Wednesday 29 May 2013
The Sinking of An Empress
Many of you know that I am a member of the Salvation Army. My family have been members going back 5 generations, to the early days in the late 1800s.
Today (as well as being my birthday - scroll down to see my previous post) is the anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Empress of Ireland, an ocean liner that sank in the Saint Lawrence River following a collision with the Storstad, a Norwegian collier, in the early hours of 29 May 1914.
Of the 1,477 persons on board the ship, the accident claimed the lives of 1,012. The number of deaths is the largest of any Canadian maritime accident in peacetime. (1,502 people lost their lives in the sinking of Titanic).
The passengers included 167 members of the Salvation Army, including the Territorial Commander for the Canada and members of the Canadian Staff Band, who were travelling to London for the first international conference.
My friend's grandfather was on the Empress of Ireland and survived. He became an Officer (pastor) in the Salvation Army because of the events that night. Previously, he was an accountant with an Insurance Company, but during the disaster, he promised that if he made it out alive, he would dedicate his life to God.
My great-grandfather was in the Peterborough Temple band, that was sent after the disaster to the conference to take the place of the Canadian Staff Band. At each performance, seats were set up in band formation,with white ribbons on each chair, in remembrance of the members of the Staff Band and the others who perished that night.
This event is an important part of Canadian and Salvation Army history. As years pass, fewer and fewer people remember or even know of it. The last survivor passed away in 1995 at the age of 88. Each year, remembrance ceremonies are held in Quebec, near the site of the sinking, and the Salvation Army holds a remembrance ceremony at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, to remember all those who perished that night. Next year, a special commemorative is being organized to mark the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland.