean liner operated by the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company. Built in 1928 in Clydebank by the shipbuilders John Brown & Company, she was originally intended to be named SS Duchess of Cornwall.

She was sunk in 1943 off Spain after being damaged by long range German bombers.

Pre-war service

The Duchess of York was one of the several "sturdy Canadian Pacific liners which were known as "Drunken Duchesses" for their lively performance in heavy seas.[3] She was built as a sister ship to the SS Duchess of Bedford, the SS Duchess of Atholl, and the SS Duchess of Richmond. The vessel was created for transatlantic service;[4] and she was employed on the Liverpool to Saint John, New Brunswick route, calling at Belfast and Greenock en route; she carried many passengers over her twelve years in mercantile service.

Her first captain between 1929 and 1934 was Ronald Niel Stuart, VC whose impressive First World War service record entitled him to fly the Blue Ensign whilst he was aboard. Following his departure, the liner was employed briefly on the New York CIty to Bermuda route before returning to her original passage.

War service and loss

In 1940, she was recommissioned by the British Admiralty as a troopship and used early in the war to transport Canadian soldiers to Britain, returning to Canada carrying RAF aircrew and German prisoners of war (among them legendary escapee Franz von Werra in early January 1941). On 9 July 1943, she sailed Greenock as part of the small, fast Convoy Faith, for Freetown, Sierra Leone, in company with the SS California and the merchant ship Port Fairy.

File:Focke Wulf Fw200.jpg
Focke Wulf Fw200

Two days later, the convoy was about 300 miles west of Vigo when it was attacked by three Focke-Wulf Fw 200 aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 40[5] based at Merignac near Bordeaux. The accurate high-altitude bombing left both Duchess of York and California blazing.[6] Her escorts HMCS Iroquois, HMS Douglas and HMS Moyola, together with Port Fairy, rescued all but twenty seven from the ship. Fearing the flames from the ships would attract U boats, the Duchess of York and California were sunk by Royal Navy torpedoes in position 41°15′N 15°24′W / 41.25°N 15.4°W / 41.25; -15.4[7] in the early hours of 12 July[6].



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