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Hospital Ship Panama and HMHS Maine


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Hello there;

In looking around on the web I haven't found much about the Hospital Ship Panama but here are a few details:

HMS MAINE ex - Pacific Steam Navigation Company's 'PANAMA' Built in 1902

Purchased 1920., converted 1921, Hospital ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Builder Fairfield Co. Govan, 1902.,

Displacement : 10,100 tons.

Dimensions: length 401ft 3in (p.p)., beam 58ft 4in., draught 23ft 6in/34ft deep load.

Machinery : 2 shaft reciprocating triple expansion, 2 x double ended

boilers, 2 x single ended boilers, I.H.P. 4,000 = 13knots. single funnel.

As an HMHS there is a photo of her here:

http://www.historicalrfa.org/index.php/arc...hip-in-the-navy

She did not become an official HMHS until after purchase in 1920, but the SS Panama was certainly a Hospital Ship before this as a couple of nurses books printed after WW1 relate to the Panama being present off Gallipoli.

Does anyone have more sources on this? Are there any photos of her before conversion to the Maine in 1920?

I have seen a medal card which indicates someones "theatre" served in as the HS Panama and the date is in June 1915 IIRC. Just wanted to know more about the vessel.

Regards

Matt

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SS Panama was certainly a Hospital Ship before this as a couple of nurses books printed after WW1 relate to the Panama being present off Gallipoli.

Matt,

Do you have the names of the nurses and of the books?

regards

Michael

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Matt,

Are there any photos of her before conversion to the Maine in 1920

This claims to be the Panama c. December 1921;

see http://www.lighthousedepot.com/lite_explor...ails&pk=600

I have seen a medal card which indicates someones "theatre" served in as the HS Panama and the date is in June 1915 IIRC.

Please see http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalog...;accessmethod=5

which appears to indicate that the Panama was sailing between South America and London in mid-1915

I regret that so far, I have seen nothing to connect this ship with the Gallipoli campaign

regards

Michael

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Kirkaldie "In Grey and Scarlet" published 1922 Melbourne Austrailia

also see her entry in the Austrailian Dictionary of Biography

North Coast Anzacs Volume 1 by R Gow

Got to find the other pencil notes I made earlier....

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Hi Michael;

Interesting. I did a bit of trawling online and there is also a mention of the war service record of a Lt Kenneth Gillies who had been on the staff of the Aberdeen University in their roll of honour, he served on the H.M.H.S Panama and it states sailing between England, Malta, Mudros and Suvla Bay". Perhaps it only went there once? Since Mudros was a staging area for the campaign does it seem plausible it went there? One possible explanation for its sailing from South America to Uk earlier in 1915 could be that is where it actually plied with the Pacific Steam Navigation Co, who had owned it before the Navy took it over?

Here is the entry

GILLIES, KENNETH, M.A., M.B.,

s. of John G. ; b. Lochalsh, Ross-shire, 10 Apr. 1866. M.A. (I Cl.), 1891 ; M.B. (Hons.),

1895. Lieut., R.A.M.C., 16 May 1915. Served in H.M.H.S. " Panama " sailing

between Southampton, Malta, Mudros, Suvla Bay, Aug. -Nov. 1915; Malta, Nov. 1915-

Apr. 1916. Final rank, Lieutenant.

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According to my Gt Uncle James Keeling's Pension Record following him being wounded in the field 11 August 1916 he went from 21 CCS to 2 Stationary Hospital and was transferred to England on HS Panama 17 August 1916.

He was with 1 N Staffs near Trones Wood when wounded

Jane

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Matt,

If the NA records are indeed for the same ship

then it also possible that the June 1915 sailing from South America was her last in that role, before she was taken over as a HS in late summer 1915

Since Mudros was a staging area for the campaign does it seem plausible it went there

If she served as a HS for the Gallipoli campaign then yes,

Wounded from Gallipoli were shipped, at different times, to Lemnos, Egypt, Malta, Gibraltar and the UK

Thanks for the leads re the books etc

regards

Michael

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Matt

from: http://www.defence.gov.au/health/infocentr...h_8_1_31-35.pdf

quote: Sister Kirkcaldie paid her own way to England, arriving there in February 1915, where she immediately joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. A month later, she was in the Mediterranean on board the hospital ship Panama. She subsequently cared for wounded from Gallipoli.

If she joined the HS Panama in March 1915 then it does not seem likely that this is the same ship which was on the regular South American run in June 1915.

Edited by michaeldr
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Michael;

Thanks for that info. It had me wondering last night because the only website that mentions the Panama which became the Maine said she was taken over in 1914 which can't be quite right.

Ah well. The person I am looking for joined HS Panama on 2.9.15.

Now I need to find out more about where she was then!

ttfn

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per ardua per mare per terram

Some other files at Kew:

MT 23/314 S.S. Panama. Suitability of Hospital Ship for Natives. 1914

MT 23/384 Hospital Ship Panama. Requisitioning, fitting out, report on vessel and other matters. 1915

It is possible that there was more than one ship on the name, checking LLoyd's Registers is better than the net.

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Hi there

Attached is an image of the Panama before being named RFA Maine.

As the Maine she was never known as the HMS Maine - she wasn't a commissioned ship.

Chris

post-27891-1237234724.jpg

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  • 6 months later...

Chris;

Only just noticed this while revisiting Naval topics. Many thanks, I've never seen that pic before. As the Panama was pretty new to the Pacific Navigation people before the Navy hired her [or whatever they called it] then this does indeed look like the Panama I was after. I can't find a whisper about another Panama connected to the Royal Navy from an earlier time so far. What's the date on your pic?

Many thanks

Matt

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello;

Saw that this thread has been revived somewhat.

Not much to add about the "Panama" except that my Great uncle, Gnr. A McKie was twice wounded in France, according to his service record.

1st time: "To England on H/S Panama Date: June 10, 1916

2nd time:"England per A ? Panama Date: Sept.14, 1917

So it would appear by that time she was back in "home waters."

George

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  • 2 months later...

Hello Matt,

I have the scrapbook of a RAMC private who served on the "Panama". It contains dozens of photos of the ship in her HMHS version. Some photos document meetings with the HMHS "Aquitania" and HMHS "Britannic" at Naples but I remember that there were photos of other locations too. I will check and let you know.

Best regards,

Michail

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Matt

These men from the 5th Suffolk Regiment who were wounded on Gallipoli:

Boyce Harry T Serjeant / Drummer Invalided to England from Malta on 13/1/1916 aboard H. S. Panama

Swann Henry Corporal Invalided to England from Malta on 31/10/1915 aboard H. S. Panama

Cobbold Claud(e) Alfred Private Invalided to England from Malta on 31/10/1915 aboard H. S. Panama

Bursford Albert Private Invalided to England from Malta on 13/1/1916 aboard H. S. Panama

Pledger Moses Private Invalided to England from Malta on 31/10/1915 aboard H. S. Panama

Meekins Frank Private Invalided to England from Malta on 31/10/1915 aboard H. S. Panama

Gull Thomas T Private Invalided to England from Malta on 31/10/1915 aboard H. S. Panama

Cropley William Private Invalided to England from Malta on 31/10/1915 aboard H. S. Panama

Humphrey William G Private Invalided to England from Malta on 27/1/1916 aboard H. S. Panama

Ray

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Hello Michail,

I would be very interested to hear more about the scrapbook, especially in relation to 'Aquitania' and hospital ships between Egypt, Gallipoli, Lemnos and Malta.

With thanks,

Joanna

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The photos of the encounter of HMHS Panama with the three larger hospital ships of the Royal Navy during WW1 (Britannic,Aquitania and Mauretania) can be seen here:

http://www.titanic-model.com/articles/brit...tos/index.shtml

In this page there is also a detailed analysis of the co-owner of the scrapbook, Mark Chirnside, who managed to find the day the photos of the Britannic were taken (February 4, 1916).

When I have some time I will check the scrapbook for photos of other locations. Inside the scrapbook there are also several "business cards" of RAMC men serving on the HMHS Panama, kept as souvenirs by the original owner. If you are intrested I can make a short list of the names and then post it here.

Michail,

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  • 4 years later...

Hello,

My grandfather Cecil Roberts served in the 1st Battalion KSLI and was part of the BEF in 1914. In September 1916 he was at the Somme, I think at Fleurs-Collette. He was shot and injured on September 18th 1916, and was put on the hospital ship HS Panama on September 21st and returned to England. He survived and later became an officer trainer at Sandhurst. I have his war records and it clearly states taken out on HS Panama.

Kind regards,

Simon,

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  • 1 month later...
Guest Jeneway

My grandfather William Albert Edward Jeneway served on The Panama between 31st October 1918 and March 1919. He was a steward in the Merchant Navy and his discharge book shows that the ship was on His Majesty's Service. The ship sailed from Southampton and returned there too.

Michail - I would be very interested if any of the photos are of my grandfather. He also sailed on the Aquitania from Dec 1915 to June 1917. He was notable because he was an artist and painted the ships he sailed on.

http://www.jeneway.webs.com

Regards

Barbara

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Hi ya'll

Rose Kirkcaldie's book, "In Grey and Scarlet...", gives excellent description of Panama - but she didn't join this ship until October 1915

Towards the end of October there was a call amongst the sisters for volunteers to staff hospital ships, and, in a moment of adventure, Elsie and I put down our names.[1] Next day, to our astonishment, as we were preparing for bed (we were then doing a spell of night duty), orders came for us to be ready to leave to join the “Panama” in half-an-hour! It was a big task to collect and pack all one’s possessions in such a short time, but it is wonderful what can be done when necessity compels. Willing hands came to our assistance, and in the prescribed time we were ready to commence another and very different phase of our war service.[2] [pix on next page HMHS Panama hospital ship]

We and our hastily-packed luggage were tumbled into a Red Cross car and, on the way to join the ship, we called at several hospitals to collect other nurses who had been detailed for duty on the “Panama.” When we were gathered together we consisted of a matron and seven sisters. We were all complete strangers to each other but, in the ambulance that day, we commenced an acquaintance which was destined to develop very considerably before our paths again diverged.[3]

The “Panama” was about to take a load of wounded back to England and we found her a perfect beehive of activity. ... The bustle of “taking on” patients was at its height, and, as the other nurses had, pursuant to orders, already left the boat, there were in the interval no sisters to take charge of the various wards and see to the hundred things that require attention at such a time. A few minutes sufficed for us to don indoor uniform, and we immedately [sic] hurried off to our allotted wards. Once there we found plenty to keep us employed in getting our patients comfortably installed. It was no easy matter with strange patients and in a strange environment. My ward accommodated 100 patients and, though the numbers varied in the different wards, the average was from 60 to 80.[4] I found it difficult at first to adjust myself again to board-ship conditions, here so very different from the “Grantala”.[5]

The “Panama” was one of the smaller and newer hospital ships. She was about 6000 tons and was equipped to carry 400 patients. On the top deck the music and recreation saloons had been turned into officers’ wards. Six other wards were filled with swing cots for the severely wounded, and below these again were the double-decker wards in which two beds were placed one above the other. These were intended to shelter convalescent cases or men only slightly wounded. Each ward was filled with every convenience, including steam sterilisers, dressing trollies and cupboards, and each had a useful little pantry for the serving of meals.[6]

Nov 1915: Our first homeward trip was about the quietest and most uneventful we ever had on the “Panama.”[7] There was a bed for every man—an unheard-of thing later ... Many of them, carried on board as “cot cases,” found their way into comfy chairs on deck, and gradually regained the use of their limbs. Others, unable to leave their beds, were carried out, bed and all, into the sunshine on the decks...[8]

[Malta to Southampton, 8 days]

The last news that reached us before our departure from Newport, was of the loss of the hospital ship “Anglia” with many lives. She was one of the first of the hospital ships to fall a victim to the chances of war, and the news cast a gloom of sadness over us.[9]

The return trip to Malta was a delightful rest. We spent the mornings busy in our wards, superintending the cleaning, making beds, and preparing unlimited quantities of dressings. The orderlies scrubbed and dusted and polished till the wards were a joy to behold. The afternoons we wiled away as one usually does on board ship—chatting, reading, or playing deck games, and, for the first time, all the members of the medical staff met in a social way.[10]

Our P.M.O., Captain McLean, was a Scotch regular

Two other of our M.O.’s, both Irishmen and inseparable companions, stood 6 ft. 3 in. in height ...[11]

Besides these we carried two other M.O.’s, a Scotchman and a Canadian; also two padres, Anglican and Roman Catholic.[12]

The nursing staff hailed from far and wide. We consisted of an English, a Scotch, and an Irish Sister, a Sister from South Africa, one from Burma and two Australians—Elsie and myself. Our Matron, Miss Bennett, was at least half a colonial, as she had been an Army Sister in the South African War and had lived in South Africa for many years subsequently. She was one of the finest of women—human, understanding and wise—and we all loved her.[13]

Such was our little party, drawn from many corners of the world and brought together on a small boat. We had our ups and down, our joys and anxieties, but the common interest of work formed an effective bond, and when, a year later, the day came for us to say “Good-bye,” it was with sad hearts that we parted.[14]

p 90 – to Malta – called from orders.

We turned our faces east, bound for Lemnos, the well-known island and naval base about fifty miles from Gallipoli. For two days we sailed smiling seas, cold, bright and fine; then we ran into rough, bitter weather. We were by this time threading our way through innumerable islands which could hardly be discerned through the driving rain and spray. ... terrible storm ... on we staggered, zigzagging with uncanny seamanship our path through the clustering islands.[15]

pix ‘The Nursing Staff of the “Panama”

Mudros, the chief harbour of the island of Lemnos, was during the operations on Gallipoli always a place of great interest. It was filled with an amazing assortment of ships, ancient, mediaeval and modern. It is a huge natural basin, surrounded by bleak, dreary hills devoid of vegetation. The weather was still extremely cold and snow was lying thickly in the hollows of the hills—an uncommon sight, we were told, on Lemnos.[16]

Here we again awaited orders and when they came to use they contained instructions for us to proceed to the Peninsula and there load up with wounded. Our excitement was great. It seemed almost incredible that we were actually about to see those places of which we had heard so much from the men in the hospitals at Malta. At dawn next morning we left Mudros and a few hours later got our first glimpse of Gallipoli. The weather had suddenly changed. It was now fine and brilliantly clear, though still bitterly cold. As we passed up the coast we stood on the deck and strained our eyes to see as much as we could of the distant shore. Cape Hellas was pointed out far away; then closer we saw Anzac with its crowded busy beach and the hills that rose so steeply behind. Achi Baba raised its scarred, sinister old head high above everything. Slowly we crept up the coast till, opposite Suvla Bay, we drew close into the shore and dropped anchor. All the while desultory firing was going on. Shells were bursting every few minutes, sometimes on land, sometimes in the sea.[17] A couple of cruisers opening fire on a high ridge of hills and in return were shelled from[18] several shore batteries. Aeroplanes flew busily backwards and forwards, captive balloons displayed their unwieldy bulk in the clear, frosty air, and down the rough tracks leading to the beaches we could see stretcher-bearers at work, little brown figures like automata, ceaselessly coming and going.[19]

Seen from this panoramic distance war looked almost picturesque, but in a few minutes its horrors were brought home to us with startling vividness. At the first moment of our arrival one of our motor boats had taken Capt. McLean, the P.M.O., ashore. He returned an hour later, looking very grave. On the beaches were lying hundreds and hundreds of men crippled from frostbite. Our boat was far too small to cope with anything like the numbers requiring attention, oh, so badly! But we had to do our best and strain our capacity to its utmost.

Then and later we heard the story of that terrible storm, which had cost our men more than a heavy enemy attack could have done. It took a ghastly toll of the men who had already suffered so severely and it was, I believe, a factor in the final decision to evacuate the Peninsula.[20]

... Soon after the return of Capt. McLean the first bargeful of men arrived. ... The men were huddled together, blue and pinched with cold and hunger. Of them all, hardly one man could stand. Each had to be carried up the gangway and along the decks into the wards. They came to us straight from the trenches, their muddy, filthy clothing frozen on them. They were famished, gaunt, and weary, and suffering intolerable pain. We had huge buckets of hot soup and fresh rolls of bread waiting for them... The soup and bread gave out pitifully early, and, until more could be made, we had to fall back on the eternal bully-beef and biscuits. But not for long.[25] The cooks worked like men possessed and, in an incredibly short time, buckets of steaming soup, and bread hot from the ovens were again being distributed. Never have I seen anything eaten more ravenously. Bread was a rare luxury to these men, and the steaming soup warmed them quicker than all our steam pipes could manage.[26]

had 400 beds, took on 1172 patients.

It was still so bitterly cold that it was impossible to utilize the decks. We sorted out, as well as possible, those most requiring attention and placed them in the beds; the rest lay on mattresses, and, when the mattresses gave out, on blankets on the floors of the wards, in the corridors, in the alley-ways, in the pack-stores, in fact, anywhere where lying space could be found for them. As soon as they were fed and warm, we were able to turn our attention to their other troubles. Practically every man, whatever his other wounds, suffered from frost-bite. The frost-bite cases ranged from black gangrenous limbs that required immediate amputation, to those in the early stages where the limbs became swollen and oedematous and the suffering is almost intolerable. Besides their frost-bitten limbs the vast majority of the men were also suffering from dysentery, typhoid, or pneumonia. But before all else their feet required attention. Putties encrusted with mud, had to be cut off; then heavy service boots removed, a terrible task with feet so blistered and painful; finally came the socks; socks almost taking root in the charred and broken flesh. Those poor felt! Never will I forget them![27] Some black, swollen, and shapeless, covered with huge blisters as if they had been severely scalded; others completely gangrenous, the gangrene, in many cases, extending far up the leg, sometimes even half way up the thigh.[28] In these very advanced stages all sensation had gone, and the only possible course was to amputate before the patient became generally septic. Some of these poor boys died and were buried at sea.[29]

Feet looking less terrible gave their owners frantic pain. Many of the men nearly went made from the incessant torment. Months later, in France, during the bitterest winter of the war, 1916-17, I again saw some severe frost-bites, and heard the shocked comments of experienced medical officers and sisters; but never once, there, did I see anything to compare with these poor men.

In some cases their hands also suffered, and in many instances their finger joints became rigid, and it was a long time before they were able to use them again. One man, I remember, had his arm so badly frostbitten that it had to be amputated just below the shoulder.[30]

Every one on the ship worked like a Trojan, but none of us, I think, worked harder than the cooks and the baker. For days and nights they hardly left the galley. It was a big task to feed the hungry but grateful crowd that over-flowed everywhere. How the men enjoyed their good food! They fairly revelled in it, and it was a joy to see them forget their sufferings for a few minutes in their contentment over a good meal.[31]

[bit about the baker]

Some times I paused for a word and sometimes to beg “just a few more rills,” and I never came away empty handed. Once, when I remarked on his endless hours of work and weary looks, his reply was:—“It’s jolly little I can do for these chaps, Sister, after all they have done for us, but at least they’ll have all the bread they want while they are on this ship.”[32]

We returned promptly to Mudros where we were delayed a day waiting for orders, and while there we landed two hundred of our milder cases. Then we sailed again for Malta.

During this time of stress we found the worth of our orderlies. The ship was staffed by Newcastle men, many of whom had been “counterjumpers” in the shops there. Without exception, they were the finest set of nursing orderlies I found in all my wanderings. They had all received a few months’ training in Newcastle hospitals, so they were not quite raw when they came to us. It was, however, their willing spirit, their unselfish endurance and their unfailing kindness to these helpless patients that won our highest esteem, and I can honestly say, that in every emergency later on, these rose to the occasion in the same magnificent way. One of the tragedies of army nursing is so often the lamentable lack of co-operation and help on the part of the medical orderlies. When rushes come, so much has to be left to them, and it is heartbreaking to have orderlies whose only thought is to see how little they can do.[33] Such men, we found, existed in quite large numbers, but of all the men on the “Panama” there was not one shirker.[34]


[1] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 83.

[2] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 84.

[3] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 85.

[4] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 85.

[5] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 86.

[6] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 86.

[7] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 86.

[8] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 87.

[9] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 88.

[10] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 88.

[11] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 88.

[12] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 89.

[13] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 89.

[14] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 89.

[15] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 90.

[16] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 91.

[17] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 91.

[18] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 91.

[19] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 92.

[20] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 92.

[21] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 92.

[22] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 93.

[23] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 94.

[24] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 94.

[25] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 94.

[26] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 95.

[27] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 95.

[28] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 96.

[29] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 96.

[30] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 96.

[31] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 96.

[32] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 97.

[33] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 97.

[34] Sister R.A. Kirkcaldie, In Gray and Scarlet..., Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, 1922, p 98.

cheers Kirsty

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  • 2 months later...

I can confirm at least one dock-side date for H.M.'s Hospital Ship "Panama" - my grandfather, Peter GORRIE, M.D. (Edin), returned to Britain on a temporary Commission as Lieut, R.A.M.C., after it became apparent that the numbers of wounded coming off the Gallipoli Peninsual had been grossly underestimated. After a short spell of military acclimatisation at Aldershot, he embarked on the "Panama" at Southampton, on 29 Sep 1915, outward bound for Malta. This detail came from his younger brother's diary.

He eventually returned to England after his Mediterranean service on 8 Apr 1916, but evidently did not remain on the "Panama" for the duration. We know from one newspaper report on a talk he gave after he returned to Australia, that he was at one time on H.M.'s Australian Transport "Wiltshire," hove to off the coast of Crete - and that was probably around late Jan to early Feb 1916.

But he was also reported as having stepped ashore on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and this may well have occurred when the "Panama" sailed to Mudros Harbour (Lemnos Island) from Malta, encountering on their way the "Great Storm" that befell the troops about 26-28 Nov 1915; when she arrived in Mudros, she was ordered to go up to the Peninsula to collect frost-bite victims from the beach at Suvla Bay, and on arrival, their P.M.O., Capt McLEAN, was reported to have gone ashore to survey the scene & assess the situation, and it is not improbable that my grandfather may have accompanied him.

The Panama embarked over 1700 wounded men at that beach, and transferred some to Mudros, but most to Malta, losing several on the voyage who were buried at sea, at least one of whom died after amputation surgery (there were a number of frost-bite cases that were so bad that they required double amputations near the hip).

My grandfather's voyage on the "Panama" was not her first voyage to Malta - on 16 Sep 1915, Private N.F. CROSLAND died, also after amputation, & was buried at sea at 36 deg 40 min North, 0 deg 0 min West, which I estimate to have been about 550 km east of Gibraltar, & I think self-evidently heading for home.

Sister Rosa KIRKCALDY, the Australian nurse who joined the small nursing contingent on "Panama" in Malta in early Oct 1916 (she was recruited at very short notice from a hospital in Valetta), remained with the "Panama" until well after the end of the Gallipoli Campaign, and after the "Panama" was settled into her later role on "ferry service" between Southampton & Le Havre.

In her book, "In Grey and Scarlet," she does give a fairly detailed account of her voyages in the Mediterranean (not all with clear-cut dates), which I will abstract in a later post (I do not have the copy of it in front of me at present). It was in this book that she recorded the above mentioned details of the voyage to Suvla Bay.

An on-line listing of "Great War Hospital Ships" gives details of a large number of such vessels.

The "Panama" is there recorded with service dates of 25 Jul 1915 to 23 Nov 1919.

Apart from her complement of Merchant Sailors (not noted), she was recorded as having accommodation for 7 Medical Officers, 10 Nurses and 58 R.A.M.C. & St John's Ambulance Orderlies; and with sick-patient accommodation for 19 Officers (I presume individual cabins), 217 cots (I presume for patients needing close medical supervision) and 248 Berths (in double tier, for those not in need of close supervision, including convalescent patients).

She also evidently carried additional mattresses for use on available floor space, in corridors, & (weather permitting) on deck.

Regards,

Chris PIGOTT, Potts Point, N.S.W.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Further to my last, I did get it wrong about the number of wounded troops embarked on H.M.H.S. "Panama" at Suvla Bay - it was 1270, not 1700.

The "Panama" spent some 6 months in the Mediterranean between Sep 1915 and Feb 1916. The following dates are largely derived, or interpreted (ca), from Sister Rosa KIRKCALDY's 1922 book - "In Grey and Scarlet":

25 Jul 1915 - The "Panama" was commissioned into Naval service as a Hospital Ship.

16 Sep 1915 - The "Panama" was sailing at 36 deg 40 min North, 0 deg West (about 550 km east of Gibraltar), when Pvte N.F. CAUSLAND died after amputation surgery & was buried at sea (inevitably on a return voyage to Britain).

29 Sep 1915 - The "Panama" was at Southampton when Peter GORRIE, M.D., embarked for Malta, as Temp Lieut, R.A.M.C.

8, 9 Oct 1915 - The "Panama" was in Malta, when she embarked a number of AIF & N.Z. troops. Although the N.Z. contingent was reported in the N.Z. press as having been intended for Britain, it appears from the following that she could not have done such a round trip in the time available, and that she must have sailed east, possibly delivering these wounded troops to bigger ships further up the Mediterranean, or to ANZAC hospitals in Alexandria (prior to their repatriation back to Australia & N.Z. from Port Said).

16 Oct 1915 - The "Panama" left the Dardanelles, bound for Malta.

30 Oct 1915 - The "Panama" was in Malta, when Sister Rosa A. KIRKCALDY embarked as a new member of the Nursing crew, having been hurriedly enlisted from one of the military hospitals in Valetta.

31 Oct 1916 - The "Panama" set sail for Britain with a complement of wounded. After disembarking the wounded at Southampton, she sailed to Newport, South Wales, for coaling & replenishment of supplies.

17 Nov 1915 - The "Panama" set sail from Newport, bound for Malta, having only just received news of the sinking of H.M.H.S. Anglia, just off the English coast.

23 Nov 1915 - The "Panama" arrived in Malta and received orders to proceed immediatley for Lemnos Island.

25 Nov 1915 - "The "Panama" ran into the "great storm" and, despite advice to lay over in the lea of one of the islands, persisted in her voyage.

27 Nov 1915 - The "Panama" arrived in Mudros Harbour, Lemnos, and was ordered to proceed direct to the Gallipoli Peninsula, in order to embark 1,270 frost-bite victims from the beach at Suvla Bay.

28 Nov 1915 - The "Panama" returned to Mudros Harbour, and off-loaded some 200 of the wounded men with lesser injuries.

29 Nov 1915 - The "Panama" proceeded on her yoyage to Malta with the remainder of the more seriously injured; after unloading them in Malta, she sailed back to Lemnos.

ca 6 Dec 1915 - "The "Panama" came alongside "...a well-known transport..." in Mudros Harbour, in order to transfer wounded men who had been on the vessel for 7-8 days, but without having received any medical attention; this horrified & scandalised the staff on the "Panama" - they reported that seriously frost-bitten men had not even had their boots removed in the interim - and as they toiled to clean the men up, and dress their putrifying wounds (many of which necessitated amoutation), the catering staff on the "Panama" were also kept busy making soup & baking fresh bread for the wounded men.

11 Dec 1915 - The "Panama" was en route for Malta when Pvte L. WRIGHT (1st Royal Munster Fusiliers) died after amputation surgery & was buried at sea.

18 Dec 1915 - A Saturday - The "Panama" arrived back in Lemnos, and was again ordered to go up to the Peninsula. But she did not go in to shore, and instead went to Imbros; the extensive fires they had seen at night ashore at Anzac Cove turned out to be the last stages of the great military evacuation.

20 Dec 1915 - The "Panama" had returned to Mudros Harbour, Lemnos, and in the absence of any casualties requiring transfer, received orders to proceed around Greece & up into the Adriatic, to embark Red Cross units at San Giovanni di Medua.

24 Dec 1915 - The "Panama" was in San Giovanni di Medua, but the Red Cross units were still inland; she instead embarked two smaller V.A.D. units, & some 150 Serbian women & children, as well as some Red Cross men.

25 Dec 1915 - The "Panama" landed the alien passengers at Brindisi in the afternoon, before continuing on her voyage to Malta. Shortly after her arrival, a case of para-typhoid was discovered, and the vessel & her crew were quarantined in a harbour backwater for about two weeks.

ca 15 Jan 1916 - The "Panama" was now out of quarantine, & went back into service, this time working in reverse - transporting wounded troops due for repatriation from Malta back to Mudros Harbour, for loading onto the super-hospital ships, including the "Aquitania" & "Britannic" - which vessels were too large to enter most of the Mediterranean Harbours. The "Panama" continued a shuttle service between the two ports.

ca 31 Jan 1916 - The "Panama" arrived back in Mudros Harbour with what would prove to be her last complement of wounded repatriees from Malta - but she found Mudros Harbour had been evacuated & was empty. After two days of waiting, she was finally ordered to proceed to Naples.

4 Feb 1916 - The "Panama" arrived in Naples about 9 a.m., and transferred her wounded onto the "Britannic" - the latter sailed for Britain in mid-afternoon of the same day (she had been waiting for the "Panama" to arrive), and the "Panama" then remained in Naples for another 5 days awaiting further orders.

9 Feb 1916 - The "Panama" was ordered back to Malta.

ca 14 Feb 1916 - The "Panama" was ordered to return to England. She thereafter was based in Cowes, and provided a shuttle service between Southampton and Le Havre, for repatriating wounded troops from the Western Front.

Regards,

Chris PIGOTT.

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HMHS Panama is recorded in the Embarkation Officer (Mudros) War Diary:

December

Friday 3rd PANAMA. Hospital ship sailed today for Malta.

Friday 10th PANAMA. Hospital ship arrived from Malta.

Saturday 11th PANAMA. Hospital ship sailed today for Malta.

Saturday 18th PANAMA. Hospital ship arrived today from Malta.

Monday 20th PANAMA. Hospital ship arrived today from Kephalos.

January

Saturday 15th PANAMA. Hospital ship arrived today from Malta.

Saturday 22nd PANAMA. Hospital ship sailed for Malta today.

Sunday 30th PANAMA. Hospital ship arrived today from Malta.

Regards

Alan

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