Mysteries of the medical ship
Re: He survived war’s worst ship sinking in 1918, lived to weep in his wife’s arms, Nov. 7.
There are names to be given for the three Ottawa women who died in the sinking of the medical ship HMHS Llandovery Castle: (1) Minnie Katherine Gallaher, Nursing Sister, whose next of kin was listed as Mrs. M.E. Gallaher (mother) of Regent Street; (2) Jean Templeman, Nursing Sister, whose next of kin was listed as J. Templeman (father), 218 Strathcona Avenue; and (3) Jessie Mabel McDiarmid, whose next of kin is listed as J. McDiarmid, (Uncle) of Ashton, Ont.
As well, the ship had come from Halifax, having delivered 624 military patients, making one wonder what was used as ballast on the way to Liverpool. According to Charles Harrison in the book Generals Die in Bed, an orderly told him, in reference to the Llandovery Castle: “She was carryin’ supplies and war material.” Harrison also describes how Brig.Gen. Tuxford visited the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade before the August offensive in 1918 and told men about the appalling sinking: “The amputation cases went to the bottom instantly ... they couldn’t swim, poor chaps ... the salt water added to their agony.”
The upshot of this portrayal of wilful wickedness on the part of the German submarine personnel is that Canadian troops were in no mood to be civil in their treatment of Germans. Harrison quotes Canadian Lt.-Col. Dick Worrall as saying to his troops: “I’m not saying for you not to take prisoners. That’s against international rules. All that I’m saying is that if you take any we’ll have to feed ’em out of our rations.” I
In war, truth is a continuing casualty, and I don’t profess to know the truth regarding Harrison’s claims, but the effect of ignoring them seems to me worse than that of knowing about them.
Randal Marlin, Ottawa