|Empress of England/Ocean
1957 - 1975
the Second World War finally came to an end in 1945, the world could look
back on six years of terrible carnage and destruction. Cities and countries
had been bombed, soldiers had perished in the battlefields and millions
had died in Nazi concentration camps. The merchant fleets of the world
had also suffered massive damage. Passenger liners converted into troop
transports had facilitated the spread of the conflict to a global scale,
but many of them had been lost in the process. Although ships such as Cunard’s
two Queens made it through the war alive, others had not been so
fortunate. The largest allied loss had been the sinking of the 42,000-ton
Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Britain in 1940, and Germany had
lost ships like the Cap Arcona and Wilhelm Gustloff.
|The Empress of England
in her original Canadian Pacific colours, seen here in Cape Town. (Photograph
courtesy of Ian
following the Armistice, the shipping lines had to try and rebuild their
fleets. But the war had been costly, and the lack of raw material and labour
was evident. Instead, some shipping companies were given German ships as
reparation for their losses during the war. The French
Line, for instance, was given the German express liner Europa and
turned her into their new flagship Liberté. But in spite
of such great additions, new tonnage was urgently needed.
some ten years of financial recuperation, Europe was approaching its pre-war
status by the mid-1950s, much thanks to the aid of the Marshall-plan.
Finally, there were enough funds and capacity to start building new ships.
One of the companies that set out to do so was Canadian Pacific, which
commissioned two new liners for their Liverpool-Montreal service. The two
ships were to be built by separate yards, but they were intended as virtually
the first ship was built by Fairfield SB & Engineering Company of Govan,
the second was laid down as yard no. 155 at Vickers-Armstrong Ltd., Newcastle.
These new ships were to be modern and stylish, becoming the prime vessels
of Canadian Pacific. And the company did not save their money in achieving
just that – the two liners would cost them £5,500,000 each.
9th 1956, the second ship was launched by Lady Eden, wife of
the British Prime Minister. The new liner was given the name Empress
of England. Canadian Pacific had operated a great number of Empresses
in their time, but this was oddly the first time a ship had been given
this particular name. As the second ship of a duo, the Empress of England
was about a year after her older sister, which had just entered service
as the Empress of Britain a month earlier.
|A closer view of the Empress of England’s
bow, showing the damage she sustained from the collision in the St. Lawrence in November of 1965. (Photograph courtesy of Terry
the successful launch, the Empress of England was to be fitted out.
In many aspects, she would become the state-of-the-art of ocean liners
at the time. She was, for example, air-conditioned throughout – along with
her sister the first British ships with that distinction. In fact, this
feature made some people speculate that the two liners had originally been
intended for Pacific service, but it is more likely that it was done in
anticipation of the ships’ cruising purposes.
feature was that the ships were able to answer the helm at speeds as low
as five knots. This was clearly a precaution, since they were to operate
on the 1,000-mile route along the St. Lawrence River to reach Montreal.
Canadian Pacific was long since aware of the hazards involved when navigating
this route – they had lost the Empress of Ireland in the St. Lawrence
back in 1914.
the Empress of England had been completed and she had gone through
her satisfactory sea trials, she was delivered to Canadian Pacific on March
19th, 1957. Luckily for the company, this was just one day before
a strike was to be called at the builder’s yard. So with the smallest margin
possible, Canadian Pacific managed to avoid possible delay of their latest
a month later, on April 18th, the Empress of England left
Liverpool on her maiden voyage, bound for Quebec and finally Montreal.
Painted in the Canadian Pacific colours since 1946 – white hull and buff
yellow funnel with the company houseflag superimposed – she must have been
a magnificent sight. The company was now hoping that the Empress of
England would perform as well as her sister, Empress of Britain,
which by now had been in service for almost exactly a year. The two sisters
were outwardly nearly identical, but there were ways of telling them apart.
Below the bridge, on boat deck level, the Empress of Britain had
six windows in three pairs. Empress of England had only five such
windows, arranged two-one-two.
went as planned, and the new Empress’ maiden voyage was a success.
Now Canadian Pacific could boast with operating the finest ships on the
Canadian run. In the summers, the ships sailed on the Liverpool-Quebec-Montreal
route, and in the winters they either terminated their voyages at Saint
John or were employed cruising in the Caribbean out of New York. The duo
was so successful, that Canadian Pacific soon ordered a third ship for
the same service. Named Empress of Canada, this new running mate entered service in April
1961. But although things might have looked good at this moment, the situation
was rapidly changing.
in the late 1950s, the ocean liners were faced with a powerful
competitor – the aeroplane. Military advances in flight achieved during
the war were now being used for commercial purposes, and the aircraft soon
became the modern way to travel. Instead of crossing the Atlantic on a
ship doing 20-30 knots, one could now fly across with a speed of 500 knots.
Many passengers still chose the safe and tested ships in favour of the
new aeroplanes, but air traffic were winning over more and more passengers
as time went by.
result, the Empresses were now spending more and more time doing
cruises instead of crossings. And on top of that, Empress of England
seemed to be a somewhat unlucky ship. In December of 1962, while in Gladstone
Dock the ship broke adrift in a gale and collided with the Common Bros.
vessel Hindustan. Both ships’ plating was damaged, and although
not very serious, the Empress of England had to go through some
extra repairs before she could re-enter service.
|Empress of England sporting
the new Canadian Pacific livery, which was adopted in 1968.
of England continued her crossing and cruising service for another
few years until October 23rd 1963, when she was chartered to
Travel Savings Association (TSA). TSA was a joint venture, funded equally
by Canadian Pacific, Royal Mail and Union-Castle Line. On October 28th
the Empress of England made her first TSA cruise, and was thereafter
employed doing cruises out of Cape Town along with the Empress of Britain.
the end of 1964, TSA was beginning to suffer financially. Soon they could
no longer afford the charter cost for all the ships, and the business was
instead concentrated with the Union-Castle vessel Reina del Mar.
And so, on April 18th 1965, Empress of England was released
from the charter and returned to Canadian Pacific, who soon put her back
on her original Liverpool-Montreal run. But the ship’s bad luck seemed
to continue when in November that year she was involved in a collision
with a Norwegian tanker in the St. Lawrence estuary. Once again, the damage
sustained required repairs before the ship could get back in service.
her intended service, along with doing cruises in the off-seasons, the
Empress of England was part of a company that was going through
a great many changes. This was not least evident, when in 1968 Canadian
Pacific decided to adopt a new colour scheme for their vessels. The deep-sea
fleet was given a green funnel with a white semi-circle and a dark green
incut triangle. Traditionalists were not very fond of the new livery, they
said it was ‘too modern’. But eventually the colours were recognised as
a very distinctive and stylish
the Empress of England was only to sport these new colours for a
short time. On April 1st 1970 she was withdrawn from service,
and sold to Shaw, Savill & Albion only two days later. Renamed Ocean
Monarch, the ex-Empress soon found herself in service for her
new owners. On April 11th, she made one sailing from Liverpool
to Australia, and was then sent to the shipyards of Cammell Laird to be
refitted as a full-time cruise ship.
|Sold to Shaw, Savill
& Albion, the former Empress of England emerged as the Ocean
Monarch in 1970.
the refit, the ship was given a complete makeover. Her cargo capacity was
removed, as she would not be needing it in her new service. Lido decks
and swimming pools were added to her stern area, thereby altering her profile.
Her passenger accommodation was changed to a single class with capacity
for 1,372 passengers. The entire refit was to become very costly for the
ship’s new owners, due to poor circumstances. The cost for the actual refit
ended up at £2,000,000 but strikes at the yard cost another £2,000,000.
When the ship finally emerged in September 1971, she was six months late
and twelve summer cruises had to be cancelled, resulting in a loss
of revenues. The Ocean Monarch
was intended to do cruises from Southampton to the Mediterranean, but her
only such voyage on October 16th that year also became her last
in that service.
the ship was sent to Auckland, from which she operated until 1973 when
she started doing Pacific cruises out of Sydney. But by now the end was
nigh. The Ocean Monarch was plagued with persistent breakdowns and
staff trouble, and this had soon earned her a very bad reputation. She
was sent back to Britain, but only to be withdrawn from service in the
summer of 1975. On June 13th, the ship left Southampton for
the last time. Her destination was Kaohsiung, where she was to be broken
up by the breakers.
|The Empress of England/Ocean
Monarch - Specifications:
||640 feet (195.5 m)
||85.3 feet (26.1 m)
||25,585 gross tons
||Geared turbines turning
||Originally 1,058 people,
1,372 after 1970-1971 refit.