The Nerissa was built at Glasgow in 1926 for the north Atlantic passenger/cargo business of the Red Cross line. She later served Caribbean ports out of New York while bearing the colours of the Furness Withy group before being pressed into war service as a troop carrier.
The Nerissa’s speed proved to be her undoing, her top speed of 17 knots was almost double that of convoys, and she usually crossed the ocean unescorted. Unfortunately U552 caught up with her 35 miles west of St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides 19410430, towards the end of her 40th crossing Halifax-Liverpool. Three torpedoes slammed into the ship, sinking her in four minutes with a loss of 206 of 290 passengers and crew.
Interestingly although close to a million Canadian troops were transported across the Atlantic in both world wars, the 73 Army casualties on the SS Nerissa were the only Canadian soldiers who lost their lives by enemy action at sea while in transit to Great Britain.
Ten Saskatchewanians – JH Baltus, JA Burns, GR Craig, FG Harrison, CJ Johnstone, HR Lester, FE Morris, OC Shea, JFR Slater and AR Stinchcombe – went down with SS Nerissa. Far more prairie boys were lost in this incident than on any other merchant vessel.