Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Sinking of the Hospital Ship HMHS LLandovery Castle, 27th June 1918

Built in 1914 for the Union Castle Line, which had been taken over by the Royal Mail
Line in 1912, the Llandovery Castle was converted for use as a hospital ship during WW1.

She was in use by Canadian forces and was on her way from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to Liverpool, when she was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine on 27th June 1918 off the coast of Southern Ireland.

At the time, firing on a hospital ship was against International Law so one wonders what went through the mind of the Captain of the submarine, Helmut Brűmmer-Patzig when he surfaced, ran down the lifeboats and machine-gunned survivors.  

Only twenty-four people managed to survive the horror to be rescued by the British Destroyer HMS Lysander and tell the world of the war crime.   234 doctors, nurses and patients, plus ship’s crew were killed.

After the war, under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, trials were held in Leipzig of Germans alleged to have committed war crimes such as mistreatment of prisoners of war, crimes on the high seas and against civilians and non-combatants.   The Leipzig Trials were a first attempt at bringing the perpetrators of war crimes to justice.   They were held between 23rd May and 16th July 1921.

Unfortunately, Commander Brűmmer-Patzig, the captian of the submarine that sank the Llandovery Castle, was not among them as he had fled the country.  His two First-Lieutenants Ludwig Dithmar and John Boldt, were initially found guilty but acquitted after an appeal as having merely obeyed their Captain’s orders.

For a post regarding the nurses, please see