Private Thomas Birch
84908 Royal Army Medical Corps
Died at sea 26th February 1918
Lived at 16 Mount Pleasant Street
Commemorated on the Hollybrook Memorial, UK
Burnley Express 23rd March 1918

HMHS Glenart Castle (His Majesty's Hospital Ship) was a steamship originally built as Galacian in 1900 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, she was hit and sunk by a torpedo from the German U-boat UC-56.
On 26 February 1918, Glenart Castle was returning to the UK. Fishermen in the English Channel saw her clearly lit up as a hospital ship. John Hill — a fisherman on Swansea Castle — remembered "I saw the Hospital Ship with green lights all around her - around the saloon. She had her red side lights showing and mast-head light, and also another red light which I suppose was the Red Cross light." At 04:00, Glenart Castle was hit by a torpedo in the No. 3 hold. The blast destroyed most of the lifeboats, while the subsequent pitch of the vessel hindered attempts to launch the remaining boats. In the eight minutes the ship took to sink, only seven lifeboats could be launched. Rough seas and inexperienced rowers swamped most of the boats. Only a few survivors were reported, with 162 killed including eight nurses, seven Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) medical officers and 47 medical orderlies. The matron of Glenart Castle — Miss Kate Beaufoy — was a veteran of the South African War. Her family kept her diary and her writings describe life on the ship.
Evidence surfaced later that initial survivors of the sinking may have been shot at by the submarine in an effort to cover up the sinking of Glenart Castle. The body of one of the junior officers of Glenart Castle was pulled from the water close to the site of the sinking. It was marked with two gunshot wounds, one in the neck and the other in the thigh. The body also had a life vest indicating he was shot while in the water.




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