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Remembered Today:

Hospital ships and armaments - Hague? Geneva?


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I am aware that it was convention that hospital ships should not be involved in troop-carrying or transport of armaments - but which convention? Hague 1899/1907? I believe those were the first times on which the Geneva Convention articles were adapted to naval warfare.

Is anyone aware of older regulations which might have been applied?



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[See https://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/hague993.asp]

states in Article 1 that the ships are "... specially and solely for the purpose of assisting the wounded, sick or shipwrecked"

and in Article 4 that  “The Governments engage not to use these ships for any military purpose.”

I would interpret that to exclude arming such ships or transporting troops who are not sick or wounded

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This seems to have been the course of events here (see http://www.bits.de/ac-archive/recht/on/22-08-1864geneva.html)

Following the Convention of 1864 “A second diplomatic conference was convened at Geneva in October 1868 in order to clarify some provisions of the Convention of 1864 and, particularly, to adapt the principles of the Convention to sea warfare. The Additional Articles, which were adopted on 20 October 1868 were, however, not ratified, and did not enter into force. The Convention of 1864 was replaced by the Geneva Conventions of 1906, 1929 and 1949 on the same subject.” (my emphasis)


Edited by michaeldr
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Due to alleged misuse of Allied hospital ships for military purposes, the German government issued a memorandum dated 29 January 1917 giving notice that henceforth any hospital ship operating in the area of the southern North Sea and English Channel would be regarded as a belligerent and would therefore be liable to attack. Later a second memorandum was issued dated 31.3.17. extending the area where hospital ships might be attacked to include the Mediterranean.

The wordings of these two memorandums cited ‘violations of the Hague Convention regarding the application of the Geneva Convention to maritime warfare’.


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Thank you very much, gentlemen - much obliged.

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Hi seaJane

Two articles from The Hospital, 17th April & 3rd July 1915, which I found when preparing the piece from the war diary account of boarding and search of H.M.H.S. Braemar Castle. I was trying to find if any other British hospital ship had been stopped and searched in a similar way.



The second link is described as a "Practical Lesson" and is regarding the ceasure of the German steam ship "Ophelia" and the Courts decission as to whether the ship was used for military purposes. I do not expect the German High Command agreed with the Courts finding that the hospital ship had been adapted and used as a signalling ship for military purposes and therefore was a legitament 'prize'.

Regards ZeZe

Edited by ZeZe
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Thanks ZeZe!

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