David Pert

DAVID PERT

Service: Merchant Navy

Unit: RMS Empress of Australia

Rank: Captain


Captain David Pert was not on active war service when he died, but just prior to his death had captained a troopship and had given very distinguished previous service to his country.

He was born on 21st June 1882 at 99 Main Street, Govan, Glasgow, son of George Pert, a seaman in the Merchant Service, and Mary Pert née Liston. Early in the South African war, he left the ship on which he was a young officer and served on land during the campaign, earning the Queen's and King's medals.

On 19th September 1908, he gained his certificate qualifying him to be Master of a foreign sea-going vessel in the Merchant Service and also to be 1st mate of a square rigged sailing vessel. He served throughout the First World War in the Merchant Service.

Captain Pert was with the Allen line before joining the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company in which his first command was the Beaverhill. He was captain of several of the Canadian Pacific Mont and Duchess ships and was well known to Atlantic travellers. His last command was the Empress of Australia which had been converted to a troop carrier. He died very soon after his retiral on 1st March 1944 at his home Daverton, Newtonlea Avenue, Newton Mearns. He is buried in Barrhead Cemetery.


Footnote

In 1916, Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered the partially built SS Tirpitz (not to be confused with the Tirpitz battle cruiser in the Second World War) to be completed as his royal yacht, in which he envisioned receiving the allied naval fleets when they surrendered. Her first trip, however, was under seizure as a war prize when she sailed from Hamburg to Hull on 1 December 1919. She was then used as a troop ship under P & O Line management. In 1921, the Tirpitz was acquired by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and renamed Empress of China. Canadian Pacific’s intention was to use the former Tirpitz on their Pacific run between Vancouver and the Orient. She had engine problems and required an extensive refit which was completed by the summer of 1922 when the ship was again renamed, this time as Empress of Australia. She left the Clyde for Vancouver, from where she set out on her maiden voyage, bound for Hong Kong and Yokohama. She continued on her Pacific Route until 1926.


After another refit, the Empress of Australia was ready for service again in the summer of 1927.  Her first voyage since the refit commenced on June 25th, 1927. This was the start of the Empress of Australia’s new service, as a trans-Atlantic liner between Southampton and Quebec from spring to late autumn and then as a four-month world-cruise ship sailing from New York. Continuing to serve Canadian Pacific, the Empress of Australia managed to keep a reputation as a very beautiful and luxurious ship.


In September 1939, when war was declared, the Empress of Australia was sent to Southampton where she was to be converted into a troopship. Painted in grey, fitted with a three-inch gun and with a carrying capacity of 5,000, the Empress left on her first wartime voyage to Ceylon and Bombay on September 28th, 1939. Following this task, the ship then went across the Atlantic to Halifax, from where she joined a large convoy carrying Canadian soldiers to the battlefields of Europe. During the entire war, the Empress of Australia enjoyed very good luck, and was only seriously damaged once – when she was holed by the Orient Line’s 14,982-ton Ormonde during the North Africa campaign in January 1943. David Pert had the honour of being master of this ship until his retiral just before his death.

                                 


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Image reproduced by permission of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission