Friday, April 20, 2012

Canadian Pacific's 'Duchess of Bedford/Empress of France'

The first of CP's four "Duchess" ships built in the late 1920s, Duchess of Bedford was built by John Brown & Co. of Glasgow and launched by the wife of British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in January 1928; the ship's maiden voyage, from Liverpool to Montréal, was on 24 June of the same year. The ship was 20,123 gross register tons, length 601 ft (183.2 metres) x beam 75.2 ft (22.9 metres), twin screw and a top speed of 18 knots. There was accommodation for 580 cabin, 480 tourist and 510 third class passengers.

In 1933 she was chartered to Furness, Withy as a temporary running mate for the new Monarch of Bermuda. Once Queen of Bermuda was delivered to Furness, Withy, Duchess of Bedford returned to Canadian Pacific and remained in commercial service through August 1939, then served as a troopship for several months.  She was then returned to commercial service from January through August 1940 before being returned to troop transport for the rest of the war. The ship is credited with sinking an unidentified U-boat in August 1942.

Decommissioned in 1947, she was sent to Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering of Govan for refitting. Initially she was to be renamed Empress of India, but after India gained independence, her new name was changed to Empress of France; the ship returned to service with this name in September 1948, on her former Liverpool-Montréal route. She was given pepperpot funnels during a 1958 renovation, and remained in service until 1960 when she went to the breakers after 310 North Atlantic round trips.

A fairly substantial history is on this webpage.

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