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HMHS Carisbrooke Castle in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- HMHS Carisbrooke Castle during the Great War -

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HMHS Carisbrooke Castle

1st August 1914 Hospital ship  

HMHS Carisbrooke Castle

The Union Castle Line help mark the transitional benchmarks set by the 1894 Royal Mail Ship Carisbrooke Castle in the steam/sail conversion era. The final single-screw vessel of the line, she was built of steel and carried three masts to supplement her Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company’s own quadruple-expansion four-cylinder steam engine that put out an amazing nominal 1,490 H.P. and 8,500 indicated horse power. The company had decided to divest the last of their sailing ships, including the original Carisbrooke Castle, a three-masted square-rigger, in 1889.

There were 12 ship’s boats hanging in davits, with the deck rails wrapping the decks. The superstructure has its open bridge where the appropriate instruments were on display. Rising behind and parallel to the fully rigged masts, the red with black accent funnel is stalwart and centrally located. The hull is painted in the company red and gray.

The liner was built in Glasgow by Fairfield’s, and she registered at 7,626 gross tons for her 485 foot length with a 56 foot beam. She had accommodations for 250 First Class Passengers placed amidship rather than at the stern, the first Union Castle Ship so arraigned, and 140 Second Class aft. Her maiden voyage and the subsequent year’s were from London to Cape Town, South Africa. She hit a normal cruising speed of 16 knots, and could reach 17½ knots when pushed. In 1900, with the rest of the line, they became the Union-Castle Line and Carisbrooke Castle moved her home port to Southampton. In 1910 she ran her last Cape Town service, and was relegated to a role as a reserve steamer behind Balmoral Castle.

Four years into reserve service, fate brought the World to war, and the Carisbrooke Castle began again in military duty. Commandeered two days before the formal declaration of war in 1914, she started as a hospital ship with 439 beds, and crossed the English Channel to bring wounded troops home from the Western Front. She shifted roles to that of an Army Troop Ship in the Mediterranean for most of the war. She returned to Union-Castle service in 1919, sailing in Cape mail service until the launch of Union-Castle’s Windsor Castle, and was laid up at Netlev and retired from all duties in 1922.

Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport Service during WW1.

  • Medical Staff strength.
  • Officers:
  • Nurses:12
  • Other:38
  • Accommodation capacity.
  • Officers:16
  • Cots:196
  • Berths:227
  • Period of Service as Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport.
  • Date From:3rd September 1914
  • Date To:26th August 1919
  • Ships Crew details:

HMHS Carisbrooke Castle - War Diary Entries for June-December 1917, roughly covering the period that soldiers injured during the Third Battle of Ypres were being shipped home.

The diary does little more than list sailing dates and times, plus the number of patients carried. Sometimes it breaks the figures down into officers and other ranks, but not always. It also shows that on each voyage there were a handful of POWs being taken to England. Based on the figures in the diary, between June-December 1917, HMHS Carisbrook Castle made 38 crossings between Le Havre and Southampton and transported nearly 20,000 wounded officers and men home. Broken down by month, the figures show that October and November were the busiest time - the most crossings and the greatest number of injured.

  • Jun: 1 crossing, 358 carried (this may not be wholly accurate as there is only one entry in the diary for June)
  • Jul; 4 crossing, 1374 carried
  • Aug: 5 crossings, 2808 carried
  • Sep: 6 crossings, 2986 carried
  • Oct: 8 crossings, 4590 carried
  • Nov: 9 crossings, 4919 carried
  • Dec: 5 crossings, 2555 carried
John Doran

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  These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Great War.

Those known to have served in

HMHS Carisbrooke Castle

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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