Outward Bound: The R.M.S. Grampian

William Rob Dewar and the other members of the 18th Battalion were transshipped on the R.M.S Grampian.

Excerpt from the “Fourth Canadian Infantry Brigade; history of operations, April, 1915, to demobilization

The 18th Canadian Infantry Battalion, under Command of Lieut.- Colonel E. S. Wigle, was raised in Western Ontario (M.D. No. I),  and left LONDON (Ont.) on April 12th, 1915. It sailed on S.S.  ” Grampian ” from HALIFAX on April 17th, and arrived at WEST SANDLING on April 29th.

R.M.S Grampian
R.M.S Grampian

The book Duty Nobly Done describes the voyage on the R.M.A. Grampian thusly:

“In contrast to the arrival of the men of the First Contingent, who formed the 1st Canadian Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and were sent to England in a large convoy, the men of the 2nd Canadian Division came by the single shipload, as shipping to transport them became available. The Battalion left Canadian shores late on 18 April and sailed into a storm. It was two days before many of the men became accustomed to the pitching motion of the ship. McKeough ate lightly and slept frequently until he made the adjustment to the motion of the ship. The ship traveled with its lights blacked out to avoid detection by enemy submarines. After two days, the weather improved and the trip was more like a pleasure-cruise. The Battalion’s musicians gave concerts on the Promenade Deck each morning and afternoon. A program of light physical exercise was begun to keep the men from getting “soft” during the voyage, although the deck space was limited for this type of activity. On 23 April, S.S. Northland, carrying hospital units from Toronto, drew along side the Grampian and the two vessels completed the journey to England together. On 25 April, the Royal Navy cruiser, H.M.S. Cumberland rendezvoused with the transports and escorted them to a point where two small anti-submarine destroyers would escort them into the Bristol Channel. The Grampian docked at Avonmouth, near the city of Bristol on the morning of 29 April. The men were off the ship and onto the cars of a Great Western Railway train in less than three hours. They had just disembarked from the train at Folkestone and were forming up to march to camp when a hospital train full of wounded Canadians passed through the station on the way to London. These casualties dampened the spirits of the men a little. They marched the last two kilometres to West Sandling Camp near Folkestone, Kent on the English Channel and were served dinner by 7:00 PM.

Antal, Sandy, and Kevin R. Shackleton. “Arrival in England.” Duty Nobly Done: The Official History of the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment. 1st ed. Windsor, ON: Walkerville Pub., 2006. 171-172. Print.

R.M.S. Grampian

The GRAMPIAN was built by A.Stephen & Sons, Glasgow in 1907 for the Allan Line. She was a 10,187 gross ton ship, length 485.7ft x beam 60.2ft, one funnel, two masts, twin screw and a speed of 15 knots. There was passenger accommodation for 210-1st, 250-2nd and 1,000-3rd class. Launched on 25th July 1907, she sailed from Glasgow on her maiden voyage to Quebec – Montreal on 21st September 1907. In May 1908 she made her first voyage between Glasgow, Quebec and Montreal and on 26/11/1908 started her first Liverpool – St John, NB voyage, and made further Liverpool departures during the winter seasons. In 1910 she was rebuilt to 10,947 tons and on 29/11/1912 was chartered to Canadian Pacific and made a single round voyage between Liverpool, Halifax and St John NB. On 15/8/1914 she commenced her last Glasgow – Quebec – Montreal voyage and on 11/9/1914 was again charterd to Canadian Pacific and sailed from Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal. On the eastbound voyage she was used as a troop transport to carry part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to Europe. In December 1914 she resumed Canadian Pacific voyages between Liverpool and St John NB, and made the last of four round voyages when she left St John NB on 17/4/1915 for Liverpool. In May 1915 she resumed Liverpool – Quebec – Montreal voyages for the Allan Line. In 1917 she was taken over, together with the rest of the Allan Line fleet, by Canadian Pacific and commenced her first voyage after the Armistice on 15/12/1918 when she left Liverpool for St John NB. She subsequently sailed between Glasgow, Liverpool, London or Antwerp and Canada and started her final voyage on 15/12/1920 when she sailed from London for Antwerp and St John NB. On 14/3/1921 she was gutted by fire while being refitted at Antwerp, was abandoned to the insurance underwriters, and in 1925 was scrapped at Hendrik Ido, Ambacht. [North Atlantic Seaway by N.R.P.Bonsor, vol.1,p.323-4]

This link regarding the 1st Canadian Troop Convoy will give one some insight into the scope of convoying a large mass of troops overseas.

7 thoughts on “Outward Bound: The R.M.S. Grampian

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  1. I have a document called a Marconigram from the Captain and crew sent to Queen Alexandra on May 8, 1910. I think it belonged to a relative on board. Was there a crew member by the name of Mr. Love?

  2. George E. Mc Gregor from Almonte Ontario Canada aboard Grampian went to France to Fight the War and died from wounds of artillery shells exploding near bye. ” Rest in Peace ” not forgotten….

  3. I ended up finding old medical records from a relative that served in WWI that happened to have been on this very ship on April 17th 1917. Apparently Grampian took wounded and discharged soldiers back to St Johns which would later be transferred to where ever they came from.

  4. Humphrey Francis Toy
    Regimental number 341951
    Rank Driver/gunner
    Units: CFA
    Theatre of War: France
    Date of Service: 12/31/16
    Address: 824 11th Ave. Munhall PA/ later 55 Lehigh St., Homestead, Penn., USA
    trained at Camp Petawawa; his unit “Petawawa Art. Bft.” He embarked Halifax 24 Oct 1916 and disembarked the SS Grampian on Liverpool 5 Nov 1916.
    Great Uncle of me; was an artist and maintained a journal of war experience in possession of a relative. I have not seen it, but she sent me phone pictures of drawings he made of the Grampian and Battle Scenes. Is there a method by which I can transmit pictures of the drawings? After landing in Liverpool, Humphrey arrived 5 Nov 1916 at Shorncliffe Army Camp in Kent “Taken on strength, Reserve Brigade C.F.A.” It served as a staging post for troops destined for the Western Front during WWI.

    On 31 Dec 1916, Humphrey “arrived as reinforcement & attached 2nd C.D.A.C. Field…Posted to 2nd C.D.A.C.” I don’t know how interpret the military records, and I don’t know what the following means: “1-1-17 [C.B.D.] Left for Column. [Field] …5-1-17. O.C. Unit Arrived at Column. [Field]…
    I can’t follow Humphrey immediately after the capture of Vimy Ridge, but his drawings during the next month give a good indication that the 71st Artillery Battery remained in the neighborhood. The drawing above show a progression through Arras, Mont St Eloi, the Monastery there, a pass through devastated Les Targette (wherever that may be) ending with a card game outside a tent.

    On June 4th, Humphrey was rendered deaf when he apparently was unprepared fro the discharge of an artillery piece that he was near. He remained hospitalized for his deafness until June 8th when he was returned to the front. On June 30th he contract “Trench Fever” and was hospitalized to August 3rd. Trench fever, a lice borne bacterium, had a significant impact on troops on both sides of the trenches; it was debilitating. Thereafter, Humphrey was plagued with some form of psoriasis that affected his service through the end of the war with repeated hospitalizations.

    His records report “Deafness in right ear. Buzzing left-June-artillery fire. Never pain, nor discharge…Injury to ear drums…concussion from gun…was a gunner and serving a gun placed in a dugout-was deaf for 4 days following first shot from gun-recovered hearing partially but any loud explosion causes temporary deafness.”

    After his hospitalization for Trench Fever, he rejoined his unit and active duty on 11 August and remain with his unit until granted a leave of absence 29 Dec 1917. He then was medically disabled with a variety of illnesses until released to his unit 2 March. Psoriasis sidelined him much of the spring. He rejoined the “4t Bde CFA” on May 18 1918 through the finish of the war 11th day, 11th Month 1918.

    Humphrey was lucky enough to return to his unit in time for the he Battle of Hill 70 between the Canadian Corps and five divisions of the German 6th Army. The battle took place along the Western Front on the outskirts of Lens in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France between 15 and 25 August 1917. The objectives of the assault were to inflict casualties and to draw German troops away from the 3rd Battle of Ypres, rather than to capture territory. The Canadian Corps executed an operation to capture Hill 70 and then establish defensive positions from which combined small-arms and artillery fire, some of which used the new technique of predicted fire, would repel German counter-attacks and inflict as many casualties as possible. The goals of the Canadian Corps were only partially accomplished; the Germans were prevented from transferring local divisions to the Ypres Salient but failed to draw in troops from other areas.

    The Second Battle of Passchendaele was the culminating attack during the Third Battle of Ypres of the First World War. The battle took place in the Ypres Salient area of the Western Front, in and around the Belgian village of Passchendaele, between 26 October and 10 November 1917. The Canadian Corps relieved the exhausted II Anzac Corps, continuing the advance started with the First Battle of Passchendaele and ultimately capturing the village.

    I believe that Humphrey, having rejoined his unit 18 May, was at the Battle of Amiens that began the Allied offensive which ultimately led to the end of the WWI. Allied forces advanced over 7 miles on the first day, one of the greatest advances of the war, with Gen Henry Rawlinson’s British Fourth Army (with 9 of its 19 divisions supplied by the fast moving Australian Corps of Lt Gen John Monash and Canadian Corps of Lt Gen Arthur Currie) playing the decisive role. The battle is also notable for its effects on both sides’ morale and the large number of surrendering German forces. This led Erich Ludendorff to describe the first day of the battle as “the black day of the German Army”. Amiens was one of the first major battles involving armored warfare.

  5. My Grandfather Geoffrey Graham sailed on her Sept 28 1914, arrived in England Oct 14 1914, went to France Feb 5, 1915.., he was with the 7th out of St Catharines, then 10th Battery, CEF also.. was injured May 1916..spent many months in hospital in England before being shipped to Canada to St Catharines…

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