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Remembered Today:

Capacities of troop ships


marc leroux
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My grandfather sailed from Halifax to Liverpool on the SS Melita, which in peacetime was rated for 1,800 passangers. Does anyone have any idea how many soldiers would they have crammed on board?

TIA

marc

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Marc,

Not Great War specific, but in WWII the RMS Queen Mary had a pre-war 1900 passenger capacity and was known to have had up to 15000 troops crammed into her at a time.

Joe Sweeney

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Given accounts of troop transports in both WWs, they seemed to cram in as many troops as was possible and no doubt many of the leisure amenities would have also been rigged out as dormitories: if a space would take a bunk it would no doubt be filled with one. Officers usually travelled 1st class and had access to lounges and dining halls etc.

The Lancastria, which was sunk off St Nazaire in 1940 and containing some of the last of the BEF, had about 6,000 aboard at the time. (Although this was obviously at a very difficult time and may have led to her being severely overcrowded.)

Not too certain about her peacetime passenger capacity, but in the Falklands Conflict the Canberra carried both the Para and Marine forces (3-4 large battalions?) and host of other supporting troops - I think also a hospital unit - in addition to the crew and any necessary supplies.

Richard

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Given accounts of troop transports in both WWs, they seemed to cram in as many troops as was possible

Not only in both WWs as anybody who had the pleasure of going Harwich - Hook of Holland on the Empire Parkstone and the Empire Wansbeck in the 50s will confirm! From memory, the mattress above was about 6 inches from your nose. Embarking soldiers were usually told that the ship had gone down but been salvaged and put back in service. Phil B

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I came across this interesting nominal list of officers and men returning to Canada on the ship, link.

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Marc, what year did your Grandfather sail on the Melita? I realised from reading a bit more there were two, the second one being a Canadian Pacific ship (was the first one as well?) launched in 1918. This ship was originally being built for Hamburg America Line.

There is an interesting section here on this site about the merchant navy. The rest of the site is interesting as well.

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Marc

The SS Melita Left Halifax only once with troops it was on April 17 1917 and she carried 1906 troops is this what you needed .

Best regards

N.S. Regt.

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Chris, N.S.

Yes, there were at least 2, possibly 3 SS Melita's. My Grandfather sailed on Feb 9, 1918 on the return portion of the maiden voyage. I would have to go back to my notes, but I did verify the service record against the ship sailings, so I'm pretty sure that part correct.

Chris, it was the ship that you found, part of the Canadian Pacific Ocean Services fleet that was appropriated by the British. I didn't know that it was attacked in July, though, so that was a good link.

In 1917 why would there have only been 1,906 troops on a ship bound for England?

marc

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Marc

I feel your grandfather may have boarded elsewhere and the ship sailed to Halifax

to meet up with a convoy. Nova's Scotias part in the great war list I think all the Ships that carried troops boarded in Halifax. It says in all 284,455 men boarded ships in the city I am sorry I hit the wrong key when I entered the date it should be April 17 1918. The reason for the lack of troops 1906 on the Melita I think is simply the lack of volunteers conscription was just starting to get rolling for this reason. another reason why I feel he boarded elsewhere was the Halifax explosion. The City suffered 1500 to 2000 dead about 9000 wounded 6000 people were homeless 1600 homes destroyed and a further 12000 buildings damaged. The city had 2.5 square Kms. flattened we were in no shape to be housing thousands of soldiers comming in from all parts of the country. It took years to rebuild the city although for the month of Feb. 1918 13519 boarded from Halifax Jan. 1918 was only 1660 I guess making up for lost time. I can scan the shipping information if you are interested. Troop numbers ranged from 8 to 5999 on board single ships listed by date ship and total troops on board. hope this helps.

Best regards

N.S.Regt

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Thank's N.S.

The information I came up with showed that Melita left Quebec City, sailed to Halifax, then Newfoundland then Liverpool. It's possible that his record was stamped with the last Canadian port-of-call, and that he embarked in Quebec. This would have made more sense for troops from Alberta and I always wondered why they would put them on a train all the way to Halifax when they could have left from Quebec City.

Would you by any chance have any info on the SS Saturnia that landed in Halifax on 14 April 1919? That is the ship he came back on.

Sadly, my knowledge of the Halifax Explosion comes from the brief entry in history books, Barometer Rising, and two visits to musuems in Halifax. These were all before I started to look more into WW1, so I've always divorced the two. Obviously there would have been a huge impact on ship/material movements.

Thanks

marc

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The great German liner Vaterland was interned in the US & when US entered war converted to troop ship, wish I could remember how many it held but it was very many.

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Marc

Sorry no information on returned soldiers the only mention of the Saturnia was leaving Halifax on March 17 1918 and 100 soldiers boarded from Halifax. I feel you assessment of your Grandfathers trip over is correct that Halifax was the last port of call and why Halifax was mentoined as the embarkation port. I think the higher numbers of soldiers leaving in Feb. than the previous months was that many were sent to Halifax to maintain order and help in recovery and rebuilding.

When the civil authorities got things orgainzed the men were not needed as bad as the call for reinforcements and were sent overseas. The last troops bording from Halifax was on July 3 1918 and in that month only 575 men boarded in Halifax on two ships. I also wonder if there was not more men on the Melita that the 1906 since the figures only account for men boarding in Halifax. The only figures I know 100% are for the Saxonia which sailed May 20 1915 carring the 25th and the 22nd battalions they are 2282 just to give you at least one accurate number. Just for intrest is a picture of the Saxionia with the 25th and 22nd on board and another which I am not sure of. and for all that seen that thread on strange Canadian headgear look at the Hat on the man in the bottom photo lower right hand side

Best Regards

N.S.Regt.

post-24-1091571293.jpg

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