SS Empress of Midland

SS Empress of Midland

SS Empress of Midland

Built:  1907

Lost:  1916

Reason for Loss:  Mined by German Submarine.

The SS Empress of Midland was 2224 Gross Registered Tonnage cargo steamer built by Swan Hunter, Hunter and Wigham Richardson at their yard in Wallsend, number 799, Newcastle.  She was built for cargo transportation on the Great Lakes of North America and during her time in North America her ownership was transferred three times, until she was finally requisitioned for wartime duties around the UK coast.

SS Empress of Midland was so named after her base port of Midland in Ontario, Canada.  She was typical of her day constructed of steel at 76.8 metres length, 13 metre beam and a draught of 7 metres.  She was powered by a single three cylinder triple expansion reciprocating steam engine producing 1050 indicated horse power. Power transmission was via a single shaft turning one screw. Two boilers provided the steam for propulsion and auxiliary machinery.

SS Empress of Midland arrived at Montreal, Quebec  on 10th October 1907 having stopped at Halifax, Nova Scotia on her delivery voyage.  The initial ownership of Empress of Midland was Empress Transportation Company.  The fleet then merged in 1910 with Inland Lines Ltd. In  1913 the fleet once again merged into the Canada Steamship Lines, Montreal, Quebec under the ownership of Mr. J. Playfair.  On 10th March 1915 the vessel was chartered to Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Co. for off-Lakes service during World War One .  She carried coal from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Montreal, Quebec during the 1915 season and then transferred to British coastal duties to aid the war effort towards the end of the year.

On the 27th March 1916 she was en route from the Tyne to Rouen in France. Nine miles south from the Kentish Knock lightship in the River Thames estuary she hit a mine developed a starboard list and 18 took to the lifeboat. Five more sailors jumped into the English Channel and were picked up by the lifeboat. The SS Empress of Midland subsequently sunk.  The Captain of the U Boat, UC-1 responsible for the sinking was Egon von Werner and he logged the position as 51 degrees 31 minutes north, 10 degrees 43 minutes east.  Fortunately the cargo ship TSS Cromer was in the vicinity and she picked up 23 men of the Empress of Midland from a lifeboat.  Two months earlier the SS Cromer and her crew had sunk a German submarine in the North Sea.  As a result of this action later that year Captain Beech of the SS Cromer was presented with a gold watch, and the crew with silver watches to commemorate this sinking.

Researched and written by Robert Steer MAT volunteer.

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