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seaplane carriers converted from merchant vessels in WWI (11)


Empress 1918


Name Launched // Comm. Builder Tonnage, BRT Dimensions, m Speed, kts Machinery, Fuel, Power, t Armament Fate
Empress N38, N39 13.4.1907 // 8.1914 Denny, Dumbarton // Chatham DYd 2580t 98.5x12.5x4.6 21 3turbines, coal 425, 11000 2-40/39, 3 seaplanes returned 11.1919
Riviera N85 1.4.1911 // 8.1914 Denny, Dumbarton // Chatham DYd 2500t 96.3(pp)x12.5x4.3 20.5 3turbines, 6000 2-40/39, 3 seaplanes returned late 1919
Engadine N91, N42 23.9.1911 // 8.1914 Denny, Dumbarton // Chatham DYd 1881t 96.3(pp)x12.5x4.9 21.5 3turbines, 6000 2-40/39, 3 seaplanes returned 12.1919
Ben-My-Chree P49 23.3.1908 // 3.1915 Vickers, Barrow // Cammell Laird, Birkenhead 3888t 114.3x14.0x4.9 24.5 3turbines, 14500 4-76/50, 2-47/40, 4-6seaplanes sunk 11.1.1917
Campania P54, N15 8.9.1893 // 4.1915 Fairfield, Govan // Cammell Laird, Birkenhead 18000t 189.6x19.8x7.9 21 2VTE, 28000 6-120/40 QF Mk.I/II/III/IV, 1-76/45, 10 seaplanes collision 5.11.1918
Raven II (ex-Rabenfels), 1917- Ravenrock 1903 // 6.1915 Swan Hunter, Wallsend 4706 120.2x15.7x8.4 10 1VQE 1-76/40, 6seaplanes mercantile service 1.1918
Anne (ex-Anne Rickmers) 1911 // 8.1915 Rickmers, Bremerhaven, Germany 4083 111.9x14.5x8.3 11 1VTE 1-76/40, 2seaplanes collier 1.1918
Vindex (ex-Viking) N00, N3A 7.3.1905 // 11.1915 Armstrong, Elswick //Cammell Laird, Birkenhead 2950t 110.2x12.8x4.2 23 3turbines, 11000 4-76/50, 1-57/40, 7seaplanes sold 2.1920
Manxman N70 15.6.1904 // 4.1916 Vickers, Barrow // Chatham DYd 2048t 104.0x13.0x4.9 21 3turbines, 6300 2-102/40, 1-57/40, 8seaplanes returned 2.1920
Alader Yousanoff (ex-Aleydar Useynov) 1905 // 10.1918 Sormovo, Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia 2071   11   1-76/40, 2 seaplanes to White Russia 8.1919
Orlionoch (ex-Orlionok) 1883 // 10.1918   1406       2-102/40, 2 seaplanes to White Russia 8.1919

Standard scale images

<i>Engadine</i> 1918
Engadine 1918
<i>Vindex </i>1916
Vindex 1916
<i>Manxman </i>1916 more than 1000 BRT:
Manxman 1916 more than 1000 BRT:
<i>Campania </i>1916
Campania 1916
<i>Ben-My-Chree </i>1916
Ben-My-Chree 1916


<i>Empress </i>1918
Empress 1918
<i>Riviera </i>as originally converted with canvas hangars
Riviera as originally converted with canvas hangars
<i>Engadine </i>1917
Engadine 1917
<i>Campania </i>1915
Campania 1915

Project history

At beginning of war Admiralty requisitioned three fast ferries from South East and Chatham Railway Co 11.8.1914 (Empress, Riviera, Engadine), they were commissioned at first in August 1914 but soon in 1915 rebuilt by Cunard, receiving permanent hangars, cranes and more powerful artillery.

In addition to the converted Cross-Channel steamers the Admiralty was anxious to acquire a larger hull for use as a seaplane earlier capable of working with the Grand Fleet. The only hull immediately available was the old Cunard record-breaker Campania, which was already in the hands of the breakers T W Ward, but only snipped of deck fittings. She was bought outright on 27 November 1914 and towed to Cammell Laird for a 5-month conversion to a seaplane carrier. The conversion was ambitious, with a 120ft flight deck forward, and a hangar and workshops. Unfortunately the old ship's machinery required constant attention, and keeping up with the Grand Fleet in all weathers was always a strain. The runway was found to be too short, and after unsuccessful trials the fore funnel was removed and replaced by twin flat-sided uptakes which permitted the runway to be extended to 61m. In November 1915 she was fitted to launch a kite balloon aft. The first flight from her deck look place on 6 August 1915, with a Sopwith Schneider.

Three more fast ferries were requisitioned in 1915: Ben-My-Chree and Viking (which became Vindex) from Isle of Man Steam Packet Co and Manxman from Midland Railway Co late in 1915. in January and March 1915 respectively. They received huge hangars aft and flying-off ramps fwd. Later in 1915 two seaplanes were converted from German vessels seized in August 1914 at Port Said: Raven II (ex-Rabenfels) and Anne (ex-Anne Rickmers).

During operations in support of 'White Russians' on the Caspian Sea in late 1918 and 1919 two Russian steamers were converted to small seaplane carriers, Alader Yousanoff and Orlionoch.


1915, Empress, Riviera, Engadine: received permanent hangar instead of canvas, for 4 seaplanes; - 2 x 1 - 40/39; + 4 x 1 - 76/40 12pdr 12cwt QF Mk I, 2 x 1 - 47/50 3pdr Vickers Mk I

mid-1915, Engadine: + 1 x 1 - 40/39 2pdr QF Mk II (AA)

5/1916, Ben-My-Chree: + 4 x 1 - 76/50 12pdr 18cwt QF Mk I

Naval service

Campania 5.11.1918 dragged her cables during a gale in the Firth of Forth and drifted across the bows of the battleship Revenge, and foundered. Ben-My-Chree 11.1.1917 while anchored off Castellorizo was set on fire by Turkish artillery, blew up and sank.