World War I - Hospital Ships

Hospital ships were generally painted white with a green line running along the sides & red crosses on sides & occaisionally funnels.
Between 1915 & 1919 hospital ships accounted for 494 visits to Malta.

I started off trying to identify a couple of photos & got carried away.. This is the result.

Hospital ship on left.
Photo courtesy of Cheryl Beasley

This is a scan of a postcard in circulation around 1914 showing a hospital ship berthed near Lascaris Bastion.
I have seen one of these postcards dated October 1914 written in French with no stamp which would suggest it being written by a soldier/serviceman.

I had some old photos sent of hospital ships which I started to try & identify. During this research I started to get interested in Malta's work during WWI.
The ships below either visited Malta with wounded from Gallipoli & Salonika or were sunk near by.
During the Crimean War & WW1 Malta was used as a place to evacuate wounded. From Gallipoli 2500 officers & 55,400 troops were taken to Malta.
The photos above came to me without any information & were probably pre-WWII.
Photographs are hard to find but e-Bay generally has some available.
Some 50,000 casualties were transported to Malta, Gibraltar & the UK.
In Malta some 20,040 beds were eventually available. Some 2,550 officers and 55,400 other ranks treated the wounded.

List of Hospital Ships known to have been in the Mediterranean during WWI
Three types of hospital ships were used -
The large liners Aquetania, Mauretania & Brittanic were used as hopital ships towards the end of the war.

Properly painted white ships with large red crosses & sometimes green bands along the sides.
So called 'Black Ships' which were normal coloured or non white painted ships also used to carry troops. Used mainly at night.
These were 'fair game' for U boats as they were not painted as hospital ships.

It was common practice to send troops to Gallipoli in normal ships & return them to various ports as hospital ships.

Destinations wounded were taken to.
Lemnos, Imbros, Egypt, Malta, Salonika, Alexandria, Gibraltar, UK.

Large converted passenger liner. This was the largest of the liners used with a capacity of some 4,182 beds. Due to her size this ship would carry troops directly to England.

Taken in 1915 & thought to be on the Gallipoli run.

Braemar Castle

Originally sailed as a troopship for Gallipoli with 1041 passengers 6th February 1915. Later converted to a hospital ship where on 23rd November 1916 she struck a mine en route from Salonika to Malta with wounded. She was towed originally to Malta before being taked to await repairs at Spezia. She was later used as a hospital base at Murmansk & later scrapped in 1924.

Large converted passenger liner.
Used to transport wounded from the Dardanelles. Repatriated troops to Australia.
Known to have been at Cape Helles a few days after the first landings.
Later scrapped in 1929.

Began as a troopship but was converted to a hospital ship to take wounded from the Dardanelles.

Dover Castle

Torpedoed in the Mediterranean 1917.

Dunluce Castle - Australian

Started off as a troopship but converted to a hospital ship.
Arrived at Mudros 5th August 1915 with Australian nurses after setting sail from London 2nd August.
Scrapped in 1939 but sold to the Admiralty as an accomodation ship.

France (SS)
Large 4 funnel ocean going liner converted into a hospital ship.The 3rd funnel from the bows was painted with a red cross.

Single funnel. Started off as a troopship & later converted to a hospital ship. Struck a mine on 28th October 1916 whilst entering Le Havre & beached.

Gloucester Castle
Sunk by German raider 1942 off the Ascension Islands with the loss of 93 lives.

Hit a mine off Malta 10th October 1917 & was towed into Grand Harbour without any casualties. Some 362 survivors including 17 nursing sisters.

Grantala - Australian Navy
Grantully Castle
Guildford Castle
Beached after a collision in 1933 at Elbe & written off.
Karanowna (Australian)
Karoola- HMAT (Australian)
Maine (3)

Photo courtesy of Denis Darmanin whose father served on the ship.

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Beasley - We think this is

Originally named SS Panama when launched in 1902. Although not converted to a hospital ship until 1920 (conversion completed 1922) I am listing the ship here. This ship was based in Malta for a time & used to berth off Senglea Point.
On the 28th February 1928 a storm hit Malta & she broke free off her mooring lines & was grounded.
The ship was still in action in WWII where she was based in Alexandria treating more than 13,000 patients. On the 6th September 1941 she was narrowly missed in a bombing raid which caused some damage.
On the 21st February she was sold for breaking up.

Maheno (New Zealand)
Large converted passenger liner.
Was close enough to witness the SS.Southland sink on the 2nd September 1915.

Torpedoed 4th January 1918 in the Bristol Channel by U 55. Two crewmen died but all 279 cot cases survived. These were picked up on Greece via Malta.
Used as a hospital ship & troop carrier on the Indian route during the Boer War & WWI. Torpedoed off Malta 2nd April 1916 by U 39 with the loss of 10 crew.
See link for ships list.
Somali - Royal Navy
Souden - Royal Navy Ariived in Malta 1915
Vinh Long
French ship, single funnel with 3 masts.

Links - Army nursing during the Boer War.


World War II - Hospital Ships

List of Hospital Ships known to have been in the Mediterranean during WWII


Evacuated wounded from the Sicily & Salerno landings.

The Leinster was used as a hospital ship in evacuating wounded after the Anzio landings.
Maine (4)
See also Maine (3) under WWI.
The 4th ship to bear the name of Maine was built in 1925 & named Leonardo da Vinci. Captured in Massawa in 1941 & later converted to a hospital ship for the army. She was renamed Empire Clyde. In 1948 she entered the Royal Fleet Auxilliary (RFA) & renamed Maine.
Scrapped in 1954.

Dive bombed 20 miles off the coast of Salerno 12th September 1943 & later on the 13th. The ship was damaged beyond hope of salvage & was sunk by the US warship USS Plunkett.

Needs more research...

SS.Captain Hobson
Took part in Operation Torch & the Salerno landings where she was attacked by aircraft. Returned to the Clyde for a refit & returned to the Mediterranean in January 1944.
This was the 2nd hospital ship to bear this name. A predecessor of the same name was in service in WWI but this served to ferry wounded from France to the UK. This ship was renamed Fishguard in 1930 to enable the new ship to carry on the name.
Deliberately sunk by enemy planes on 24th January, 1944 whilst returning from Anzio with wounded. Not sure if this was Malta bound.
See link for photo -