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Troopship Florizel

The Florizel took part in the WWI convoy of October of 1914 with the first contingent of 32,000 Canadian and Newfoundland troops.

Arrangements for the convoy began on August 15, 1914 when Sir Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia, had a meeting with shipping companies to contract 20 ships to carry 25,000 men to sail in September across the North Atlantic. The number of ships was later increased to 30.

Merchant ships were prepared for troopship service in Montreal and would embark the troops in Quebec along with horses, guns, stores and equipment. In the course of about six weeks, Canada and Newfoundland had raised an army of 30,000 - all volunteers - which was an amazing feat. Lessons learned from this experience were called upon again in 1939. Embarkation began in Quebec on September 23 and completed at 5 pm October 1.

In this contingent were:

  • 1,547 officers
  • 29,070 men
  • 7,679 horses
  • 70 guns
  • 110 motor vehicles
  • 705 horse drawn vehicles
  • 82 bicycles

The 30 ships proceeded to the convoy gathering point in Gaspe Bay. They were ordered to be darkened and observe radio (W/T) silence. On October 3 all the ships of Column Z raised anchor and proceeded at 9 knots following the leading cruiser HMS Eclipse. HMS Diana followed with the 10 ships of Column Y and HMS Charybdis with Column X and 11 ships. HMS Talbot brought up the rear of the 21 1/2 mile column.

Ships of the Grand Fleet had taken up their pre-arranged positions from Norway to the Shetland Islands north of Scotland, to protect the convoy and make sure that no enemy vessels broke out of the North Sea. The battle-cruiser HMS Princess Royal left Scappa Flow in the north of Scotland and joined the battleship HMS Magnificent See picture of its sister ship HMS Majestic. They were in position and waited for the convoy that was two and a half days late. Princess Royal stayed with the convoy until it reached Fastnet, off Southern Ireland.

In Newfoundland, the contingent of the "First 500", the Blue Puttees, had been raised. Men volunteered and, once funds were provided by private donations, training was done at Pleasantville by Quidi Vidi Lake. The S.S. Florizel was prepared in St. John's Harbour from where the troops embarked on October 4th. On October 5, the Florizel with 540 men would join the convoy off Cape Race in Column Z, astern of the 8,135 tonne Cassandra, which was carrying 1,199 officers and men of the 2nd Battalion and #2 Field Ambulance personnel.

On October 12th, the Florizel and the other ships of Column Z, were treated to a sight of the Princess Royal.

Column Z ships (in order from front to back):

Megantic, Ruthenia, Bermudian, Alaunia, Ivernia, Scandinavian, Sicilian, Montezuma, Lapland, Cassandra, Florizel.

cleared for action, steaming at 22 knots between the columns with her band playing "O Canada" and "The Maple Leaf Forever". H.M. Warships:

Princess Royal (Lion class battle cruiser) Port Wing
Magnificent (Majestic Class predreadnaught) Lead ship
Glory (Canopus Class predreadnaught) Starboard Wing
Charybdis (Old Cruiser Astraea Class) Lead ship Col. Z (Flag) more information in archives
Diana (Old Cruiser Eclipse Class) Lead Column Y
Eclipse (Old Cruiser Eclipse Class) Lead Column X
Talbot (Old Cruiser Eclipse Class) Rear

Southhampton was the destination of the convoy after originally planning on Devonport. As the convoy reached Fastnet, strong German wireless calls were heard aboard the escort cruisers. There were several reports of U boat activity in the English Channel and later on October 12, in the approaches to Southhampton. The convoy was disembarked at Devonport. The German Admiralty had learned on October 8, from agents in New York, that a convoy was on the way. On October 10, the German submarines U8 and U20 were dispatched to attack the convoy off Boulogne, France, which they believed was the convoy's destination. The convoy had a lucky escape. On board the Florizel was Lance-Corporal Joseph Mullowney who was invilided from service by frostbitten feet at Gallipoli.

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