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burial at sea of soldiers on hospital ships?


roytoner
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hi all, I'm researching a man who died of wounds on July 6th 1915 who is on the Helles Memorial. He was with the 1st Bn. Border Regiment at Gallipoli. The Soldiers that Died in the Great War database has the theatre of war as being 'At Sea'. If a wounded soldier died on a hospital ship at Gallipoli I would previously have thought they'd send the body back to shore for burial - or if they were taking seriously wounded away they'd bury them when they got to the next port - but now I'm thinking some were buried at sea? Can anyone shed any light on this?

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Did he die of wounds/sickness or was the ship attacked? Do you have the name of the ship?

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My first thought was that the ship had been sunk. But I take horatio's point.

Ron

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Just typing up an account of a nurse on board 'Delta' at Gallipoli, and regularly burying men at sea - as many as eight on one day.

Sue

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He was the only Borderer to die that day. Very possible he died of wounds or sickness rather than the ship being attacked. If you look up the casualties on Helles Memorial you may find others from other regiments who were buried at sea that day. If there are non then the above could be assumed.

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In the course of my research I came across Sgt William Edwin Thomas AIF. He died of wounds received at Gallipoli, on board the "Ascanus" on the 31st August 1915. He was buried at sea. Seems like common practice.

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'All' casualties would have been buried at sea. A number of 9th Sherwood's died of wounds on board ship and were buried at sea.

Presume it stems from the Navy which always buried men at sea, if they were killed or died of wounds (or even illness)

Steve M

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The Allies were dominant on the surface in the Med area at this time so that if he was killed as a result of enemy action it would have to be a submarine attack. U Boat net shows no attack by German or KuK U boats in the Med area on this date much less an attack on a hospital ship in any maritime area

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From http://www.qaranc.co.uk/hospitalships.php

Burying The Deceased At Sea
A sad duty of the staff was having to ask the padre to perform a committal service after the death of a patient and help with burying the deceased at sea by sliding the shroud wrapped corpse over the side. Sadly many patients died aboard because of their extreme wounds, despite the excellent nursing and medical care.
The war diary of Sister Kathleen Mann who served aboard Hospital Ship Salta and then His Majesty's Australian Transport (HMAT) Ulysses, HMAT Marathon and HMT Devanha can be read in Women in the War Zone: Hospital Service in the First World War by Anne Powell. In it Sister Mann recalls:
We lost a patient this morning, after he had had two operations, poor boy, it was sad, only 24hrs, and he had been through so much (gas gangrene); it was horribly sudden. I witnessed a burial at sea for the first time that day. It was held on the end deck after lunch, the body being placed on a slanting board, covered with a union jack. The burial service was read by the Captain, there being no Padre; others attending were the OC Troops and some of the medical staff. It was most impressive and quite reverently done.
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Roytoner,

There are three points to consider as to why burial-at-sea occurred:

1. Refrigerated space onboard at that time was always at an absolute premium, without that space bodies could not be preserved for burial some days/weeks hence on land;

2. Mortuary attendants/undertakers were not carried as part of ships complement to prepare a body for prolonged storage; and

3. Coffins were not part of general stores carried by ships, because of 2 and 1.

Cheers,

Hendo

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In the course of my research I came across Sgt William Edwin Thomas AIF. He died of wounds received at Gallipoli, on board the "Ascanus" on the 31st August 1915. He was buried at sea. Seems like common practice.

Is that the HMAT Ascanius ?

Kath.

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There are a fair number of CEF soldiers on the Halifax Memorial. Some would have been influenza cases on troopships, like the "City of Cairo" see http://www.sscityofcairo.co.uk/thegreatwar.php. You can imagine that burial at sea would have been a necessity.

Michael

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Roytoner,

There are three points to consider as to why burial-at-sea occurred:

1. Refrigerated space onboard at that time was always at an absolute premium, without that space bodies could not be preserved for burial some days/weeks hence on land;

2. Mortuary attendants/undertakers were not carried as part of ships complement to prepare a body for prolonged storage; and

3. Coffins were not part of general stores carried by ships, because of 2 and 1.

Cheers,

Hendo

I wouldn't be quite so certain - on a hospital ship there might well be staff with the necessary expertise to preserve a body, after all embalming was once (within living memory in those days), a branch of the medical profession and there might be occasions when it was deemed necessary to preserve the cadaver for examination by experts (something odd about the cause of death for example indicating a possible new weapon or an unexpected infectious disease. However in the majority of cases the CoD would be all too obvious and there was an official policy of interring the body as close to the point of death as possible (which on a hospital ship would be straight down) and a prohibition on shipping bodies home except in exceptional cases Coffins can be in danger of floating and not a good idea for burial at sea (but I'm sure that the ship's carpenter could knock one up quite easily if this was required.)

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I'm middling sure embalming was not part of the RNMS training after the early 19c. Parts of bodies in difficult cases might be extracted for preservation, but not whole bodies - above all, in a war situation there wouldn't be time - preserving life came first.

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Was it Lord Nelson who was brought back in a barrel of rum?

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I'm middling sure embalming was not part of the RNMS training after the early 19c. Parts of bodies in difficult cases might be extracted for preservation, but not whole bodies - above all, in a war situation there wouldn't be time - preserving life came first.

Well it wouldn't be in the early 19th century. Embalming surgeons appeared in the 1860s originally as a result of the ACW. A doctor who had qualified in civilian life might well have a basic understanding.

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Is that the HMAT Ascanius ?

Kath.

It very well could be Kath. I got the name from the Australian archives and the handwriting was none too clear.

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According to his account 'Fifty thousand miles on a hospital ship', the padre Charles Steel Wallis wrote about conducting funerals/burials at sea in the evening '...I shall take the funeral at five o'clock this evening whilst the patients are having tea. We try to avoid letting them see the sight, for it is our aim to draw their thought away from death as much as possible. These funerals at sea have an element of pathos which is lacking to those on land : there is the heart which has thrilled at the thought of home still for ever ; there is the disappointed hope and in its place the " long journey west " ; there is the absence of relatives and comrades as mourners ; there is the unmarked grave with the surging sea beating above and around...'

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Here's a pair of brothers in the AIF who were both were buried at sea after being wounded at Gallipoli.



No. 555 Pte. Joseph Horrocks, 11th Bn, AIF. He was wounded in the left leg 20/05/15 at Gallipoli and was transferred out to the hospital ship Soudan, where his leg was amputated above the knee. In spite of these efforts, he died and was buried at sea that same day. He was 22 years old. He was the elder son of James and Margaret Horrocks.



No. 298 Pte. Edwin James Horrocks, 28th Bn, AIF. His service record shows that on 17/09/15 at Gallipoli he suffered a wound to the abdomen which effected the lumbar region of the spine. He was transferred to the hospital ship Somali the same day. He died the following day, 18/09/15, and was buried at sea the same day. Age 20. Both brothers are listed on the Lone Pine Memorial.



Chris


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Well it wouldn't be in the early 19th century. Embalming surgeons appeared in the 1860s originally as a result of the ACW. A doctor who had qualified in civilian life might well have a basic understanding.

All I can say is that I have seen both a specimen and a matching book of instructions of that date in an RNMS collection. Admittedly, in this case it probably related to shore-based hospital procedures rather than surgery afloat.

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