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The Empire ships were a series of ships in the service of the British Government. Their names were all prefixed with "Empire". Mostly they were used during World War II by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT), who owned the ships but contracted out their management to various shipping lines. Some ships requisitioned during the Suez Crisis were also given the "Empire" prefix. They were acquired from a number of sources. Many were built for the MoWT, others obtained from the USA, still others were captured or seized from enemy powers. One such prize, Empire Audacity, later became the first escort carrier.

Introduction of standard specifications

Britain entered World War II on the 3 September 1939, however, significantly before the declaration of war, preparations were in hand to put the shipping industry of Britain on a war footing. All shipbuilders had specified the capability of their yards to produce cargo ships, cargo liners, tramps, tankers, colliers, coasters and naval ships. The Ministry of Shipping, formed in October 1939 quickly adopted a standard naming system, applying the prefix "Empire" for all merchant ships built in Great Britain for the Government. With some exceptions, the prefix was also extended to purchased or requisitions ships and to those acquired as prizes.[1]

From 1 February 1940, the Admiralty took control of all shipbuilding and repairs, including merchant shipping. From that date, ships could only be built either on orders of the Admiralty or, for private owners, under licences that required the ships to be built to admiralty specifications of wartime requirements.[1]

Types of ships built for the MOWT


Tramp ships were built to a standardised prefabricated design. The ships were 425 feet (129.54 m) in length with a beam of 56 feet (17.07 m), with a deadweight of around 10,000 tons and a speed of around 10 knots (19 km/h). The first standard to be used was the PF(B) of approximately 7,050 gross tons. These incorporated one 30-ton, two 10-ton and eight 5-ton derricks for cargo handling.[2]

The PF(C) design was introduced in 1942 to handle heavier military equipment, and was equipped with one 50-ton, one 30-ton, five 10-ton and five 5-ton derricks. PF(C) were around 7,320 gross tons. The later PF(D) was similar to PF(C), at 7,370 tons, but could be distinguished by a full-height poop (which was only half height in the PF(C)). Some had 250,000 cubic feet (7,100 m3) of refrigerated space.[2]


RFA Wave Victor, ex Empire Bounty

The 'Ocean' type tankers were sometimes known as the 'Three twelves type', being about 12,000 tons deadweight with a speed of around 12 knots (22 km/h) and a fuel consumption of 12 tons per day. They were used for the transport of fuel and also for refuelling at sea. Some were fitted with triple expansion steam engines; others were diesel powered.[3]

The 'Norwegian' type were slightly larger and were constructed only by two builders, Sir James Laing & Sones (who had built the prototype) and by Furness Shipbuilding Co, Ltd. The first of the type were fitted with 3,800 horsepower (2,800 kW) triple expansion steam engines, later models with 3,300 horsepower (2,500 kW) diesel engines and finally with 4,000 horsepower (3,000 kW) diesel engines.[3]

The design for the 'Wave' prefixed faster tankers was introduced in 1943. With a speed of 15 knots (28 km/h), these fast tankers were able to operate outside of the convoys.[3]

Aircraft carriers

HMS Activity, formerly Empire Activity

Catapult-armed merchantmen or CAM ships, were merchant cargo ships operating with the convoys and converted to launch a Sea Hurricane fighter by means of a catapult. As there was no means to land the Hurricane on the ship again, it was only possible for a single launch and the aircraft then had to return to land or ditch in the sea. However they did provide important convoy cover when no other air cover was available. Eight requisitioned private ships and twenty-seven Empire ships served as CAM ships. Ten of the Empire ships were lost in service.[4]

Merchant aircraft carriers or MAC ships superseded the CAM ships. Their role was defensive in protection of the convoys. Unlike the CAM ships, they carried a flight deck so the aircraft were able to land again. The merchant air carriers were adapted standard grain ships or oil tankers. The grain ships had a flight deck of 413 feet (125.88 m) to 424 feet (129.24 m) ft and a breadth of 62 feet (18.90 m). A hangar on the lower deck was equipped with a lift to the flight deck and accommodated four Fairey Swordfish aircraft. The oil tankers had longer flight decks - 461 feet (140.51 m) - but no hangars. Three Swordfish reconnaissance planes were stowed at the aft end of the flight deck.[5]

Fast cargo liners

In the early part of the war shipyard capacity was fully engaged with naval ships, including aircraft carriers, repairs to ships following Dunkirk and in orders for tankers and tramps. By 1941 there was criticism that ships being built were too slow. A few fast ships (capable of 15-16 knots) were however being built; many of them with refrigerated capacity. In 1942 a new standard for a fast cargo liner of around 9,900 gross tons was introduced with a length of 475 feet (144.78 m) and a breadth of 64 feet (19.51 m). Thirteen "Empire"-prefixed standard class cargo liners were completed. Another was laid down intending to be given the prefix but was acquired by the Royal Netherlands Government and completed as Modjokerto.[6]

  • Non-standard cargo liners: Empire Gala (transferred on completion to Gouvernement Generale de L'Indo Chine), Empire Pride (converted to a troopship in the shipyard), Empire Song and Empire Trust.[6]
  • Refrigerated cargo liners: Empire Abercorn, Empire Clarendon, Empire Grace, Empire Hope, Empire Might, Empire Star (originally laid down as Empire Mercia), Empire Wessex (completed as Port Hobart in 1946) and Empire Wisdom .[6]
  • 1942 onwards, standard fast cargo liners (9,900 gross tons): Empire Allenby, Empire Captain, Empire Chieftain, Empire Dynasty, Empire Haig, Empire Joy, Empire Kitchener, Empire Life, Empire Paragon, Empire Regent, Empire Rawlinson and Empire Wilson.[6]

Heavy lift ships

The design of the heavy lift ship was based on a Norwegian design with a prefix - Bel- (Belmoira and Belpareil were two of this type) intended to carry bulky and heavy cargo such as locomotives and tugs. The ships had three large unobstructed cargo holds and heavy lifting equipment. The first pair of ships built for the Ministry of War Transport, Empire Charmian and Empire Elaine were diesel powered. The remainder, Empire Admiral, Empire Athelstan, Empire Byng, Empire Canute, Empire Ethelbert (launched as Beljeanne in 1946), Empire Marshal, Empire Viceroy and Empire Wallace, were powered by steam turbines to provide more speed and power. These ships were able to carry smaller vessels, such as tugs and landing craft, to support combat operations around the world.[7]

Scandinavian type cargo ships

Two classes of ship were based on the Scandinavian design general cargo ship. The smaller 'three island' type of around 2,800 gross tons were built between 1941 and 1944. These vessels played an important role as crane ships in unloading the Arctic convoys at the Russian ports. In the three island class, the boiler was amidships and the cargo handling was grouped around three 'islands' on the superstructure, at the stern, bow and amidships.[8] Ten ships were built in the later and larger (3,500 gross tons) Empire Malta class, which had the boiler aft and the cargo handling grouped around the fore- and main-mast.[9]

Dredgers and hoppers

Dredging and hopper vessels were used for the collection or discharge of aggregates for example in maintaining clear navigation channels and to acquire aggregates from the sea bed.

  • Twin screw hopper dredgers: approx 2,600 gross tons, length 285 feet (86.87 m) breadth 52 feet (15.85 m): Empire Forager and Empire Sorcerer
  • Suction hopper dredger - 1,747 gross tons, length 256 feet (78.03 m), breadth 42 feet (12.80 m): Empire Clydesdale
  • Bucket dredger - 938 gross tons, length 195 feet (59.44 m), breadth 40 feet (12.19 m): Empire Mammoth
  • Twin screw hopper with bottom doors - 683 gross tons, length 167 feet (50.90 m) breadth 33 feet (10.06 m): Empire Dockland, Empire Downland, Empire Grassland, Empire Hartland, Empire Heathland, Empire Marshland, Empire Portland, Empire Upland and Empire Woodland
  • Bucket dredger - 512 gross tons, length 160 feet (48.77 m) breadth 36 feet (10.97 m):Empire Champion, Empire Conjuror, Empire Moorland and Empire Sandboy

Tank landing ships

RFA Empire Gull

The tank landing ships (LST Mark 3) had a speed of eleven knots and were 4,820 tons when loaded. The length was 330 ft and the breadth 54 ft. The bridge and engines were aft. A bow ramp gave access to the interior and onto the open upper deck. 168 troops could be accommodated in narrow dormitories. Landing craft were generally only identified by number (for example LST 3512). However, some were completed as merchant ships after the end of hostilities. Seven were charted from the Ministry of War Transport as ferries and given the "Empire" prefix, operating between Tilbury and Hamburg from September 1946 and also between Preston and Larne from May 1948.

Twelve of the landing craft were recalled to service and given "Empire" names in 1956 during the Suez Crisis and used as military transport ferries in Malta, Aden and Singapore. These were:


Three Empire ferries (Empire Chub, Empire Dace and Empire Roach), were completed to the same design as an order from the Government of Turkey. They had ramps at both ends and could carry passengers and vehicles but could also be converted for minelaying. They were also equipped with a 25-ton derrick at the front of the superstructure amidships. They were 716 gross tons, length 179 feet (54.56 m) and breadth 40 feet (12.19 m).

Water carriers

Three vessels of 215 to 222 gross tons were built as water carriers. These were Empire Barnaby, Empire Billow and Empire Fulham

Ore carriers

Four vessels all of 2,922 gross tons, length 315 feet (96.01 m) and breadth 44 feet (13.41 m) were built as ore carriers. These were Empire Moat, Empire Ness, Empire Ridge and Empire Stream

Convoy rescue ships

Five Castle-class corvettes were completed as Empire convoy rescue ships to join twenty-nine previously-requisitioned ships. The requisitioned passenger ships had a speed of 11 to 12 knots to enable them to catch up with the convoys travelling at 10 knots after completing their rescue operations. Convoy rescue ships were also generally armed with AA guns for protection when they were separated from the convoy and vulnerable to enemy attack. The five Empire ships were 1,333 gross tons, length 236 feet (71.93 m), breadth 36 feet (10.97 m) with a speed of sixteen and a half knots. After the war they were used as troopships in the Eastern Mediterranean.


War service

Empire ships were generally involved in convoy duty, including the Atlantic convoys bringing essential supplies from the United States; military convoys to North Africa; military convoys around the Cape of Good Hope to prosecute the war in the Middle East; coastal convoys around the shores of Britain; Mediterranean convoys, including those supporting the defence of Malta and Arctic convoys to North Russia.

They took an active role supporting the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy and in the Normandy assault and in the assaults on German-held ports of Western Europe. In June 1944. ninety-seven Empire merchant ships were involved in the cross-channel convoys that carried troops and supplies ready for the Normandy invasion. Empire landing craft were involved in the assault phase, and Empire coasters were involved in the beaching of supplies and in ferrying cargo from the larger merchant ships anchored off-shore.

The success of the Normandy invasion depended on the successful construction of the Mulberry ports. These were prefabricated ports, constructed at Southampton, Gosport, Portsmouth, Tilbury Docks, and even as far north as Birkenhead and Hartlepool. Two hundred tugs then took three months to tow the components of the harbours from where they were constructed to assembly areas on the South Coast. Between 7 June 1944 and the end of July, the tugs towed the materials across the channel to Normandy.

Before D-Day, sixty old merchant ships and four old warships were selected as blockships, to be scuttled in a line to give protection to the small craft. The blockships were stripped before setting out in convoy across the channel. Empire tugs were used to ensure the safe crossing. On reaching Normandy they were scuttled in five groups, codenamed Gooseberry 1 to Gooseberry 5. Gooseberry 4 at Juno Beach included four Empire ships: Empire Bunting, Empire Flamingo, Empire Moorhen and Empire Waterhen. Gooseberry 5 at Ouistreham included three Empire ships: Empire Defiance, Empire Tamar and Empire Tana. Between the 19 and 23 June 1944 a severe gale, damaged many of the Mulberry harbours and wrecked some of the blockships. Additional blockships were added in July 1944, including one more Empire ship, Empire Bittern, and two of the former Empire ships that had been transferred to the Norwegians: Norfalk (formerly Empire Kittiwake) and Norjerv (formerly Empire Eagle).

Post war service

Empire Windrush

At the end of the war, tankers were released from requisition as they completed voyages after 31 December 1945 and dry cargo ships after voyages completed after 2 March 1946. However passenger and troopships were still involved in the repatriation of servicemen, prisoners of war and refugees. The government therefore converted several captured German passenger ships to Empire troop ships. These included Empire Fowey, Empire Halladale, Empire Ken, Empire Orwell, Empire Trooper and Empire Windrush.

Empire Comfort, Empire Lifeguard, Empire Peacemaker and Empire Shelter were smaller troopships operating in the Mediterranean Sea; Empire Parkeston and Empire Wansbeck operated as troopships between Harwich and the Hook of Holland.

Losses and disposal of Empire ships

In 1942, shipowners who had lost ships (either as a casualty of war or requisitioned by the Government) during the war, were able to buy ships built for the Government. Such ships were then managed by the shipowner on behalf of the Ministry of War Transport, until the end of the war. Tramps and colliers built before 1942 were sold on in this way, although some smaller ships remained unsold.[11]

Empire ships were also transferred to the representatives of governments of countries that had been invaded by Germany, in recognition of the losses suffered by the fleets of Britain's allies.[11]

Ships transferred to other governments

Ten Empire ships and one Ocean type American tramp, Ocean Veteran, as well as a number of Liberty type ships were transferred to Belgium between the years 1941-1943.[11]

Twenty-nine Empire ships were transferred or built for the Netherlands and several American built ships including Ocean Athlete, Ocean Merchant and Ocean Victory were also transferred.[11]

  • Transferred in 1942: Empire Boy, Empire Deep, Empire Halley, Empire Mavis, Empire Penguin, Empire Raleigh, Empire Rennie, Empire Robin and Empire Trust
  • Transferred in 1943: Empire Courage, Empire Dyke, Empire Ford, Empire Fortune, Empire Galliard, Empire Hazlitt, Empire Iseult, Empire Reynard, Empire River, Empire Ruskin, Empire Sidney, Empire Sound, Empire Spray and Empire Toiler
  • Transferred in 1944: Empire Kamal and Empire Fletcher
  • Transferred in 1945: Empire Ribble
  • Transferred in 1946: Empire Concrete, Empire Condee, Empire Convoy, Empire Lily

Twenty-four Empire ships were purchased by the French Government after liberation in 1945. All were transferred in 1945-46. Empire Gala and Empire Jupiter were later placed with the Gouvernement Generale de L'Indo-Chine, along with 10 Park-type Canadian-built ships.[11]

Nineteen Empire ships were transferred to the Norwegian Government in 1941-1942.[11]

More were transferred to the Norwegian Government in 1946.

Three Empire ships and a number of American ships were built or transferred to the Polish Government in 1942-1943.[11]

  • Transferred in 1942: Empire Builder and Empire Reamer
  • Transferred in 1943: Empire Hunter

A number of Empire ships were transferred to the Soviet Union during and after the war.

Transferred in 1944: Empire Nigel

Transferred in 1946: Empire Ayr, Empire Conclyde, Empire Concord, Empire Confederation, Empire Congleton, Empire Congreve, Empire Conisborough, Empire Conleven, Empire Connah, Empire Connaught, Empire Connemara, Empire Consett, Empire Constable, Empire Constellation, Empire Contees, Empire Contest, Empire Convention, Empire Conway, Empire Conwear, Empire Dart, Empire Dee, Empire Douglas, Empire Dovey, Empire Durant, Empire Forth, Empire Gable, Empire Gabon, Empire Gage, Empire Gala, Empire Galashiels, Empire Galaxy, Empire Galleon, Empire Gallic, Empire Galveston, Empire Gantry, Empire Garner, Empire Kennet, Empire Lea, Empire Neath, Empire Nidd, Empire Ock, Empire Orwell, Empire Tageland, Empire Tageos, Empire Tarne, Empire Tegaden, Empire Tegados, Empire Tegaica, Empire Tegalta, Empire Tegamas, Empire Tegleone, Empire Tegoria, Empire Teguda, Empire Teguto, Empire Teme, Empire Teviot, Empire Tigarth, Empire Tigbart, Empire Tigina, Empire Tigombo, Empire Tigonto, Empire Tigost, Empire Tigouver, Empire Venture, Empire Viking I, Empire Viking II, Empire Viking III, Empire Viking VI, Empire Viking VIII, Empire Viking IX, Empire Viking X, Empire Weaver, Empire Welland, Empire Wey, Empire Yare.

Transferred in 1947: Empire Cherwell

† denotes those ships transferred under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement.[12]

War losses

One hundred and eighty two Empire ships were lost through enemy action, including to mines, submarines, enemy aircraft, E-boats and blockships. The first lost was Empire Commerce in 1940 and the last was Empire Gold in 1945. Eight Empire ships were sacrificed as blockships to support the Normandy invasion. Some of the blockships were later raised and scrapped.

A considerable number of the losses were sunk by U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic.

  • Empire Activity - wrecked on Peckford Reef while en-route Botwood - UK, 3 October 1943
  • Empire Adventure - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat while on passage Tyne - Wabana, NFL, 20 September 1940
  • Empire Airman - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 350 miles W. of Malin Head while en-route Wabana, NFL - Cardiff, 21 September 1940
  • Empire Amethyst - lost without trace April 1942 approx 150 miles S. of Haiti while en-route New Orleans - Freetown - presumed torpedoed by U-boat on or around 14th
  • Empire Arnold - torpedoed and sunk approx 500 miles E. of Trinidad by U-boat, 4 August 1942
  • Empire Attendant - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off the West African coast, 15 July 1942
  • Empire Banner - torpedoed by U-boat and later sunk by German aircraft off the North African coast, 7 February 1943
  • Empire Barracuda - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Gibraltar, 15 December 1941
  • Empire Beaumont - torpedoed and sunk South of Spitsbergen by German aircraft on 13 September 1942
  • Empire Bison - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in North Atlantic, 1 November 1940
  • Empire Blanda - lost without trace on-route Halifax, NS, to Grangemouth, on or around 9 February 1941
  • Empire Brigade - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat West of the Hebrides, 18 October 1940
  • Empire Broadsword - struck mine off Normandy and sank, 2 July 1944
  • Empire Buffalo - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Grand Cayman Island, BWI, 6 May 1942
  • Empire Byron - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in Barents Sea 5 July 1942
  • Empire Comet - dropped out from convoy and disappeared on 9 February 1942 - presumed torpedoed by U-boat
  • Empire Corporal - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Cuba, 14 August 1942
  • Empire Cowper - bombed and sunk by German aircraft while en-route Murmansk - Iceland, 11 April 1942
  • Empire Cromwell - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Trinidad, 28 November 1942
  • Empire Crossbill - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat, 11 September 1941
  • Empire Dabchick - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 200 miles S.E. of Sable Island, 3 December 1942
  • Empire Dace - struck mine and sank at entrance to Missolonghi, Greece, 1 December 1944
  • Empire Dawn - shelled and sunk by German surface raider SW of Cape Town, 12 September 1942
  • Empire Dell - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in North Atlantic, 12 May 1942
  • Empire Dew - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in mid Atlantic, 12 June 1941
  • Empire Dryden - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Bermuda, 20 April 1942
  • Empire Eland - lost without trace while sailing in ballast on voyage from Liverpool to Mobile and Tampa, 7 September 1941 (date of sailing)
  • Empire Endurance - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Ireland, 20 April 1941
  • Empire Energy - wrecked 11 miles west of Cape Norman, Belle Isle Strait, 4 November 1941
  • Empire Engineer - lost without trace en-route Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Newport, Montreal, 22 January 1941
  • Empire Eve - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off the Algerian Coast, 18 May 1943
  • Empire Explorer - torpedoed, shelled, and sunk by U-boat between Demerara and Barbados, 8 July 1942
  • Empire Frost - attacked by German aircraft off Lundy Island, 12 March taken in tow, sank after further air attacks, 13 March 1941
  • Empire Fusilier - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat, 8 February 1942
  • Empire Gem - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Cape Hatteras, 23 January 1942
  • Empire Ghyll - struck mine and sank near Gunfleet, 18 October 1941
  • Empire Gilbert - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat between Spitsbergen and Jan Mayen Island, 2 November 1942
  • Empire Gold - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off the Bay of Biscay, 18 April 1945
  • Empire Guillemot - torpedoed and sunk by Italian aircraft off Bona, 24 October 1941
  • Empire Hail - torpedoed and sunk while in convoy by U-boat in North Atlantic, 23 February 1942
  • Empire Hawksbill - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat about 200 miles N. of The Azores, 19 July 1942
  • Empire Heath - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Trinidad, 11 May 1944
  • Empire Heritage - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Malin Head, 8 September 1944
  • Empire Heron - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in North Atlantic, 15 October 1941
  • Empire Homer - blown ashore and wrecked on Sandray Island while in ballast en-route Greenock to New York, 15 January 1942
  • Empire Hope - attacked by Axis aircraft near Cape Son while in Malta Convoy, set on fire, and later sunk by companion ships, on 13 August 1942
  • Empire Howard - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat while in convoy to Russia, 16 April 1942
  • Empire Hurst - bombed and sunk by German aircraft 400 miles W. of Gibraltar, 11 August 1941
  • Empire Impala - lost without trace while sailing en-route New York - Hull, 23 February 1943 (date of sailing)
  • Empire Jaguar - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in North Atlantic, 8 December 1940
  • Empire Javelin - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat 40 miles S. of St. Catherine's Point, 28 December 1944
  • Empire Kestrel - attacked by Axis aircraft and sunk by torpedo off North African Coast, 16 August 1943
  • Empire Kingsley - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Falmouth, 22 March 1945
  • Empire Kohinoor - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 150 miles S.W. of Monrovia, 2 July 1943
  • Empire Lake - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat (poss. Japanese) off East coast of Madagascar, 15 July 1943
  • Empire Lakeland - strayed from convoy while en-route New York - Glasgow and never seen again - presumed sunk by U-boat, 11 March 1943 (date of last sighting)
  • Empire Lancer - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in Mozambique Channel, 16 August 1944
  • Empire Lawrence - bombed and sunk by German aircraft off the North Cape while en-route Reykjavík to Murmansk, 27 May 1942
  • Empire Leopard - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 500 miles E. of Belle Isle, 2 November 1942
  • Empire Light - sunk by German raider Pinguin N. of the Seychelles on 25 April 1941
  • Empire Lytton - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 500 miles E. of The Canary Islands, 9 January 1943
  • Empire Mahseer - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 100 miles out from Durban, 3 March 1943
  • Empire Mallard - sunk in collision with Empire Moon near Point Armour, Belle Isle Strait, 26 September 1941
  • Empire March - sunk by enemy surface raider off Tristan de Cunha, 2 January 1943
  • Empire Merchant - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off West coast of Ireland, 16 August 1940
  • Empire Merlin - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 250 miles N.W. of the Hebrides, 25 August 1940
  • Empire Mermaid - bombed by German aircraft off N.W. coast of Scotland, sinking two days later, 26 March 1941
  • Empire Mersey - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in North Atlantic, 14 October 1942. Empire Mersey had formerly been the Ramon de Larringa
  • Empire Metal - bombed and sunk by German aircraft while in Bona harbour, Algeria, 2 January 1943
  • Empire Mica - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off West coast of Florida while en-route Houston - UK, 29 June 1942
  • Empire Mordred - mined and sunk off Ceuta, 7 February 1942
  • Empire Newcomen - torpedoed and sunk by S-boat 5 miles S. of Dudgeon Light, 30 November 1941
  • Empire Nomad - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 105 miles out from Durban bound for Trinidad, 13 October 1942
  • Empire Panther - struck a mine and sank off Strumble Head, 1 January 1943
  • Empire Prairie - disappeared after sailing from Halifax en route to Table Bay and Alexandria, 7 April 1942 (date of sailing. Subsequently confirmed as having been torpedoed and sunk by U-654, approximately 300 miles NE of Bermuda, on 10 April 1942
  • Empire Progress - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 200 miles N.W of the Azores while en-route Glasgow - Tampa, 13 April 1942
  • Empire Protector - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat near Cape Palmas while on passage from Cape Town to Freetown, 30 May 1941
  • Empire Purcell - bombed and sunk by German aircraft off the North Cape while en route from Middlesbrough to North Russia via Reykjavík, 27 May 1942
  • Empire Ridge - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat while on passage from Melilla to Garston, 19 May 1941
  • Empire Rosebery - struck a mine and sank two miles N. of Arromanches, 24 August 1944
  • Empire Sailor - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat while approx 300 miles E. of Halifax, NS, 21 November 1942
  • Empire Shackleton - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat while in convoy from Liverpool to Halifax, NS, 28 December 1942
  • Empire Sky - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 300 miles W. of the North Cape while on passage from Hull via Reykjavík to Archangel, 6 November 1942
  • Empire Soldier - sunk due to collision with the F. J. Wolfe while en route from New York to Halifax, NS, and Hull, 16 September 1942
  • Empire Song - sunk due to explosion of cargo of munitions while off Malta, 9 May 1941
  • Empire Spring - disappeared after convoy dispersed and never seen again, 15 February 1942 (date of last sighting)
  • Empire Springbuck - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in North Atlantic while out from Sydney, NS., bound for Leith and London, 10 September 1941
  • Empire Stanley - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat (poss. Japanese) approx 200 miles S.E. of Madagascar, 17 August 1943
  • Empire Star - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in North Atlantic, 23 October 1942
  • Empire Statesman - disappeared on a voyage from Freetown to Middlesbrough via Oban after reporting engine trouble on the 21st, 19 November 1940 (date of sailing)
  • Empire Steel - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in North Atlantic, 24 March 1942
  • Empire Stevenson - torpedoed by German aircraft and blew up while on passage from Hull to Russia via North Cape, 13 September 1942
  • Empire Stream - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 800 miles W. of Cape Finisterre, 25 September 1941
  • Empire Sun - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 150 miles S. of Halifax, NS, while en route from Portland, Me to UK, 7 February 1942
  • Empire Surf - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 600 miles E. of the Orkney Islands, 14 January 1942
  • Empire Thunder - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat off Stornoway, 6 January 1941
  • Empire Tiger - lost in storm en route from Philadelphia and Halifax, NS, bound for the Clyde, distress call received 27 February 1941
  • Empire Tower - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 250 miles W. of Cape Finisterre, 5 March 1943
  • Empire Turnstone - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in the North Atlantic, 22 October 1942
  • Empire Union - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat in North Atlantic while en-route London to St John, NB, 26 December 1942
  • Empire Volunteer - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 250 miles W. of the Hebrides, 15 September 1940
  • Empire Wagtail - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 900 miles E. of Cape Finisterre, 28 December 1942
  • Empire Wave - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat approx 500 miles E. of Cape Farewell, 2 October 1941
  • Empire Whale - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat while in convoy in Bay of Biscay, 29 March 1943
  • Empire Wildebeeste - torpedoed and sunk by U-boat while on passage from Hull to Baltimore when approx 600 miles W. of Philadelphia, 24 January 1942[13]

Post-war disposal

In 1946 numerous of the British-built Empire ships, as well as ex-German prize ships were offered for sale or for three- or five-year charter.


At least three Empire ships survive today. Empire Sandy, built as a tug, has been converted to a schooner and is active on the Great Lakes.[14] ST Cervia, a tug built as Empire Raymond is preserved as a museum ship at Ramsgate, Kent.[15][16] A recent survivor was ST Sea Alarm, formerly Empire Ash, which was controversially scrapped in 1998.[17][18] The former Empire Forth, a cargo ship built in 1939 as Mars is preserved at Kaliningrad, Russia as Vityaz.

The tug Laut Sawu (ex-Empire Humphrey) was still in active service in Indonesia in 2004. The tug Poetto (ex-Empire Stella) was still in service in Italy in 2004.[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) pp 1-2
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) p15
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) pp134-137
  4. Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) pp165-167
  5. Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) pp167-178
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) pp179-188
  7. Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) pp189-193
  8. 8.0 8.1 Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) pp195-202
  9. 9.0 9.1 Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) pp202-204
  10. the second ship to carry the name, the former being torpedoed in 1942
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 Mitchell, W H, and Sawyer, L A (1990). The Empire Ships. London, New York, Hamburg, Hong Kong: Lloyd's of London Press Ltd. ISBN 1-85044-275-4. 
  12. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 14 February 1946. 
  13. Dictionary of Disasters at Sea - Hocking - 1994
  14. Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) p304
  15. Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) p310
  16. Steam Tug "Cervia"
  17. Mitchell and Sawyer (1990) p316
  18. "Examination of witnesses (Questions 120 - 139)". House of Commons Select Committee on Welsh Affairs (1998). October 26, 1998. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  19. "William Watkins Ltd, managed tugs". Thames Tugs. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 

See also


External links

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