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Remembered Today:

R.A.M.C Major James Collins FURNESS, 10 mths POW; 18 mths O/C Troops H.M.H.S. Lanfranc & 4 mths H.M.H.S. Glenart Castle


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This GWF link explains my interest in the B.E.F.’s fighting retreat from Mons in 1914 and of the captured R.A.M.C. Officers and men during the first days & weeks of the Great War. It includes a database of sixty-five prisoner of war R.A.M.C. Officers, including Major Furness:


Link to 19 Field Ambulance War Diary: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7351999

Major James Collins Furness was attached to 19 Field Ambulance. When General Mobilization was announced he arrived at his unit stationed in West Croydon on 6th August. As soon as preparations were complete No’s 19 and 20 FA’s entrained to Southampton, embarked on SS Karivak arriving at Rouen quay on 20th August 1914. Orders were received for 19 FA to split into two. B & C Sections were to entrain at the Gare du Nord for an unknown destination with the following officers – Major W.B. Fry (in command), Major J.C. Furness, Capt. Beaman. Lt’s Johnson, Charnock and A.B. Preston. (here the war diary continues with Section A, for the movements of B & C Sections jump forward to page 48.)

Abbreviated entry:

3 a.m. August 26; ‘Landrecies: We had spent the night carrying in, and attending to the wounded men who were defending the town, (about 150, mostly 3rd Coldstream Guards). We received instructions for the bearer subdivision to leave at once with the Army HQ’s, and for the tent division to stay behind and attend the wounded. Lt’s Johnson, Charnock and 72 NCO’s and men left with the column. Major’s Fry and Furness, Capt. Beaman and Lt. A.B. Preston, 36 NCO’s and men remained behind in the hospital.’

All were captured later in the day. In total, at least 4 officers, 55 NCO’s and men of 19 Field Ambulance were taken prisoner during the first weeks of the war. Only 4 Field Ambulance suffered a higher number of POW’s. 

Major Furness in his report described the very hostile treatment of the prisoners by the German population, especially those working for the German Red Cross. He was confined in the following camps until being repatriated on June 29th 1915:

Torgau Sept 4 – Nov 26; Burg-bei-Magdeburg Nov 26 – Jan 12; Altengrabow Jan 12 – Jan 27; Gustrow Jan 27 – Apr 4; Crossen a. Odor Apr 4 – end of June.

POW report of Major Furness link https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C9207449

* * * 

Lanfranc timeline, additions/corrections welcome:


The Lanfranc War Diary written by Major James Collins Furness has been a good source of information for the names of nurses on board (some of the pages are not in date order). https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/ca21ecef2b114629a25cf5089ef53044

The war diary begins on 11th October 1915 at Liverpool Queens Dock with Senior Medical Officer Major Furness ‘taking over the ship and all hospital stores single handed, no Officers or NCO men to assist’. Within a couple of days the other medical officers and 50 other ranks had joined and the ship sailed for the Mediterranean.

On 30th October ‘ten lady Nurses (from Alexandria)’ embarked at Mudros Bay, and Lanfranc sailed on to Suvla Bay, Gallipoli to collect her first cases of sick and wounded from Hospital Barges, he writes ‘….no intimation was received from shore as to nature of cases, cot or otherwise, much congestion and inconvenience to wounded and staff occurred.’ (unfortunately the original ten nurses are not named)

6th November: ‘Embarked two more lady nurses for duty.’ (they are named)

On the timeline is an approximation as to where Lanfranc sailed during 1916, sometimes in the Mediterranean and at other times the short voyage from Southampton to Le Havre and back.

The last entry in the War Diary: 31st March 1917 Southampton, ‘Lanfranc awaiting orders’

Lanfranc Torpedoing 17th April 1917

Newspaper reports state that after the sinking of H.M.H.S. Salta on the 10th April 1917, H.M.H.S. Lanfranc was not carrying nurses owing to the submarine danger so none were on board when Lanfranc was torpedoed.

This is backed up by this entry in the War Diary of Matron-In-Chief, British Expeditionary Force, France and Flanders (Scarlet Finders)

15.04.17 ‘Reinforcements: ….. The Matrons and staff of Hospital Ship “Panama”, “Western Australia” and “Lanfranc” arrived – 25 in all.’

On the evening of 17th April, H.M.H.S. Lanfranc was torpedoed without warning whilst transporting 234 wounded British officers and men as well as 167 wounded German prisoners to England. If the newspaper reports are to be believed the injured Germans on board had to be controlled at gunpoint to stop the panic and a mad rush for the boats whilst the British sang ‘Take me back to Blighty’. Major James Collins Furness survived the sinking, the loss of life was 13 of the British wounded, 15 of the German wounded, five crew and one member of the RAMC, Pte. Lawrence Wilfred EDWARDS, aged 22.

Newspaper articles: https://trove.nla.gov.au/search/advanced/category/newspapers?keyword=hospital%20ship%20lanfranc&date.from=1917-04-01&date.to=1917-12-31

* * * 

My previous timeline for H.M.H.S. Glenart Castle ended with the ship hitting a mine on 1st March 1917.


The war diary to the 16th March records the ship docking at Portsmouth when all salvageable equipment was sorted and dried. Presumably the ship then required extensive repairs.

The war diary re-commences on 8th November 1917 at Southampton with R.A.M.C. Officers, NCO and men from H.M.H.S. Valdivia arriving for duty on board Glenart Castle. Major James Collins Furness was already on board at this date. On 26 February 1918 Glenart Castle sunk after being torpedoed by a German U-boat off Lundy Island, no patients were on board. Figures I’ve seen on websites in the numbers saved and lost vary: 29 to 32 survived and 153 to 162 died.

Major (A./Lt.-Col) James Collins Furness (1864 – 1918) was among those who died that day.

A blog on the disaster with details of all eight nurses on board Glenart Castle who died: https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/100-years-since-sinking-hmhs-glenart-castle/

A useful biography for Major Furness with family details: https://www.masonicgreatwarproject.org.uk/legend.php?id=1106

It does however skip over the undefended divorce petition by his first wife, Mrs Eleanor Letitia Furness, for reasons of the cruelty and adultery of her husband, Dr James Collins Furness, which hit the papers in November 1904 with headlines such as ‘Unhappy Secret Marriage’. 

regards ZeZe

Edited by ZeZe
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Hi ForeignGong

Thanks for the medal info. I did trawl through some of the Q.S.A. medal roll to find which bars were awarded but couldn’t find his record.

regards ZeZe

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