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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Nurse in submarine


christine liava'a

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Not quite sure where to put this topic!

Jean Mackie Allen trained as a nurse at Dunedin Hospital, NZ. She travelled to England in 1914/15 and joined the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing service in April 1915. She served in Gibraltar and Malta for one year then Britain for 2 years. During that time she "earned a Malta Award for going to Gibraltar BY SUBMARINE and caring for an officer's wife who was under surveillance for suspected espionage"

text from the report of speech about Early NZ Nurses

Various questions arise;

what submarines were in the Mediterranean probably in 1915, & what were they doing?

How likely is it that a woman would be on board, even just for one trip?

What were the physical arrangements inside a submarine?

Who were the officer's wife, and the officer?

Was she guilty of espionage?

An interesting story. Any more details eagerly awaited!

:rolleyes:

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There were a number of submarines operating from Mudros in 1915, penetrating the Dardanelles to the sea of Marmora where they shelled Turkish troop trains, munitions columns and even attacked Constantinople. Lt Cmdr Martin Nasmith, Norman Holbrook and Courtney Boyle all won the VC for operations in this theatre. Lt Guy D'Oyly Hughes won the DSO for swimming ashore with a raft of explosives and attacking a viaduct.

Conditions in the submarines were extremely primitive and I have never heard of a woman being on board. I have some details of ops in this area which I could send you by e mail if you like.

Theo

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I have now written to the author and asked for more details about this incident. Will keep forum informed.

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Christine,

While you are waiting for further details you may wish to check-out the following

http://www.gwpda.org/naval/rnss4814.htm

this lists 6 British submarines which were in the Med at the beginning of the war. 3 based at Gib and 3 at Malta. It also notes that all six were sent to the Dardanelles for that campaign in 1915

In the summer of 1916 there was a reorganisation which was completed in August that year and details of the then Med Flotilla based at Malta with the depot ship 'Europa' can be found at

http://www.gwpda.org/naval/rnsub16.htm

Looking forward to hearing more of what promises to be a good yarn

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Christine,

R.W.Walker in his 'To What End Did They Die - Officers Died at Gallipoli' quotes yet another list of submarines involved in the Gallipoli campaign, suggesting to me a certain amount of rotation during 1915, with subs coming out to the Med from other flotillas to assist/replace the original 6 that were based in the Med at the beginning of August 1914

Here is Walker's list which includes allied subs from France and Australia;

Australian - AE2

British - B11, E2, E7, E11, E14, E15 and E20

French - Bernouilli, Joule, Mariotte, Saphir and Turquoise

Hopefully we will be wiser when you hear from the author: good luck

Michael D.R.

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A little light relief from lists of submarines

It's a pity that the suspect in this case is the officer's wife and not the officer himself, as I might have been able to put up 'Captain' H. H. as a suitable candidate. From the hundreds of spies who were no doubt operating in the Med theatre around 1915, I suspect that the following is a history more colourful than most. Compton Mackenzie came across this while working for counter-espionage at GHQ (MEF). From his "Gallipoli Memories"

"'Captain' H.....H..... . Left Birmingham in 18.. where he was employed as a clerk at Messrs....., brass-founders. Suspected of I.D.B. in the Transvaal. Expelled from Pretoria. Smuggled ivory from Abyssinia. Arrested for an unnatural offence at Durban. Involved in several frauds in the U.K. Served sentence of three years' penal servitude. Served sentence in Queensland for stealing opals. Expelled from Tripoli by Italians during the Turko-Italian war for suspected espionage. Ran a Seamen's Rest-House in Smyrna. Arrived at Anzac as Interpreter. Arrested and sent to Malta for the remainder of the war."

(And alas, no indication of an onward voyage from Malta to Gibraltar by submarine in the company of a NZ nurse. Keep looking Christine.)

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Got to say I'm dying to hear the 'real' story behind this tale.

What was so special about Nurse Allen that she had to be sent from Malta to Gib - were there no suitable nurses on the rock?

And by submarine? I would have though there were many more surface vessels making the run from Malta to Gib, at a better speed.

And I would guess that conditions on a WW1 boat were basic in the extreme - even in the 80s deisel boats were hardly palaces, although some matelots seemed to revel in the squalor. Subjecting a woman, even a nurse who presumably was familar with the fundamentals of life, to passage by submarine would be unusual.

Jock

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Since we know her full name, unit and medal, would it be possible for someone to find her records, and find out what really happened?!

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Christine,

happy to look for her records in the PRO - probably this weekend.

But I'm not sure what a 'Malta award' was - can anybody explain ??

Jock

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Don't know, still waiting for the author to get in touch with me :huh:

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I have now spoken to the author.

Jean Mackie ALLAN, note change of spelling, was a qualified nurse in 1893, so presumably was born in the 1870s.

She arrived in Britain in April 1915, enlisted in the Q alexandra nursing service, and IMMEDIATELY went to Gibraltar. This may have been the submarine trip. Later she went to Malta. She would have been in her late 30s

She was awarded a Malta Cross. She returned to Britain,served in various hospitals, including Hornchurch where many NZ soldiers went, and eventually returned to NZ.

She was still a registered nurse in 1933.

She never married, had no children.

She did have a sister, Ruth, who was also a nurse, but had married before the war, and never served in the military.

Ruth died in 1950, with one son.

I am going to try and track the son's family down to find out any more.

Can someone try to find out more about submarines going to Gibraltar from England mid 1915, with a nurse on board?

The author is going to send me some references, but this is really all she knows, and she too would like to know more :huh:

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Thanks Jock,

see posting on Malta cross

Christine

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Jock very kindly found Jean Allan's file.

It states that she arrived in England 23 April 1915

applied to join QAIMNSR 6 May

actually joined 3 June

and is posted to Gibraltar

A confidential report on her in October 1915, from Gibraltar, states that she had been serving there since June 1915, and has been in charge of the enteric fever wards.

later, in May 1916, she is in Malta, suffering from poor eyesight due to the glare in Malta.

She returned to England June 1916, worked in various hospitals

" a good disciplinarian and administrator".

She was awarded the British War Medal

She returned to NZ May 1919

No mention of a journey in a submarine!

I am still working on the story at this end, but it seems like an exaggerated case of hearsay! What a pity!

:(

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  • 2 years later...

Some years later, I think I might have solved this!

Jean Allen travelled to Gibraltar, en route to Malta, on the ship SCOTIAN, according to the nursing magazine Kai Tiaki.

Do you think either bad handwriting or mis-hearing could turn SCOTIAN to Submarine?

Anyone know anything about the Scotian?

Christine

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Just doodling on this site and read through. The thought occurs to me that if this nurse, assuming that she was a nurse, travelled by submarine to Gibralta she could have been an Intelligence Agent posing as a nurse?????????????????? B)

Tonym

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No, she was a nurse, that's all.

I reckon SCOTIAN, probably in handwriting, was misread as "submarine".

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  • 2 weeks later...
...Anyone know anything about the Scotian?

Christine

Christine, I suggest you post this query in the Ships & Navies section. There are some very helpful and well informed people who hang out there, and they would love to talk about a woman in a submarine!

I am also interested in the outcome and will watch for developments.

Good luck,

Bruce

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interesting. The Scotian was hardly a submarine! It is just the word itself.

Christine

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