Remembering CSL Ships that Served in World War I

  • CSL Ships During World War I

    Click here to discover the story of each CSL ship that served during the First World War.

  • A.E. Ames

    The A.E. Ames left Canada Steamship Lines for saltwater service in 1917.  The ship operated in coastal service and survived the dangers of enemy action and the elements to the end of the conflict.  The vessel was sold and registered in Belgium in 1920 and resold to French interests in 1925.  Renamed Ginette Leborgne, the ship hit a mine and sank west of Sardinia on Sept. 13, 1940, while bringing demobilized troops back from North Africa.
    Photo: Alfred Sagon-King Collection, Skip Gillham

  • A.E. McKinstry/Kindersley

    A.E. McKinstry was requisitioned for overseas service and survived a torpedo attack in the English Channel on October 2, 1918. She was able to return to the Great Lakes and, in 1927, was renamed Kindersley by CSL. The ship headed overseas again in World War II and survived this conflict, but at the conclusion of hostilities was chosen as one of the ships to be scuttled with excess munitions. Kindersley was sunk in the deep water of the Atlantic on October 1, 1946.
    Photo: Tom Wilson Collection, courtesy Skip Gillham

  • Acadian

    The first Acadian joined CSL in 1913 and was requisitioned for war service in 1916. She was loaded with iron ore and on a voyage from Bilbao, Spain, to Ayr, Scotland, when she was torpedoed by U-117 on September 16, 1918. The ship went down about 17 km southwest of Trevose Head and 25 sailors lost their lives.
    Photo: Ted Jones Collection, courtesy Barry Andersen and Skip Gillham

     

    For a list of the crew who perished, view the entry in the Merchant Navy War Dead Registry for Acadian.

  • Armonia

    Armonia spent a brief time sailing for CSL in ocean service.  The 126.56 metre long passenger and freighter carrier was built at Govan, Scotland, in 1891 and joined the company in 1917.  She was torpedoed and sunk on the Bay of Biscay on March 15, 1918, killing seven sailors.

     

    For a list of the crew who perished, view the entry in the Merchant Navy War Dead Registry for Armonia.

  • Bermudian

    The deep sea passenger ship Bermudian joined the company as part of the Quebec Steamship Division in December 1913.  The following year the vessel was used to carry the first contingent of Canadian troops to Europe but returned to CSL service until being requisitioned again in 1917.  By the end of the war Bermudian was listed as sunk at Alexandria, Egypt, but was repaired and eventually sold.
    Photo: Shipsearch Marine, courtesy of Skip Gillham

  • C.A. Jaques

    The canal-sized steamer C.A. Jaques dated from 1909 and joined CSL. in 1913.  It was lost by enemy action on May 1, 1917.  The vessel had just delivered a cargo of coal to Rouen, France, and was returning to the Tyne when it was attacked by U-18.  The ship went down 42 Km WSW of Boulogne, France, and three lives were lost.
    Photo: Jay Bascom Collection, courtesy of Skip Gillham

    For a list of the crew who perished, view the entry in the Merchant Navy War Dead Registry for C.A. Jacques.

  • D.A. Gordon

    D.A. Gordon had been a package freight carrier on the Great Lakes and often carried raw sugar to Wallaceburg or departed that port with the refined product. She spent two years in war service before being torpedoed by U-64 on December 11, 1917. The vessel was en route from Marseilles, France, to Melilla, Spanish Morocco, when she was hit and one member of the crew was lost.
    Photo: Tom Wilson

  • Donnacona

    The first Donnacona was lost on the Atlantic but not as a victim of enemy action. It was carrying raw materials and military supplies when it ran into a massive series of fall storms.  After being buffeted for sixteen days the ship lost its rudder and jury rudder the crew had rigged before the hull cracked.  The vessel went down about 1100 Km off the Azores on Oct. 17, 1915.  Despite the extreme conditions, a British vessel stood by and rescued the crew.
    Photo: Ted Jones Collection, courtesy Barry Andersen and Skip Gillham

  • Doric

    Doric, a member of the original CSL fleet, departed for overseas in 1916. She suffered torpedo damage on May 1, 1917, but was repaired and returned to service. She was sold to French interests in 1918 and, as Buffalo, was torpedoed by U-117 on September 18, 1918, two days after that same German submarine had sunk the Acadian. Doric went down off Godfrey Light, Trevose Head, Cornwall, England.
    Photo: D. Boone 

  • Dundee

    Dundee left the Great Lakes in 1916 never to return. She was sunk by U-55 while sailing northwest of Ives Head, Cornwall, England, on January 31, 1917. The ship was travelling from London to Swansea and one crew member, fireman Alexander Nicholas, was lost.
    Photo: Owen Sound: James Studio

    For a list of the crew who perished, view the entry in the Merchant Navy War Dead Registry for Dundee.

  • Dunelm

    The 78.94 metre long Dunelm was lost with all 20 crew members.  It loaded steel products at Sydney, Nova Scotia, for Manchester, England, and disappeared about Oct. 17, 1915, after passing Cape Race, Newfoundland.  Bad weather, rather than enemy action, was likely the cause of its demise.
    Photo: Marine Museum of the Great Lakes

     

    For a list of the crew who perished, view the entry in the Merchant Navy War Dead Registry for Dunelm.

  • Empress of Fort William

    Empress of Fort William was requisitioned for war service on March 10, 1915, and initially worked in the coal trade between Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Montreal.  It later headed overseas for similar work and was part of a 200-ship convoy when it was lost.  A nearby ship, the liner Maloja, hit a mine on Feb. 27, 1916, and when Empress of Fort William sought to provide aid, it hit another mine and sank about two miles south of Dover, England.  All on board the company ship were saved but 122 lives were lost on Maloja.
    Photo: Skip Gillham Collection

  • Empress of Midland

    Empress of Midland was the victim of a mine. This vessel was lost on the English Channel on March 27, 1916, while about 14 km south of Kentish Knock while on a voyage from Newcastle to Rouen, France, with coal. Eighteen sailors took to the lifeboat while the rest of the crew jumped into the water. They were picked by those in the lifeboat and were saved.
    Photo: Alfred King Collection, courtesy Skip Gillham

  • Fordonian

    Fordonian was an early diesel powered freighter. She was built at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1912 and came to the lakes for the Canadian Interlake Line. She joined the original CSL fleet in 1913 but was requisitioned for saltwater service in 1915. The ship was sold to American interests later in 1916 and survived the war. She also saw Great Lakes service as Yukondoc in the Paterson fleet and as Georgian.
    Photo: Louis Pesha, Skip Gillham Collection

  • Glenmount

    The first Glenmount was built in 1907 to carry rails from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Fort William, Ontario, as Canada's rail network expanded west. The ship was not owned by CSL but was briefly operated by the company. It was sold to American interests for saltwater service in 1917 and then registered in Uruguay as Gorizia later in the year.  It struck a mine and sank in the English Channel while carrying a cargo of brass for the French Government on April 30, 1917.

  • H.M. Pellatt

    H.M. Pellatt was built at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1903 and joined CSL in 1913. It left for saltwater in 1917 and operated around the coasts of France and the United Kingdom before being sold to Belgian interests.  She was later sunk as the Italian ship Scillin by a British gunship off Kuriat, Tunisia, on Nov. 13, 1942.                 Photo: A.E. Young

  • Hamiltonian

    The Hamiltonian left the freshwater lakes for ocean service in 1917.  The steamer was sold the next year to Brazilian buyers.  Later converted to a tanker, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by U-155 northeast of Brazil on July 28, 1942, with the loss of one life.  An earlier U-155 had claimed the company ship Scottish Hero in World War One.
    Photo: Skip Gillham Collection

  • J.H. Plummer

    J.H. Plummer was also an original member of the CSL fleet and it went overseas for war service in 1917.  It was sold to Belgian owners becoming Van Eyck in 1920.  It returned to the Great Lakes and again sailed as J.H. Plummer before returning to the sea.  It was wrecked as Tung An off China on April 10, 1949.
    Photo: Library and Archives of Canada

  • Kenora

    Kenora of 1907 was requisitioned for service in The Great War and, while overseas, the bridge was moved back along the deck for saltwater service. The ship returned toCSL after the war but the bridge was not relocated to the bow until ship modernization in 1940. Kenora arrived at Hamilton for scrapping on November 29, 1959, and was broken up by the Steel Company of Canada.
    Photo: Dan McCormick, Skip Gillham Collection

     

  • Mapleton

    Mapleton saw saltwater service during World War I but was returned to CSL and resumed Great Lakes trading after peace had been achieved. The ship went overseas again during World War II but remained abroad. She was destroyed by fire as Eastern Med at Port Suez, Egypt, on November 22, 1950, and her remains were subsequently scrapped.
    Photo: Skip Gillham Collection 

  • Midland Queen

    Midland Queen was the first Great Lakes canal ship to be lost via enemy action in World War One. The steamer was intercepted by U-68 on August 4, 1915, while on a voyage from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Newport, Monmouthshire, England. The German commander ordered the crew to abandon ship and, once they were safely in the lifeboats, Midland Queen was shelled and sunk just over 100 km southwest of Fastnet Rock off the southern tip of Ireland. The sailors were picked up the next day by a Norwegian vessel.
    Photo: Ken Lowes Collection

  • Neepawah

    Neepawah dated from 1903 and carried package freight for CSL from 1913 until requisition in 1915. She was attacked and captured by U-53 on the Atlantic while carrying pyrites from Spain to France, on April 22, 1917. The crew was taken off and the ship was fixed with time bombs. When detonated, the vessel went to the bottom about 190 km west of Bishop's Head.
    Photo: Ted Jones Collection, courtesy Barry Andersen and Skip Gillham

  • Renvoyle

    The first Renvoyle came to the Great Lakes in 1910 and joined CSL for brief service in 1913.  She was requisitioned for war service in 1915 and survived the conflict only to remain overseas when the battles had ended. This ship stranded in the Bay of Biscay on December 4, 1920.  Three salvage attempts in 1921 were unsuccessful and the hull was left to be broken apart by the sea.
    Photo: Paul Denby Collection, courtesy Skip Gillham

  • Sault Ste. Marie, courtesy Roger LeLievre, Skip Gillham Collection
    Rosedale

    Rosedale was requisitioned and went overseas in May 1916.  While she survived the war, she was lost following a collision with Luella in the Bristol Channel on April 8, 1919. The vessel dated from 1888 and joined CSL from Inland Lines when the company was formed in 1913.
    Photo: Sault Ste. Marie, courtesy Roger LeLievre, Skip Gillham Collection

  • Scottish Hero

    The 96.16 metre long Scottish Hero was completed at Sunderland, England, in August 1896.  It was cut in two and brought to the Great Lakes in sections in 1906 and left the same way in 1915.  The ship was engaged in the coal trade around the east coast but was attacked by U-155 on its first voyage back across the Atlantic on June 10, 1917.  Carrying finished steel at the time, fireman L. Young was lost when the vessel sank.
    Photo: Ted Jones Collection, courtesy of Barry Andersen and Skip Gillham

    For a list of the crew who perished, view the entry in the Merchant Navy War Dead Registry for Scottish Hero.

  • Strathcona

    The bulk carrier Strathcona was rebuilt to carry package freight in 1911. She was requisitioned in 1915 and captured by U-78 near Ronaldshay, England, and then sunk by enemy bombers. Three on board were taken prisoner while another nine sailors were lost when the coal laden steamer was sunk.
    Photo: Skip Gillham Collection

    For a list of the crew who perished, view the entry in the Merchant Navy War Dead Registry for Strathcona.

  • Tagona

    Seven sailors lost their lives when Tagona was attacked by U-55 and sunk about 8 kms southeast of Trevose Head, England, while on a voyage from Bilbao, Spain, to the Clyde with a cargo of iron ore on May 16, 1918.  The German submarine had also sunk the company ship Dundee.  Eight lives were lost in the second attack.
    Photo: Jay Bascom Collection, courtesy of Skip Gillham

    For a list of the crew who perished, view the entry in the Merchant Navy War Dead Registry for Tagona.

  • Winona

    Winona is another CSL ship to serve during both world wars. The vessel headed to sea in 1915 and survived a grounding en route on April 14, as well as a collision at sea with Tonsberg on December 28, 1915. She carried coal from Great Britain to Sweden after the war and resumed Great Lakes service in 1921. She returned to sea for good in November 1939 and, on June 7, 1944, carried supplies to the beaches of Normandy, the day after the Allied troops came ashore. Winona was eventually sold, was renamed Eddie, and headed to the Far East for a new career. She became a storm victim and was wrecked while transporting logs off the Philippines on September 7, 1956.
    Photo: Marine Historical Society of Detroit Collection, courtesy Skip Gillham

     

When “The War to End All Wars” erupted in Europe in 1914, it was not long before Canada was called to assist on the battlefields and on the sea. Ships were needed faster than they could be built so the call went out to acquire existing tonnage to carry vital supplies, equipment and soldiers.

Back in Canada, the newly created Canada Steamship Lines was barely a year old and it was asked to contribute ships and manpower to aid the cause of the Allied forces. The company responded to the need and soon its ships, mostly built for Great Lakes trading, were crossing the Atlantic to lend a hand.

Some of CSL's carriers could sail right through the small, existing locks of the Third Welland Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway. As the war progressed, one CSL ship and some larger American upper lakes freighters, were cut in two, bulk-headed and towed to the St. Lawrence in sections. There the parts were rejoined and they entered the fray.

Most of the Great Lakes ships were involved in coastal trading overseas but some were also called upon for transatlantic service. The casualty rate was high and a number of company ships succumbed to attacks on or beneath the surface of the sea or from the air. Most included loss of life.

Casualties

Sixteen former members of the CSL fleet were sunk during the war, most of them torpedoed by a German U-boat. A pair of ships, Acadian and Doric, were sunk two days apart in 1917 by the same U-117 in the vicinity of Trevose Head, Cornwall, England.

A total of eleven CSL carriers succumbed to a naval attack.  In addition to the above pair, Armonia, C.A. Jaques, D.A. Gordon, Dundee, Neepawah, Scottish Hero, Strathcona and Tagona were all torpedoed and sunk while Midland Queen went down as a result of enemy gunfire. Three more, Empress of Fort William, Empress of Midland and Glenmount all sank after hitting a mine. In addition, Donnacona and Dunelm were lost at sea due to stormy weather.

Survivors

Another twelve CSL ships survived the wartime battles with nature and the enemy but not all returned to company service.

Interestingly, three of the survivors of the First World War, A.E. McKinstry, Mapleton and Winona, resumed Great Lakes trading and then headed back overseas when the Second World War broke out. Both continued sailing through the duration of this war as well. The first ship, which had been renamed Kindersley, was scuttled in 1946 with a cargo of excess munitions. Mapleton was sold only to be lost by a fire in 1950.  Winona was also sold and headed to the Far East for a new career only to became a storm victim in 1956.

Seven other CSL ships that survived of the first war were later lost. Fordonian, J.H. Plummer and Renvoyle were wrecked while Rosedale sank via collision. Three more were casualties of World War Two under other names and owners. The former A.E. Ames hit a mine, H.M. Pellatt was sunk by gunfire and Hamiltonian was torpedoed.

Bermudian, a deep sea passenger and freight carrier was later sold while Kenora was the only one of the World War One veterans to finish its sailing career on the Great Lakes for CSL. It was sold for scrap in 1959. 

Now operating in its second century, CSL can proudly look back on its contribution to win The Great War that began a hundred years ago when the company was in its infancy.

Contributed by Skip Gillham