Samuel Robinson - The first Captain

Captain Samuel Robinson - THE VANCOUVER PROVINCE B.C. MAGAZINE December 18 1954Samuel Robinson was the first commander of the EMPRESS OF ASIA.  In 1913 he travelled to Great Britain to bring the ship home to Vancouver on the Maiden Voyage.  Departing Liverpool on June 14th 1913, a course was sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  Vancouver was reached on August 13th 1913.

Following the arrival at Vancouver, the EMPRESS OF ASIA entered the mercantile trans-Pacific trade.  Captain Robinson soon made a record breaking run across the Pacific.  The crossing that concluded at Victoria on May 3rd 1914 covered the distance from Yokohama in 9 days, 2 hours, and 44 minutes at an average speed: 19.19 knots.

The EMPRESS OF ASIA was requisitioned by the Royal Navy on August 3rd 1914, and the ship was quickly converted into an Auxiliary Cruiser.  A complement of Royal Navy Officers assumed command, and only Officers with Royal Naval Reserve status were retained.  C. Walcott of the Royal Navy became Commander, and Samuel Robinson, a member of the Royal Naval Reserve, remained on board as Navigational Officer.

In 1914 the EMPRESS OF ASIA was engaged in the pursuit of the German raider EMBDEN in the Indian Ocean and in 1915 the ship was sent to the Middle East and the Red Sea.

On October 22nd 1915, upon completion of Middle East assignments, the ship was released from war duties and returned to her owners, Canadian Pacific Ocean Services.   When the EMPRESS OF ASIA ended her career as an Auxiliary Cruiser and re-entered the Pacific mercantile trade, Captain Robinson ended his association with the EMPRESS OF ASIA and assumed the command of the sister ship EMPRESS OF RUSSIA.

Samuel Robinson had a long and illustrious career at sea.  He was born in Hull, England, and went to sea at the age of fourteen on the IMBROS.  He joined Canadian Pacific in 1895 and retired in 1932.  In the course of a distinguished career with the company, he became commander of the ATHENIAN, MONTEAGLE, EMPRESS OF JAPAN (1), EMPRESS OF ASIA, EMPRESS OF RUSSIA, EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA, EMPRESS OF FRANCE, EMPRESS OF CANADA and the EMPRESS OF JAPAN (2).

Captain Robinson was in command of the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA when the catastrophic earthquake of September 1st 1923 occurred.  The earthquake struck just as the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA was preparing to depart Yokohama.

The earthquake destroyed much of Yokohama and for a while the ship was threatened by fires and burning oil that engulfed the waterfront.  The EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA had some difficulty in escaping this danger.  No tugboats were available to assist the liner, and while attempting to pull away unassisted a propeller became fouled with the anchor chain of the STEEL NAVIGATOR that was moored close by.  As well, damage was sustained from a collision with the LISBON MARU, which was carried into the side of the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA by strong winds that arose after the earthquake.  Fortunately, after much delicate manoeuvring, safe anchorage was eventually secured.

Captain Samuel Robinson - THE DAILY PROVINCE  April 2, 1932The EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA remained in Japan until September 12th 1923, providing assistance to the victims of the earthquake.  Over 2,000 injured or homeless were brought to the ship for medical treatment and support.  The EMPRESS OF CANADA arrived in Yokohama on September 3rd 1923, and many of the victims being cared for on the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA were transferred to the EMPRESS OF CANADA, and then carried to relief camps at Kobe. Prior to leaving Japan the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA also sailed to Kobe with refugees from the earthquake, arriving on September 11th 1923.  Grateful passengers on the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA presented Captain Robinson and the ship with a bronze plaque acknowledging the aid and assistance provided during the aftermath of the earthquake.  The plaque was attached to the structure of the ship.  When the EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA was being scrapped in 1952, the plaque was removed from the ship and presented to Captain Robinson at a ceremony in Vancouver.

In 1924 Captain Robinson was transferred to the EMPRESS OF CANADA to command the ship during a world cruise.  Upon completion of the world cruise the EMPRESS OF CANADA returned to the Pacific and the mercantile trade between British Columbia and the Orient.  In 1928 Canadian Pacific Steamships decided to send the EMPRESS OF CANADA to Great Britain to have the engine machinery refitted.  To fill the vacancy left by the departure of the EMPRESS OF CANADA, the EMPRESS OF FRANCE was transferred from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  The ships rendezvoused in Hong Kong and the Captains and crews of the two were exchanged.  Captain Robinson became commander of the EMPRESS OF FRANCE and remained so until late 1929 when he once again resumed command of the EMPRESS OF CANADA.

In 1930 the EMPRESS OF JAPAN (2) was launched on the River Clyde in Scotland and Captain Robinson travelled to Great Britain and brought the new liner home to Vancouver.  The new ship arrived in Victoria on August 22nd 1930 and had made the run from Yokohama to British Columbia in a record breaking time of.8 days 6 hours and 27 minutes at an average speed: 21.04 knots.

This quick time was soon surpassed; on April 17th, 1931 the EMPRESS OF JAPAN (2) reached Victoria having made the crossing from Yokohama in a record setting time of 7 day 20 hours and 16 minutes.  The King and Queen of Siam were passengers on this voyage and the King of Siam recognized this achievement by inducting Captain Robinson into The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant.

Samuel Robinson retired when the EMPRESS OF JAPAN (2) reached Vancouver on April 2nd 1932.  This last voyage concluded 37 years of service with Canadian Pacific Steamship and a distinguished career that was filled with many accomplishments and achievements.

Captain Robinson won many honours, orders and awards that recognized his accomplishments and sacrifices.  Some of these are listed below:

Commander of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire  -  awarded December 28th 1923

Cross of the Second Class of the Order of Naval Merit (with white badge)  -  awarded by His Majesty the King of Spain, in recognition of valuable services provided to the Spanish delegation following the Yokohama earthquake

The Imperial Japanese Medal of Merit with Red Ribbon  -  awarded by the Emperor of Japan and presented by the Hon. Teruo Hachiya, Japanese Consul in Vancouver

Lloyd’s Silver Medal for Meritorious Service at Sea

Life-Saving Order of St. John of Jerusalem

The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant  -  appointed by King Prajadhipok of Siam who was a passenger on the EMPRESS OF JAPAN (2) on the record setting voyage of April 1931.

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