ON THE TRAIL OF
H.M.C.S. PRINCE ROBERT
and sister ships:
PRINCE HENRY & PRINCE DAVID
Information Collated in England by
I often turn to long-time family friend Ross Neale for help in my research for the Army, Navy and Air Force websites which I have created and maintain. Ross is the founder and curator of the XII Manitoba Dragoons & 26 Fd. Rgt. RCA Museum in the Brandon Armoury. Ross suggested that I contact his cousin, Robin Neale, in England, for assistance. In response to my request for information on the HMCS PRINCE ROBERT and her sister ships, the PRINCE HENRY AND PRINCE DAVID, Robin sent the following correspondence. Our sincere thanks go out to him for the time and effort he has put into collating the following information:
Dear Mr Hillman,
With regard to your current project H.M.C.S. Prince Robert, I will look into the history of this ship and forward it as soon as I can. It is nice to think that I might be able to assist someone who has put a lot of effort and time into the running of the Dragoons Museum and their web site. I found it very interesting!
Dear Mr Hillman,
Ref::- H.M.C.S. PRINCE ROBERT.
As you said, she was built in 1930, She weighed in at 6,892 gross registered tons. One of three sisterships the other two being the PRINCE DAVID and the PRINCE HENRY it was this vessel that carried Ross from the shores of England to Normandy, it's a small world !!
Her Naval Pennant No. was F.56. And she was commissioned as an Armed Merchant Cruiser during December 1940. Her armament at this time consisted of 4 - 6inch (4 - 1). 2 - 3inch (2 x 1).
It was recorded that she was an A.A. vessel in 1943 and the next bit of info found was she was sold out of the service in 1948 and became the CHARLTON SOVEREIGN.
The source of this info:-
Warships of W.W.11 by H.T.Lenton & J.J.Colledge, published by Ian Allen in 1964.
Is there any more details you require i.e. voyage records, dates or ships details ??.
I will continue to send more info as and when its found !
As you can see, I had a bit of good luck in my research into the vessel that your Father served in! I checked through all my reference books on shipping that I have collected over the years but to my dismay I only came across a few small references to the PRINCE ROBERT. This meant that I had to check at our County Records Office at the County town of Maidstone, about 10 miles away. This was not a problem as I needed to go there myself. After some hours searching I managed to find some of the following info for you.
With ref; to my Cousin, Ross Neale's trip on the PRINCE HENRY. I have taken the liberty to enclose just a small part of her wartime history in the hope that he might be able to input his part in her short sea trip ? Well I hope that these small chapters in your, and Ross's family histories help you as much as I have enjoyed researching them. Keep in touch, and if I can be of any help in the future please do not hesitate in contacting me. Regards to you and Ross, from 'over the pond'. Robin.
HMCS PRINCE ROBERT
Builders;-Cammell, Laird & CO ltd. Birkenhead, 1930.
6,983 gross tons ~. 366ft (111m) x 57ft (17m)
Engines: Steam turbines - twin-screw - speed 23 knots.
Passengers: 319 first class, 46 deck.
In the 1920s Canadian National Railways decided to break with the Canadian Pacific's monopoly on the inta-coastal trade in the Pacific north-west by ordering three identical ships that would challenge CPs 'Princesses' on the tri-city service between Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. the first to arrive at Vancouver was the PRINCE ROBERT in 1930, followed in that year in quick succession, the PRINCE HENRY and PRINCE DAVID. All were dispatched on the V.V.S. servicewith a call at Prince Rupert, CNs rail terminus.
Passengers had the use of five decks. the lowest was C-Deck where the dining-room was located aft, and above on B-Deck were mainly cabins, with a small Georgian Court aft. Next up was A-Deck containing cabins and a music-room aft, this was followed by ywo berth cabins with an old English smoking-room aft. the Sun-Deck was available for deck sports and tanning. All cabins were outside, with 42 cabins possessing private facilities. Decor and furnishings were modest and in tune with the ships route.
The Depression affected all businesses, and the CN tri-city service suffered accordingly, CP proved themselves the better company, and, with revenues down CN withdrew from the service in September 1931. The PRINCE ROBERT sailed east to undertake three trips between Boston and the West Indies, one trip from Halifax to South America and one trip between Halifax and Vancouver. From the 13th of June to the 31st August 1932, she was employed on the Vancouver-Alaska service calling at Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Taku, Glacier Bay and Juneau, completing the round trip in seven days, with the minimum fare starting at $90 for an outside upper and lower cabin.
Following a two year lay-up, she commenced summer sailings in 1935 which were advertised as cruises, and undertook four such voyages that year. Each lasted 11 days, offering many ports of call for $100 to$215 for a de-luxe suite with sitting-room, two lower beds and a private bath. These cruises were repeated each year until 1939.
When Britain declared war on Germany on the 3rd September 1939. (My wedding anniversary date as well!!) all the ships were requisitioned by the Admiralty. PRINCE ROBERT was called to duty that year and was extensively rebuilt into an Anti-Aircraft Cruiser. She had one of her three funnels removed at this time. She served world-wide, calling at ports in the Pacific, Indian and Mediterranean regions.
Decommissioned in 1948 she was purchased by Charlton Steam Shipping Co., a Greek shipping firm headed by one Mr Chandris (the Greek shipping magnet). She was taken into a shipyard, the vessel now looking a little shabby, and was refitted to carry refugees. she was given the name CHARLTON SOVEREIGN and was listed as being now 5,516 gross tons. She operated between Europe, South America and Australia until 1951 when engine trouble forced Charlton to offer her for sale.
What seemed an unlikely candidate for further sailing she was purchased by the Italian firm of Fratelli Grimaldi. and was sent to an Italian shipyard for an extensive rebuild and renamed LUCANIA. Her straight stem was lengthened by 15 feet and given a sharp rake, modern funnels replaced her old ones and her superstructure was built up foreward to accommodate first class public rooms. Boasting two outdoor swimming-pools and accommodation for over 700 passengers in two classes, the LUCANIA now was some 6,723 gross tons. She commenced sailings in 1952 on Grimaldi's Italy-West Indies run. However she became outclassed by larger tonnage shipping, she was laid-up in 1962, becoming the last vessel to wear Grimaldi's colours. She was subsequently broken up that year at Vado, near Leghorn.
H.M.C.S. PRINCE HENRY
She was built , like her two sisters in 1930 and arrived at Vancouver on the 21st of June 1930. In 1938 she was sold to Clark Steamship Co. for $500,000 and renamed NORTH STAR. In 1939 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and transformed into an Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC) and renamed H.M.S. PRINCE HENRY. She was commissioned on the 4th of December 1940.
It was in 1943 she was again taken into Dockyard hands and converted from the AMC into a Landing Ship (Infantry) LS(I) carrying 444 Troops. Ross's training over, the invasion of Europe was on. On the 2nd June the Canadian Troops of the 3rd Infantry Div. boarded her in Berth 37, Southampton Docks on the south coast of England as part of the assault Group J.4. This included 147 Canadian/Scottish and 128 Support Troops. On the 5th June at 21.10 hours they headed out from their anchorage in Area 18 off the town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight and slipped down the waters of the Solent and out into the English Channel bound for 'JUNO' Beach on the coast of Normandy in occupied France. After a choppy crossing with other ships of the invasion fleet she arrived and anchored off the hamlet of Courseulles and waited to launch her Landing Craft. Off shore lay rocky shoals so rather than try to find a gap through them the Canadians chose to land ten minutes after the rest, letting the higher tide take them over those shoals. After this assault all but one of the PRINCE HENRY'S Landing-Craft returned, the unlucky one had been mined on or near the beach, the others were hoisted on board while she took onboard 56 wounded that were taken below to her improvised Sick-Bay. I do not know what ship carried Ross back to England ?
After the war she was sold to the Ministry of Transport and renamed EMPIRE PARKESTON for service on the English Channel carrying Troops to and from Britain as part of the British Army of Occupation. She was laid-up in 1961 and scrapped in the following year.
HMCS PRINCE DAVID
As for the last of this trio, the PRINCE DAVID sailed under the CN banner but whilst cruising in 1934 on route from Boston to Bermuda she struck a reef on the 13th March near Hamilton and nearly sank. Fortunately she was pumped out and repaired and returned to service later that year. like her two sister she saw strenuous service during the war and in 1948 she was sold to Charlton Steam Shipping Co. who renamed her CHARLTON MONARCH. Engine troubles necessitated her sale in 1951 to the scrapyard.
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