Drowned on HMHS Liandovey Castle 18th March 1918, aged 37
Lived at 2 Layfield Street
Commemorated on Tower Hill Memorial, UK
Burnley Express 17th
The Llandovery Castle was
a pre-war Union Castle liner, used as a troopship in the early years of
WWI. The ship brought the 11th East Lancs, The Accrington Pals, from Egypt
to France in preparation for the 1916 Somme offensive. They were in the
first wave of attack on July 1st and were virtually wiped out.
She was later assigned to the Canadian forces and adapted
as a clearly-marked hospital ship. On a return voyage to Europe from Halifax
Nova Scotia, she was torpedoed on 27 June 1918 by German submarine U86
off the coast of Ireland in one of the most nefarious incidents of the
War. Helmut Patzig, the commander of the U86, was convinced she was carrying
munitions, but finding no evidence, decided to shell the survivors' lifeboats
in an attempt to conceal his breach of international convention. 146 lives
were lost, of whom 14 were Canadian nurses. Captain Kenneth Cummins, then
a young merchant navy officer, recalled the horror of coming across their
floating corpses, Their aprons had dried out in the sun and were blown
up by the wind like little sails (Times obituary 13.12.06.)
After the war, the Allies tried to find Patzig to bring
him to justice, but he had disappeared.
This was a replica built by Union Castle in 1925 as a replacement. It
was de-commissioned and scrapped in 1953.
This document, was published in 1920, and obtained through the Port Alberni
Public Library in Port Alberni, British Columbia. H.M.H.S. - His Majesty's
Hospital Ship C. A. M. C - Canadian Army Medical Corps .
THE SINKING OF H.M.H.S. LLANDOVERY CASTLE
(Note.--The Honourable the Minister of Overseas Military Forces of Canada,
Sir Edward Kemp, K.C.M.G., having made careful inquiries into the sinking
of the H.M.H.S. Llandovery Castle on June 27, (1918) has authorized publication
of the following article. The information contained therein has been obtained
and verified by personal interviews with the survivors and affords convincing
evidence of the deliberate intent and foul motive of this latest German
outrage on non-combatants.)
How the Nurses Died
"Unflinchingly and calmly, as steady and collected as if on parade,
without a complaint or a single sign of emotion, our fourteen devoted
nursing sisters faced the terrible ordeal of certain death--only a matter
of minutes--as our lifeboat neared that mad whirlpool of waters where
all human power was helpless."
---Extract from Sergeant A. Knight's story of the destruction of the Llandovery
Official verification of the facts surrounding the sinking of H.M.H.S.
Llandovery Castle confirm two main points--the supreme devotion and valiant
sacrifice of the medical personnel and the ship's company, whose courage
and resignation were in keeping with the proudest traditions of the British
Army and Merchant Marine Service; and the utter blackness and dastardly
character of the enemy outrage on this defenceless institution of mercy--a
crime surpassing in savagery and already formidable array of murders of
non-combatants by the Germans.
Deliberate in its conception, every circumstance connected with the incident
reveals the German in the light of the cunning murderer who employs every
foul means of destroying all traces of his despicable crime. No other
explanation can be attached to the systematic attempts of the submarine
to ram, shell and sink the life-boats and wreckage floating helplessly
with their two hundred and fifty-eight unfortunate victims, one hundred
and sixteen miles from land--a work of destruction so successfully performed
that only one boat, containing twenty-four survivors, escaped.
This list of survivors includes only one officer and five other ranks
of the hospital personnel of ninety-seven, and the official story of Major
T. Lyon, Sergt. A. Knight, Private F. W. Cooper, Private G. R. Hickman,
Private S.A. Taylor, and Private W. Pilot, all of the Canadian Army Medical
Corps, is a stirring record of the perfect discipline of all ranks and
the loading and floating of the lifeboats in the face of every possible
Through it all nothing stands out more brilliantly than the coolness and
courage of the fourteen Canadian nursing sisters, every one of whom was
lost, and whose sacrifice under the conditions about to be described will
serve to inspire throughout the manhood and womanhood of the whole Empire
a yet fuller sense of appreciation of the deep debt of gratitude this
nation owes to the nursing service.
The majority of these volunteered for service at the very outbreak of
the hostilities in 1914, came to England and France with the First Canadian
Division, had seen active service, chiefly in casualty clearing stations
in France throughout the intervening period, and recently had been transferred
to transport duty by way of change, and what would under ordinary conditions
prove a rest.
For many months, and, in some cases, two years, these sisters had endured
the hazards of the shelled areas in France, splendidly contributing to
the efficiency of our Medical Service. How magnificently they faced the
final ordeal on that awful evening of June 27, 1918, is simply, yet graphically,
related in the story of Sergt. A. Knight, the non-commissioned officer
of the C.A.M.C., who took charge of life-boat No. 5, into which the fourteen
nurses were placed.
"Our boat," said Sergt. Knight, "was quickly loaded and
lowered to the surface of the water. Then the crew of eight men and myself
faced the difficulty of getting free from the ropes holding us to the
ship's side. I broke two axes trying to cut ourselves away, but was unsuccessful.
"With the forward motion and choppy sea the boat all the time was
pounding against the ship's side. To save the boat we tried to keep ourselves
away by using the oars, and soon every one of the latter were broken.
"Finally the ropes became loose at the top and we commenced to drift
away. We were carried towards the stern of the ship, when suddenly the
poop-deck seemed to break away and sink. The suction drew us quickly into
the vacuum, the boat tipped over sideways, and every occupant went under.
Not a Single Complaint Made
"I estimate we were together in the boat about eight minutes. In
that whole time I did not hear a complaint or murmur from one of the sisters.
There was not a cry for help or any outward evidence of fear. In the entire
time I overheard only one remark when the matron, Nursing Sister M.M.
Fraser, turned to me as we drifted helplessly towards the stern of the
ship and asked:--
"Sergeant, do you think there is any hope for us?"
"I replied, 'No,' seeing myself our helplessness without oars and
the sinking condition of the stern of the ship.
" A few seconds later we were drawn into the whirlpool of the submerged
afterdeck, and the last I saw of the nursing sisters was as they were
thrown over the side of the boat. All were wearing life-belts, and of
the fourteen two were in their nightdress, the others in uniform.
"It was," concluded Sergt. Knight, "doubtful if any of
them came to the surface again, although I myself sank and came up three
times, finally clinging to a piece of wreckage and being eventually picked
up by the captain's boat."
To hundreds of officers and men of the Canadian Overseas Forces the name
of the Nursing Sister Miss Margaret Marjorie ("Pearl") Fraser
will recall a record of unselfish effort, a fitting tribute to this nation's
Volunteering for active service in the C.A.M.C. on September 29, 1914,
Miss Fraser went to France with the Canadian Division, and for almost
three years had been on duty in casualty clearing stations.
In that time not a few of her patients had been German wounded. Many times
had she been the first to give a drink of water to these parched enemy
casualties. Many a time had she written down the dying statements of enemy
officers, and men, transmitting them to their relatives through the Red
Her faithfulness was only typical, however, of that service for humanity
exhibited by every one of these precious fourteen lives sacrificed in
this latest act of Hunnish barbarity.
Major Lyon, Sergt. Knight, and the other four survivors of the hospital
ship, Pte. T. W. Cooper, Pte. G. R. Hickman, Pte. S. A. Taylor, and Pte.
W. Pilot are agreed that the Llandovery Castle was torpedoed without warning,
was displaying the regulation hospital ship lights, went down within ten
minutes after being struck, and that for upwards of two hours the German
submarine repeatedly attempted to blot out all trace of the crime by rushing
to and fro among the wreckage and firing twenty shells or more from its
large gun into the area where the life-boats were supposed to be afloat.
That one boat survived is not the fault of the enemy, for at least three
efforts were made to run it down, in addition to shell fire directed towards
On June 17, 1918, the Llandovery Castle had arrived at Halifax with six
hundred and forty-four military patients. She started on her return voyage
on June 20, 1918, carrying her crew and hospital unit establishment of
seven officers, fourteen nursing sisters, and seventy-six other ranks.
Ideal summer weather prevailed. All went well and uneventfully until Thursday
evening, June 27, 1918.
"At 9:30 p.m. the night was clear," stated Major Lyon. "All
lights were burning, with the large Red Cross signal prominently displayed
amidships. Most of the medical personnel had not yet retired. Without
previous warning or sight of any submarine the ship was struck just abaft
the engines at No. 4 hold.
"There was a terrific explosion, badly wrecking the afterpart of
the ship. Immediately all lights went out. The signal to stop and reverse
the engines was without response, all the engine-room crew evidently being
killed or wounded. Consequently the ship forged forward, but was gradually
forced down by the head.
Paraded in Perfect Order
"Quickly the captain found by investigation that No.4 hold was completely
blown in, and the ship could not remain afloat. The order was given to
lower the lifeboats on either side.
"In perfect order the officer commanding, Lt.-Col. T.H. MacDonald,
paraded his personnel at the various boat stations. The extreme slope
of the decks by this time, and the continued forward movement of the ship,
made the launching of the lifeboats a matter of great difficulty."
According to the survivors, at least two boats were swamped in this operation.
With reasonable certainty, however, it can be stated that in the brief
ten minutes before the ship submerged every one had been taken off save
those killed by the explosion.
Major Lyon was one of the last to leave the ship. He had gone to his cabin
to obtain a torchlight. Approaching the deck he met the captain and the
second officer. They discovered a boat hanging in the falls, with hits
after-end in the water.
They launched it successfully, pushed away with the captain, the second
officer, the fourth officer, Major Lyon, one C.A.M.C. other rank and a
few of the ship's company on board. They had moved on but thirty or forty
feet when the Llandovery Castle disappeared.
The boat at once proceeded to rescue work, cruising about in the mist
of the floating wreckage and picking up survivors.
Living eye-witnesses of the tragedy assert that at least two other lifeboats
got clear of the sinking ship, and it is possible that others were successfully
launched on the other side.
The appalling scene in the water in the two hours following the disappearance
of the Llandovery Castle baffles description, and the mind is stupefied
by the exhibition in that period of savagery and callousness on the part
of the commander and crew of the submarine.
On all sides survivors were crying for help. Many were clinging to pieces
of wreckage floating about the area of the disaster. Within twenty minutes
the captain's boat had picked up eleven from the water, including three
other ranks of the C.A.M.C.
They were going to the rescue of two others when the submarine appeared,
and according to Major Lyon ordered them to leave these drowning men and
come alongside, threatening to fire with the submarine naval gun in case
No Surprise That it Was a Hospital Ship
"Come alongside." Was the order given in English, and emphasized
by a revolver shot across the bows.
The second officer shouted, "We are picking up men from the water."
"Come alongside at once," repeated the voice from the submarine,
and when the lifeboat held on its way another revolver shot was fired
at it, coupled with the threat that next the big gun would be brought
The captain's boat thereupon left the drowning men and pulled alongside
the submarine. The latter's commander seemingly expressed no surprise
when the captain stated it was the hospital ship Llandovery Castle that
had been sunk. The accusation was then made that the ship was carrying
eight American flying officers.
On hearing there was a C.A.M.C. officer in the boat, the submarine commander
ordered him to be brought on board. The order was executed very roughly,
and with such plain intention to cause an injury that a small bone in
Major Lyon's leg was broken.
Major Lyon was accused of being an American flying officer. He denied
the charge, and gave his rank and corps. He was then taken to the conning
tower, the accusation of being a flying officer repeated, and asked how
much ammunition the ship was carrying.
"I replied," stated Major Lyon, "that it was purely a hospital
ship, and that we had never carried ammunition at any time.
"I was then ordered back to the lifeboat, and we pushed off. We had
gone only about fifty yards when they headed for us again and asked for
me. They then took on board the second and fourth officers, questioned
them, and placed them back in the lifeboat.
"Then we got the sail up and made some way. Suddenly we saw the submarine
coming at us at full speed. There was no doubt of their intention to ram
us. She missed us by less than two feet.
"Had we been stationary we certainly would have been submerged.
"We continued on our way and were distant probably half a mile when
we heard shell fire. I can recall at least twelve shots presumably in
the area where the lifeboats and survivors were supposed to be. One shell
came very close to our own boat.
"After thirty-six hours afloat we were rescued by a torpedo-boat
destroyer about forty-one miles from the Irish coast, and taken to Queenstown,
coming on to Plymouth (England) on Sunday, June 30, 1918.
Major Lyon's Statement
"I can emphatically state," concluded Major Lyon, "that
the submarine made no attempt to rescue any one, but on the contrary did
everything in its power to destroy every trace of the ship and its personnel
"All I can say on behalf of the submarine crew is that they were
coolly polite in their questions to us."
Another survivor, Pte. G. R. Hickman, left the sinking ship in No. 7 lifeboat,
which was sighted by the submarine about one and a half hours after the
Llandovery Castle disappeared. This boat was brought alongside and Pte.
Hickman taken on board the enemy vessel.
He was asked in English to give the name of the ship, and was taken below
to write the name in a book. When he had done so the German officer checked
the name in a book which he produced from a desk.
Pte. Hickman was asked if there had been any American flying officers
on board. He replied "No," and gave particulars of its being
a hospital ship with only the medical personnel on board. Later Pet. Hickman
was put off the submarine into the captain's life-boat when the latter
Sergt. Knight bears further testimony to the persistent efforts of the
submarine to blot out its crime by cruising many times a zig-zag course
through the area filled with wreckage and lifeboats at a speed of probably
sixteen knots an hour.
He himself was swimming towards lifeboat believed to be No. 19, which
had got safely away, when he noticed this boat being shelled. There was
a fairly heavy swell on the water at the time, and he was carried into
a trough. When he came to the crest again the boat he had seen being shelled
Eventually while floating on a piece of wreckage he was picked up by the
captain's boat. Sergt. Knight's opinion is that at least twenty shells
were fired by the submarine into the vicinity of the wreckage.
Thrown off Submarine
When he first saw the submarine approach the captain's lifeboat, in his
dazed condition, he mistook it for a British rescue boat. He dived alongside
it, gripped a rope and pulled himself aboard. Four or five members of
the crew asked him what he wanted, speaking in English.
He was promptly thrown back into the lifeboat by four of these men.
The evidence of Ptes. Pilot, Cooper and Taylor only serves to emphasize
the career of wanton destruction engaged in by the submarine following
the disappearance of the Llandovery Castle. They were in the water about
an hour, floating on wreckage until taken into the Captain's boat.
They verify the statement that the medical personnel and ship's crew,
except those killed by the explosion, succeeded in getting off the ship.
They witnessed efforts of the submarine to smash or sink the lifeboats
in the water, and later the shelling of the entire area.
They are agreed there could be only one motive for this--to run down every
survivor and destroy every possible evidence of the ship and its equipment.
For two hours thee were cried from all directions for help, none of which
received any response from the crew of the submarine.
From eleven o'clock Thursday night, all through Friday and Friday night,
until Saturday morning at nine-thirty, this one surviving lifeboat kept
on its way towards the Irish coast, covering some seventy miles by alternately
sailing or rowing until picked up by H.M. destroyer Lysander.
The Llandovery Castle had been in the service of the Canadian Government
as a hospital ship since March of this year (1918). She had made four
voyages to Halifax, and with a tonnage of 11,200, afforded special facilities
for the transport and care of wounded soldiers.
The Officer Commanding, Lieut-Col. T.H. MacDonald, C.A.M.C., of New Glasgow,
Nova Scotia, had seen considerable service with the Embarkation and Discharge
Depot, was for some time on the Standing Medical Board of the Office of
the A.D.M.S., London Area, and later served with No.2 Canadian Stationary
On her last outward voyage to Halifax, the Llandovery Castle carried six
hundred and forty-four military patients, one officer and twenty-six other
ranks being stretcher cases, fourteen officers and six hundred and three
other ranks of less serious nature. Fourteen of the cases were tubercular
and thirty-seven mental. On the return voyage there were, of course, no
military patients nor any passengers, save her crew, and the regular hospital
It seems unnecessary to assert that the accusation of the German submarine
commander, that the Llandovery Castle had on board American flying officers
or munitions of war, is pure fiction. The regulations covering the control
of hospital ships were being observed, both in spirit and the letter.
Further, it is clear there was no ground whatever for mistaking the ship
for anything other than what she was---a ship immune by every law of war
and peace from attack or molestation.
The list of medical personnel given herewith is as the Llandovery Castle
left England on her outward voyage to Halifax. Captain W.A. Hutton, Pte.
B. Bonner and Pte. J. F. LaFontaine were taken off the strength.
With these three exceptions and the six survivors--Major Lyon, Sergt.
Knight, Privates Hickman, Pilot, Cooper, and Taylor--the list of casualties
is believed to include the entire medical personnel, though there is still
hope, very remote, that some others may have escaped death by having been
left at Halifax, either through illness or by reason of having been granted
leave of absence. Concerning this, however, there is no official record