SS Florizel

SS Florizel

SS "Florizel", a passenger liner, was the flagship of the Bowring Brothers' Red Cross Line of steamships and one of the first ships in the world specifically designed to navigate icy waters."Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador", ISBN 0-9693422-1-7.] During its last voyage, from St. John's to Halifax and on to New York, it sunk after striking a reef at Horn Head Point (coord|46|50|56|N|52|56|20|W|), Cape Race near Cappahayden, Newfoundland, Canada, with the loss of 173 including Betty Munn, a three-year-old girl, in whose memory a statue of Peter Pan was erected at Bowring Park in St. John's.

The sinking of the "Florizel" and the tragic loss of life, compounded by the controversy surrounding her ill-fated voyage was the subject of a book by Cassie Brown entitled "A Winter's Tale - The Wreck of the Florizel", ISBN 0-9698767-4-2.


The "Florizel" was primarily a passenger liner, built for the Bowring Brothers to replace an earlier ship, the "SS Silvia", which had been lost at sea. Built of steel, it was one of the first ships in the world to be specifically designed to navigate the icy waters around Newfoundland and Labrador. The vessel was modified each spring to participate in the annual seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland. Often captained by Captain Abram Kean, she broke many records on her numerous voyages to the seal hunt. Paul O'Neill, "The Oldest City: The Story of St. John's, Newfoundland", 2003, ISBN 0-9730271-2-6.]

The "Florizel" was also used as a transport vessel during World War I. In October 1914 it carried the first 500 volunteers of the Newfoundland Regiment, the Blue Puttees, to Europe.

Bowring Brothers were the operators for the New York, Newfoundland and Halifax Steamship Company, Limited. At the time of the "Florizel"'s construction it was considered a luxury liner; it had room for 145 first-class accommodations.

The Bowring fleet of ships of that era were given names from Shakespearean plays: the "Florizel" was named after young Prince Florizel in "The Winter's Tale".

Last Voyage

The "Florizel" left St. John's on February 23, 1918, for Halifax and then on to New York, with 78 passengers and 66 crew. Among the passengers were many prominent St. John's businessmen. Shortly after the vessel left port the weather turned nasty and after nine hours of steaming southward the captain, William Martin, assumed that he had rounded Cape Race and consequentially turned westward. However, because of the gale force winds the "Florizel" had actually traveled just 45 miles and was well short of the Cape. The sea crashing against the rocks at Horn Head Point was white with froth and Captain Martin mistook it for ice and eventually crashed full speed into the rocks. Most of the passengers and crew that survived the initial crash found shelter in the Marconi Shack, the least damaged portion of the ship.

The rescue

An SOS was sent out and received by the Admiralty wireless station located at Mount Pearl. [ Exhibit at Admiralty House] ] By the evening of the 24th the first rescue ships had arrived to no sign of life. The weather had abated somewhat when light was spotted and a rescue attempt was carried out after the storm had calmed. Of the 138 passengers, 44 had survived the initial crash and after 27 hours, the ship struck ground and the last of the passengers and crew were rescued. Medals of bravery were awarded to several crew members of the "Briton" by the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, while he was in St. John's in 1919.

The investigation

Captain Martin, who had survived the tragedy, was held responsible for the disaster, because of the lack of soundings taken during the course of the voyage. His certificate was suspended for twenty-one months. It was not until later that Captain Martin was found not to have been at fault. The Chief Engineer, J.V. Reader, had reduced the speed of the vessel as soon as she left port, bypassing the captain's orders to proceed at full speed. This action had caused the ship to make less distance than had been thought. The reason cited for Reader's action was to prolong the trip to Halifax such that the vessel would have to dock overnight and allow Reader time to visit his family while there.

Lost passengers of historical importance

* Patrick Laracy, owner of the "Crescent" theater in St. John's.
* Betty Munn, granddaughter of Sir Edgar Bowring (founder of Bowring Brothers).
* James H. Baggs(40),curling, Bay Of IslandPassengers Perished

:First Class
#F.C. Smythe, 44
#Jas. H. Baggs
#William Butler
#W.F. Butler
#Mrs. W.F. Butler
#Patrick Laracy
#Edgar Froude
#James McCoubrey, 40
#Robert Wright, 40
#James Miller, 28
#James Daley, 45
#Miss Annie Dalton
#Miss M. Barrett
#Thomas McNeil
#Frank Chow
#Fred Snow
#Edward Berteau
#Jack C. Parsons
#Newman Sellars, 21
#Gor Massie
#Mrs Massie
#Miss Massie
#William E Bishop
#Chas H. Miller, 45
#G.P. Belleveau
#George Moulton
#Master Moulton
#F. Gerald P. St. John
#William Moore
#Michael Connolly
#John Connolly
#George Parmiter, 25
#Capt. Jos Kean, 44
#John S Munn, 37
#Wm. Earle
#Michael O’Driscoll
#Miss B. Beaumont
#Miss Munn 3 1/2
#Miss Trechard:Second Class
#Jos. Maloney
#Mrs Maloney
#Miss Maloney, 28
#P.J. Fitzpatrick
#A. Power
#John Costello
#Wm. Guzzwell
#Miss Eliz Pelley
#Peter Gullfoyle
#Edward Greening
#George Long
#R.J. Fowler
#Geo. Puddister, 41
#Mrs. John Lynch, 54
#W. Richard, 26
#Leonard Nicholle
#Jas. Crockwell, 50
#Herbert Pearcey, 28
#Jas. Bartlett, 43
#Chas Howell
#J. Forrest
#Mr. Stevens
Officers and Crew Perished

#John R. King, Second Officer, Arichat, N.S.
#J.V. Reader, Chief Engineer, Halifax, N.S., 45
#Charles Snow, Second Stewart, St. John’s
#Miss Margaret Keho, Stewardess, St. John’s
#Fred Guthrie, Second Cook, Liverpool
#J McKinnon, Baker, Glasgow
#Ramon Rez, Messroom Stewart, Spain.
#P. Lynch, Waiter, St. John’s
#Gordon Ivany, Waiter, St. John’s
#Austin Whitten, Waiter, St John’s
#Stan Squires, Waiter, St. John’s
#Stan Foley, Waiter, Grey Islands
#M.L. Dunphy, Waiter, St. John’s
#Thomas Hennebury, Oiler, St. John’s
#A Moody, Butcher, New Hampshire
#Geo Crocker, Sailor, St. John’s
#Wm. Walter, Sailor, Trinity
#Chas Bailey, Sailor, Port Rexton
#John Power, Sailor, Paradise, P.B.
Passengers Saved

#A. Ledingham
#Ralph Burnham
#Joseph Stockley
#Major Sullivan
#John J. Cleary
#William Parmiter
#J. P. Kieley
#Wm. Dodd
#W. N. Dauphinee
#Arch Gardiner
#A. G. Fagan
#D. Griffiths
#Miss Cantwell
#Miss Denief
#Thomas Whelan
#G. M Mullowney
#J. G. Sparrow
Officers and Crew Saved

#Captain Wm. Martin
#Chief Officer James
#3rd Officer Philip Jackman
#2nd Engineer T. Lumsden
#3rd Engineer E. Collier
#4th Engineer H. Taylor
#Marconi Operator C. Carter
#Asst. Marconi Operator B. J. Murphy
#Bosun Michael Power
#Carpenter Jacob Pinsent
#John Johnson, Pantry Waiter
#James Dwyer, Waiter
#Jos. Moore, Cook
#Fred Roberts, Waiter
#Edward Timmons, Oiler
#John Davis, Oiler
#A Hatchard, Sailor
#Hy. Dodd, Waiter
#Alex Fleet, Waiter
#W. Dooley, Sailor
#Joseph Burry, Sailor
#Thomas Greene, Sailor
#George Curtis, Gunner
#Henry Snow, Waiter
#Charles Reelis, Waiter
#Jose Fernandez, Fireman
#Wm. Molloy, Sailor. [St. John's Daily News, February 22, 1918.]

Survivors of historical importance

* J.P. Kiely, owner/manager of the Nickel Theatre in St. John's.

Bodies Not Recovered

* Francisco Fornas, fireman, Spain.
* Edward Greening, Bonavista.
* Charles Howell, Trinity.
* Gordon Ivany, St. John's.
* Clarence E. Moulton, St. John's.
* Leonard Nicholl, St. John's.


The S.S. Gordon C

*Captain E. C. Perry
*Chief Engineer Robert Pierson
*Seaman Joseph Budden

The S.S. Hawk

*Captain martin Dalton
*Seaman Daniel Ralph
*Seaman Michael Whelan


External links

* [ CNS Archives]
* [ Lost at Sea]

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