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Remembered Today:

Hospital Ship Braemar Castle & Matron Elizabeth Kelly Parker


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Timeline etc for H.M.H.S. Braemar Castle, additions / corrections welcome.image.jpeg.8c4c864f311b01d72e13f64dc93ad32d.jpeg

A search of the web and Braemar Castle is often mentioned as a hospital ship present at Gallipoli – I think this is slightly incorrect. My understanding is that at that time she was a troop transport ship present at the Gallipoli landings which took wounded on board as an emergency measure. In this LG dispatch of the landings Braemar Castle is described as a transport. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29264/supplement/8126/data.pdf

I am working on H.M.T.’s, so called black ships, that also evacuated wounded from the Dardanelles to Mudros Bay & Alexandria, info needed for any nurses on board Braemar Castle before October 1915 or present on other H.M.T.’s at Gallipoli.

* * *

The Braemar Castle War Diary. I have the impression that the period Oct 1915 to Nov 1916 has been written at later date, perhaps using personal diaries for the source. Was the original diary lost when Braemar Castle hit the mine?


The Braemar Castle probably was converted into a hospital ship in September 1915, the War Diary as H.M.H.S. commences with the following entry:

16.10.15: ‘The men detailed to form the Braemar Castle Unit left Aldershot and arrived at the East India Docks for embarkation. The unit was made up as follows:-

1 Commanding Officer; 5 Medical Officers; 1 Staff Sergeant; 1 Sergeant Dispenser; 45 NCO’s & Men

Sailed for Malta.

* * *

The official strength for sisters and nurses was 12.

For the next nine months or so H.M.H.S. Braemar Castle sailed the Mediterranean transporting the sick and wounded from ports of Alexandria and Salonika back to hospitals on Malta or to Southampton.

* * *

Q.A.I.M.N.S. Matron Elizabeth Kelly PARKER (WO 399/6450)

Elizabeth Parker first applied to join the Service in 1904 but was rejected as having too little experience at the time, however three years later she re-submitted her application and was accepted as a staff nurse. During the Great War she served at Cottonera Hospital, Malta, was A/Matron on ‘Aquitania’ (there is a counter-signed letter in Margaret Farmers’s file, WO 399/2650 p.12 dated 3rd Dec 1915, and transferred to Netley Hospital soon after. Elizabeth was posted to Braemar Castle on 11th September 1916 as the replacement for Matron Edith Elton Bott who was unwell (her Medical Board states ‘Debility’ from 4th Sept, recovered 17th Oct).

Braemar Castle sailed from Southampton to Malta and on to Alexandria where 323 patients were embarked to be carried to Mudros Bay for transfer to ‘Britannic’. Pte Clarke, one of the patients, died of amoebic dysentery on 3rd October. Braemar Castle returned to Alexandria when on 11th, Matron Parker being ill with acute dysentery was transferred to the Sick Sisters Hospital where she died at 12 noon on the 16th October 1916.

It appears the ship wasn’t as hygienic as might have been expected. In September, during the journey to Mudros, an officer patient complained that the lavatory flushing was deficient. Correspondence is recorded in the diary – 6th Oct:a naval transport officer (Lieut Morlan) came aboard and examined the flushing apparatus, suggesting minor improvements and apparently was satisfied with the same’

The day after Matron Parker died a sanitary inspector inspected the ship’s galleys etc, ‘and suggested one or two improvements. He also chlorinated the drinking water.’

For the family of Elizabeth Parker, grief turned to anger. They were not aware of the hygienic issues on board but were upset that they had not been informed of Elizabeth’s illness and death until the 21st October.

Elizabeth’s sister Letitia, also a nurse (WO 399/6455), writes a long letter in which she refers to an otherwise unrecorded clash between one of the Matrons at Netley and her sister; ‘..I would like to point out to you the treatment she got from the Matron of Netley, her death lies at her door as surely as if she murdered her,….. The only Matrons I ever met who have been worthy of the name were were Miss Bond…etc…

Another letter written ten days later is more reconciled. The family had received a kind condolence letter from Matron-in-Chief, Miss Beecher and had also read Elizabeth’s last letter in which she had described ‘the view of the sun on the hills and how beautiful it all was’.

* * *

Braemar Castle War Diary, the last entry in this period:

22nd Nov 1916: Sailed for Malta. The total Complement was, 23 Officers, 8 Sisters, 338 Other Ranks.

H.M.H.S. Braemar Castle was badly damaged by a mine laid by SM U-73 in the Aegean Sea on 23rd November 1916. Six wounded soldiers were killed as a result of the explosion. The Braemar Castle was beached and later repaired.

GWF post regarding possible identities of the casualties: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/133922-hmhs-braemar-castle-gs-holbeck-gs-holbech/

Two eyewitness accounts of the event:



(a transcript of Nottingham Evening Post, Monday, 15th January 1917, page 2)

* * *

The War Diary re-commences on 17th October 1917.

An unusual event (I’ve abbreviated the long entry on pages 48 to 50):

29.06.18: At 7:50 p.m., 115 miles NW of Malta, gunfire was heard, a submarine had shot two shells across the bows. The Braemar Castle “hove – to’, all patients able to do so assembled with life-belts and the Medical Officers, Sisters and Orderlies superintended the work below to bring the helpless patients to deck. All patients with the exception of the worst surgical cot-cases were on deck within five minutes of the “Alarm” sounding.

A signal was hoisted from the submarine to send a boat, which returned with a young German Lieutenant accompanied by two other naval ratings. The officer spoke English and asked to see the Marconi Room records and inspect the cargo to which he was told there was no cargo. He asked many questions – where have you come from? where are you going? etc and required lists of all on board. 

After an hours search of the ship and being satisfied that Braemar Castle was a bona-fide hospital ship the Germans returned to the submarine. It was by then getting dark and a voice was heard “Bon Voyage, Goodbye; hope the war will soon be over”

* * *

For a timeline on H.M.H.S. Braemar Castle’s nursing staff in the Arctic during the 1919 North Russia Intervention, GWF post:https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/301818-hmhs-kalyan-in-north-russia-1918-1919

Regards ZeZe

Edited by ZeZe
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  All the above makes very interesting reading.

  A letter in Edith POPPLEWELL's service records indicates that the 3rd N.Z. Nurse was Sister Mary Francis LOONEY A.R.R.C. . https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE21832070


  I haven't loked through all the records, but a letter in Edith POPPLEWELL's record shows that she was transgferred from the BRAEMAR CASTLE on 19/09/16. Presumably the same date applies for the other 2 NZ nurses.

Emily Eliza EDWARDS/EDWARDES Canadian service record is here;- https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=375536


Alf McM



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Fascinating reading thank you ZeZe and Alf

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  • 2 months later...


An update on Major Herbert Ernest DALBY.

Appointed as Surgeon-Lieutenant to the Militia Medical Staff Corps. 28th March 1900.

It’s very likely Major Dalby was the Commanding Officer of the unit comprising of 1 C.O., 5 Medical Officers, 1 Staff Sgt., 1 Sgt. Dispenser & 45 NCO’s & men who left Aldershot and arrived at the East India Docks for embarkation on H.S. Braemar Castle on 16th October 1915. He disembarked ‘Braemar Castle’ for service on H.S. Assaye, 22nd June 1916.

War Diary – Lines of Communication Troops. Hospital Ship, Assaye 1917:https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/0510ee59e8634170b1476445ac552084

H.S. Assaye: 07/10/17 arrived at Shatt-el-Arab 10-30 p.m. Major H.E. Dalby R.A.M.C., S.R., O.C. Troops & S.M.O., admitted to Hospital suffering from Appendicitis.

Major Herbert Ernest Dalby of Littleholme, St Marton’s, Guernsey, died a week later on the 14th October 1917 at 4-15 a.m. He was buried at Basrah War Cemetery.

Brief obituary: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2349300/?page=2


An additional nurse on H.S. Braemar Castle, Mary Catherine GOWER (WO 399/3240).

Mary served probably from 24.11.15 to the 19.04.16., she had a rough time on board. A Medical Transfer Certificate signed by Major Dalby in her file states: ‘This s/nurse is a very bad sailor, suffering greatly from sea-sickness – this has brought on some gastric disturbance – causing recumbent attacks when in harbour.’

Regards ZeZe

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