HMHS Glenart Castle
HMHS Glenart Castle (His Majesty's Hospital Ship) was a steamship originally built as Galacian in 1900 for the Union-Castle Line. She was renamed Glenart Castle in 1914, but was requisitioned for use as a British hospital ship during the First World War. On 26 February 1918, she was hit and sunk by a torpedo from the German U-boat UC-56.
- Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport Service during WW1.
- Medical Staff strength.
- Accommodation capacity.
- Period of Service as Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport.
- Date From:30th September 1914
- Date To:26th February 1918
- Ships Crew details:
On 26 February 1918, Glenart Castle was leaving Newport, South Wales heading towards Brest, France. Fishermen in the Bristol Channel saw her clearly lit up as a hospital ship. John Hill — a fisherman on Swansea Castle — remembered "I saw the Hospital Ship with green lights all around her - around the saloon. She had her red side lights showing and mast-head light, and also another red light which I suppose was the Red Cross light. "At 0400, Glenart Castle was hit by a torpedo in the No. 3 hold. The blast destroyed most of the lifeboats, while the subsequent pitch of the vessel hindered attempts to launch the remaining boats. In the eight minutes the ship took to sink, only seven lifeboats were launched. Rough seas and inexperienced rowers swamped most of the boats.
Only a few survivors were reported. 162 people were killed including the Captain — Bernard Burt, eight nurses, seven Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) medical officers and 47 medical orderlies. The matron of Glenart Castle — Miss Kate Beaufoy — was a veteran of the South African War. Her family kept her diary and her writings describe life on the ship.
Evidence was found suggesting that the submarine may have shot at initial survivors of the sinking in an effort to cover up the sinking of Glenart Castle. The body of a junior officer of Glenart Castle was recovered from the water close to the position of the sinking. It was marked with two gunshot wounds, one in the neck and the other in the thigh. The body also had a life vest indicating he was shot while in the water.
After the war, the British Admiralty sought the captains of U-Boats who sank hospital ships, in order to charge them with war crimes. Kapitanleutnant Wilhelm Kiesewetter — the commander of UC-56 — was arrested after the war on his voyage back to Germany and interned in the Tower of London. He was released on the grounds that Britain had no right to hold a detainee during the Armistice.