Great War - UK hospital ships torpedoed

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by DavidBOC, Apr 17, 2012.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. Michael Yon's blog today contained a link to a film on the torpedoing of British hospital ships off of the coast of Devon. The films were interesting viewing for me. Some here may have seen them before but I am posting the links below for those who may be interested. The film contains footage of dives on the wrecks, recorded interviews with survivors and excerpts of the diaries of persons on the ships.

    I should note that there is some suggestion that the UK might have violated the Hague Convention based on the divers finding a shell on one of the ships and the diary of a medical person who said the ship was carrying a handful of soldiers back to the combat area. From what I heard, not serious violations and I find myself wondering if the small number of soldiers were wounded who recovered and were being returned to their unit.

    Good visual images and I was quite impressed with the size of one military hospital, Victoria Hospital. I am sure it is bigger than present day military hospitals.Playlist for whole episode:

    Part 1: Deep Wreck Mysteries - 3 - Red Cross Outrage (1/4) - YouTube
    Part 2:
    Part 3:
    Part 4:
  2. The Germans of course had no way of knowing who or what was on board a hospital ship, just that they were painted white with red crosses and were thus illegal targets under the Hague conventions. So they sank them anyway.....
    • Like Like x 3
  3. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    Did the Hague conventions cover hospital ships? I'd be surprised because the concept of sinking civilian ships without warning wasn't thought of pre-1915. There were very few examples of hosptial ships being attacked in WWII, by which time the conventions would have been established.
  4. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    But nothing about sinking - my point exactly. The Germans weren't contravening the Hague conventions related to hospital ships but they were contravening the recognised customs of war by sinking civilian ships without warning
  5. True, it doesn't specifically mention sinking. I suppose its all down to the [U-boat] skipper's individual interpretation of 'respect'.
  6. IIRC, it was January 1917 when Germany gave notice that she was declaring unrestricted submarine warfare. Now whether or not that was within the Hague Conventions, whether the Germans knew or suspected that the Conventions governing hospital ships were being breached and whether that justified targeting them is open to debate.

    Once it is known that unrestricted submarine warfare is being prosecuted, the problem becomes whether or not such hospital ships should seek the protection of black-out running at night. By doing so they would place themselves outside the Conventions and add to the suspicion that they are being used for purposes that exclude their protection.

    That designated hospital ships were used as troop-ships when not actually carrying wounded as early as 1915 and as far as the Dardanelles (in breach of the Conventions), suggests that the earliest breach was committed by us.

    It's hard for me to see the casualties in any different light to those that died in the trenches, in naval engagements or in the air.

    I had a paternal great-uncle serving in 1/12th Londons (The Rangers), who was killed on 9th April 1917 on the first day of the Battle of Arras near Neuville-Vitasse. I also had a maternal great-uncle in the same battalion who was wounded that day. Pte Frederick Horner's injuries required repatriation but he died on HMTs Donegal when she was torpedoed in the Channel on the 17th April.

    They both died as a result of enemy action. If anyone can be blamed for Fred's death it's whoever sanctioned hospital ships use as troop-ships thereby giving the enemy a justification for attacking them.
  7. A surfaced submarine is extremely vulnerable. In the beginning of WW1 German submarines would surface near civilian ships and allow the crew and passengers to go into the boats before sinking the ship. The British government reacted by installing camouflaged guns and naval gun crews on civilian ships as U-boat traps. Several U-boats were sunk. As a result orders were passed that civilian ships were to be targeted like warships.
  8. Japs torpedoed some of ours.
  9. Article four , Section X of the 1907 Hague convention covers hospital ships.

    At least 1 Jap Hospital Ship (Takasago Maru) is intercepted by US destroyers in early 1945 while transporting wounded and sick from the Wake island garrison. It is boarded and searched and let go. Later it almost stumbles into TF 38's refueling area is boarded again and given safe passage with alternate course.

    Muro Maru is sunk outside Manilaon 13 november 1944 while properly Marked by US Navy aircraft with concentrated Strafing attacks with 32 dead.

    Tachibana Maru is intercepted by the USS Charratte and USS Conner on 3 August 1945 and upon boarding is found to have no wounded but fit troops. a USMC Prize crew is dispatched and the ship sailed to Morotai were a search turns up:
    400 Rifles
    15 Light Machineguns
    45 Knee Mortars
    4 80mm Field Howitzers
    30 tons of ammunition to include HE shells, grenades mortar bombs, etc.
  10. Here's a New York Times article on the sinking of Lanfranc and Donegal:

    Attached Files: