The Empress of Ireland disaster

old photo of the liner in a port

Empress of Ireland on the Mersey in 1906, from the Maritime Archives collection, reference MCR 17/18

The Empress of Ireland set sail from Liverpool for the last time on 15 May 1914. On 29 May 1914, she left Quebec to make her homeward journey back to Liverpool.

Tragedy struck at 2.30am. Most of the 1,057 passengers and 420 crew were asleep. In thick fog on the St Lawrence River the Norwegian collier SS Storstad collided with her. The liner sank in less than 15 minutes with the loss of more then 1,000 lives. 

The loss of the 'Forgotten Empress' has always been overshadowed by the Titanic and Lusitania disasters. However, more passengers (840) died on the Empress than on either Lusitania (786), or Titanic (817). 172 crew, mainly from the Liverpool area, also died.  217 passengers and 248 crew survived.

old photo of crowd of people on ship's deck

Photograph of emigrants on the Empress of Ireland from a postcard dated July 1911 from the Maritime Archives collection, reference PR 478.

Passengers and crew

In total there were 1,057 passengers on board the Empress of Ireland. This included 138 children. It also included around 170 members of the Salvation Army, on their way to London for a conference. 840 passengers died, 217 survived. Only four of the children survived, and around 124 members of the Salvation Army lost their lives.

Of the 420 crew, 172 died and 248 survived. Read some of the crew's storieson this website.

Below you can download lists of the crew and passengers. The lists were researched and compiled by Craig Stringer and Geoffrey E Whitfield.