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November’s Mystery Ship Answer

The November mystery ship is the 16,909grt passenger ship Empress of Asia, completed by Fairfield in Glasgow in May 1913 for Canadian Pacific Line. The four-screwed vessel was powered by steam turbines and reached a maximum speed of 21 knots on trials, having a service speed of 19-20 knots. For many years she was the fastest Pacific liner. Like her three-months older sister Empress of Russia, in peacetime she operated on the Vancouver-Yokohama-Shanghai- Hong Kong route. They were the first big passenger liners with a straight stern.

In August 1914 Empress of Asia became an armed merchant cruiser, and returned to Canadian Pacific in March 1916, but was commissioned once again in May 1918 as a troopship. After a refit she carried 510 in three classes, plus 728 ‘tween deck passengers and 475 crew. She serviced her old route from February 1919 until February 1941, when she became a troopship for the second time.

On 5 February 1942 she was attacked by Japanese bombers off Singapore, set on fire and sunk off Keppel Harbour. About 16 people died, but most of the 2,650 people on board were taken off by HMAS Yarra. The wreck was dismantled in the 1950s. The website empressofasia.co.uk contains more information as well as detailed crew lists.

Rudiger Meske Dortmund, Germany

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