The RMS Empress of Ireland sinking resulted in the deaths of more passengers than the RMS Titanic disaster.
Why has the RMS Empress of Ireland tragedy been forgotten? The sinking of the RMS Empress Of Ireland hit Canada hard and was the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history. Occurring just two years after the RMS Titanic disaster, and a year before the loss of the RMS Lusitania, it is essentially forgotten.
The Empress disaster does not have the drama of the Titanic’s iceberg collision, nor is it the subject of countless films and books-or excessive hype. It carried ordinary people, unlike the Titanic’s millionaires and aristocrats. The Empress was not a leviathan, nor did it ply the popular route from New York to Southampton, England. There were enough lifeboats for all on board and it was not a maiden voyage. Nor did the Empress foundering have the political repercussions of the torpedoing of the Lusitania.
Three months after the Empress sank, the First World War broke out. The tragedy was quickly overtaken by death in Europe on an unfathomable scale. The loss from the Empress paled in companion with the wholesale slaughter wrought by modern warfare. The Empress simply passed into “forgotten” history.
It took just 14 minutes for the St. Lawrence River to swallow the Canadian Pacific’s RMS Empress of Ireland in the pre-dawn of May 29, 1914. The disaster claimed 1,012 lives. More passengers, but less crew, perished in this tragedy than in the infamous Titanic sinking of 1912, and the catastrophe ranks as Canada’s worst maritime disaster.
The Empress’s sinking is one of a triumvirate of ocean liner disasters between 1912 and 1915 that took over 3,700 souls. The other two ships were the Titanic and Lusitania, and the stories of their losses are well known. What follows is the largely forgotten history of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland.