The Empire Cruise Comes to Town

What was the Special Service Squadron of 1923-24? Here is how the official site of HMS Hood (1915-41) sums it up:

This epic journey, known to the public as the ‘Empire Cruise’ or ‘World Cruise’ (but called the ‘World Booze’ by the Squadron’s men), was a highly successful public relations victory for the Empire. It served as a subtle [?] reminder to friend and foe alike that Britannia still ruled the waves. The squadron logged over 38,152 miles and visited numerous foreign countries around the globe. During the course of this cruise, over one million visited the entire Squadron, with Hood getting approximately 752,049 visitors alone.

The Squadron in Vancouver consisted of battle cruisers HMS Hood and HMS Repulse and of light cruiser HMAS Adelaide (of the Royal Australian Navy). A number of light cruisers were left in Esquimalt (where the Cruise had docked prior to making its Vancouver stop). For a complete list of the Squadron’s ports of call, see here.


This image appears to have been made somewhere along the City of Vancouver waterfront, roughly between the foot of Howe Street and Stanley Park. The photographer is looking out to Deadman’s Island in the deep background and one of the battle cruisers (the Hood or Repulse) in the middle distance. Passing just this side of the battle cruiser is what appears to be a civilian watercraft (it looks a bit like a North Vancouver ferry, to me) of which, by all accounts, there were many, darting about as the battleships prepared to dock. MDM’s Bottomley Collection.












Scott O’Connor, author of The Empire Cruise, who was aboard the Hood during the Cruise, had this to say about their arrival in Vancouver on June 25, 1924:

The reception given to the Squadron at Vancouver was of an enthusiastic character, and only the welcome at Sydney [Australia] affords a parallel to the extraordinary scenes which marked its entry into Burrard Inlet. Tens of thousands of cheering crowds lined both shores, while the Squadron was escorted and followed in by literally hundreds of small craft which had come out . . . to meet it. . . . At Brockton Point the Squadron was received with a royal salute of 21 bombs [bombs? really?]. The escorting planes followed through the smoke of the bursting bombs and close behind them a shower of rockets was sent up giving birth to flags which fell slowly attached to parachutes. On landing, the Vice-Admiral was presented with an Address by the Mayor [William Reid Owen]. . .  

It was, presumably, during Mayor Owen’s speech that a bison’s head (shown in the CVA image below) was presented to the Hood. I don’t know what possessed the City to choose this as a gift to a bunch of mariners. To the best of my knowledge, bison never roamed in the very forested area that had become Vancouver!


CVA 99-1211 – [H.M.S. “Hood” visit] dignitaries with bison’s head. 25 June 1924. Stuart Thomson photo. (VAIW note: Mayor Owen is standing just behind the bison’s head – he is the balding, hatless gent).

The Squadron was docked at Vancouver from June 24 – July 5. That allowed time for the federal government to host 20 officers and 200 crew members of the Repulse on a train journey inland for six days. They took the CPR from Vancouver  through Revelstoke into Banff and Calgary, and then took the CNR from Edmonton to Jasper and back to Vancouver.

This ’round-the world trip was by no means an inexpensive enterprise for the British Navy. The Hood alone had a complement of well over 1000 crew. She was finally sunk in WWII off Denmark in 1941. All hands, save three, were lost in her sinking. The Hood was found and explored for the first time since its sinking in 2001 and in 2015, the ship’s bell was retrieved.

There are a couple of excerpted pages available from the log of the HMS Hood during its period in Vancouver for the Empire Cruise.

The following images came from this site (for more photos of the Empire Cruise arriving in Vancouver, please see this sister site of VAIW).

This entry was posted in Bottomley, Navy, stuart thomson, water scene and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Empire Cruise Comes to Town

  1. lhhouben says:

    Tee hee…maybe the bison head had hung in City Hall for a while, and it was time to go. What an ugly thing to give away! I love the first photo; what a lovely shot!

    • mdm says:

      Agreed. There will be a similar XMarksTheAlbum post soon. It isn’t quite ready for posting, yet.

  2. Keith Loh says:

    Interesting to see the swastikas at the bottom of the revue program

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