26 February 2018

The sinking of Glenart Castle

Today, 26 February, marks 100 years since the British hospital ship HMHS Glenart Castle, sunk after being torpedoed by a German U-boat. Only 32 people survived and more than 160 were killed. The Commission commemorates more than 150 service men and women who died, including eight nurses.


HMHS Glenart Castle


HMHS Glenart Castle was a steamship built in 1900 as Galician for the Union-Castle Line. She was renamed Glenart Castle in 1914, but was requisitioned for use as a British hospital ship during the First World War.

On 26 February 1918, Glenart Castle was leaving Newport, South Wales, heading towards Brest, France. Fishermen in the area recalled seeing her clearly lit up as a hospital ship. At 4am, she was hit by a torpedo. The blast destroyed most of the lifeboats, while the subsequent pitch of the vessel hindered attempts to launch the remaining boats. The ship sunk in just eight minutes, during which time only seven lifeboats were launched.

Only 32 people escaped. More than 160 were killed, including the Captain, Bernard Burt, eight nurses of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, seven Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) officers and 47 medical orderlies. Of the hospital patients being treated on board, 99 died.

Commemorating the dead

The Commission commemorates more than 150 men and women killed in the sinking. Ninety-three crewman of the Mercantile Marine, including Captain Burt, are remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial in London. Forty-seven officers and men of the RAMC, two Chaplains of the Army Chaplains' Department, one nurse of the Territorial Force Nursing Service, and seven nurses of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, are commemorated on the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton.

The matron of the ship Katy Beaufoy was one of the nurses who died. She was a veteran of the South African War and the Gallipoli campaign. Her family kept her diary, which details life as a First World War matron and nurse.

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