The Empress of Asia

The Empress of Asia

Exciting News and an Open Invitation for Empress of Asia Visitors

The host of this website, along with a fellow Canadian researcher have embarked on an exciting new research effort to learn even more about the Empress of Asia, her crew, and passengers. Whether you are a first-time or longtime regular visitor to this website, we invite you to share any information you may have about the ship or people who sailed on her.

We’re looking for personal stories or connections we can follow up on as part of this new research project geared towards the ship’s ‘human’ history and remembrance.

Your family history may include a relative who sailed on the Empress of Asia as a passenger, perhaps as a new immigrant, business person, politician, diplomat, or missionary. Or perhaps your relative was part of the crew, or as a soldier coming home from the war. If so, we’d love to hear from you as soon as possible. Even just a little information can yield so much by providing new insight. As we work to expand our research, we are also committed to helping you with any queries.

So please come aboard and help us further explore the history of this storied ship and the lives of those who sailed the oceans in the age of steam!

Anyone with historical accounts or information on the EMPRESS OF ASIA please Email Us at

New Book Sheds Light on the Empress of Asia and the Chinese Labour Corps

The storied history of the Empress of Asia and her sister ship Empress of Russia includes a valuable wartime role few people know much about, until now.

In his new book, Harry Livingstone’s Forgotten Men: Canadians and the Chinese Labour Corps, author Dan Black shows how these great ships were desperately needed to transport Chinese labour destined for the Western Front. Both Empresses made repeated journeys across the Pacific to Canada’s West Coast, where the labourers boarded transcontinental trains to the East Coast. More than 82,000 Chinese reached the Western Front this way, and it’s a remarkable First World War story.

The December/January 2020/2021 issue of the Canadian Historical Review stated the book is “traditional history at its best, presenting an exhaustive collection of material in a meticulous fashion to tell a fascinating story in clear and concise prose.

Meanwhile, the popular United Kingdom website, The Long, Long Trail, which focuses on First World War research, stated: “For anyone interested in the Chinese Labour Corps it will be simply invaluable, but it goes further than that for it helps in developing our understanding of the global conflict and of the extraordinary logistical efforts that had to be undertaken to fight it.”

The book can be purchased or ordered through major bookstores, online through James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Toronto,, or from A limited number of signed copies can also be purchased directly from the author at

Historical Overview

The Empress of Asia, built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering at Govan Scotland, was launched in 1912 and completed during May of 1913. The EMPRESS OF ASIA was owned by Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd., and with the exception of assignments during both World Wars she spent her entire commercial life transporting cargo and passengers from the Orient to British Columbia, Canada.

During World War I the EMPRESS OF ASIA became an auxiliary cruiser and was deployed in Asia and the Middle East and later served as a troop carrier on the Atlantic.

The following are the two flags that the EMPRESS OF ASIA flew:


The Canadian Pacific Steamships flag:   

The Canadian “Red Ensign”: 

During World War II, the ship was converted to a troop carrier in January of 1941 and left Vancouver the following month for Liverpool.  The EMPRESS OF ASIA carried troops from Halifax to Liverpool, supported the Allied campaign in North Africa through a visit to the Red Sea. The final voyage of the Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd. ship EMPRESS OF ASIA began on November 1941, when the ship sailed from Liverpool carrying troops and supplies and bound for Africa, Bombay and Singapore. While in the South Atlantic World War Two expanded to include Japan. On February 5th, 1942 while in convoy approaching Singapore the EMPRESS OF ASIA was lost by enemy action.  Most of the Deck Crew and Engine Crew managed to escape the surrender of Singapore and were repatriated.  Most of the Catering Crew served at the Singapore General Hospital after the loss of the EMPRESS OF ASIA and were interned as Prisoners of War.

Empress of Asia at Vancouver

 Empress of Asia Specifications 

 Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering at Govan Scotland
Completed during May of 1913
Official Number: ON135226  
Port of Registry: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Overall Length: 592 feet
Width: 68.2 feet
Gross Tonnage: 16090 tons
Net Tonnage: 8883 tons
Lost as the result of enemy activity off Sultan Shoal on February 5th 1942

Empress of Asia at Victoria

Thank you for visiting! This page is sponsored by the Empress of Asia Research Group (E.A.R.G.).

Nelson Oliver – Host

Lisa Oliver – Researcher

Graham McLean – Archival Researcher

Siobhan Oliver – Web Assistant

Ryan Oliver – Webmaster

*    All images and text at are the property of the 

Empress of Asia Research Group unless otherwise stated. *

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