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HMHS Varela in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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HMHS Varela

1st August 1914 Hospital ship  

HMHS Varela

SS Varela (1914), Base data at 26 June 1914. Type Passenger/cargo liner P&O Group service 1914-1951. P&O Group status Owned by subsidiary company British India Steam Navigation Company Ltd.

Builders Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd Newcastle-upon-Tyne Yard number 930. Registry: Official number 136296, Signal letters Call sign JFPT. Classification society Lloyd’s Register.

Gross tonnage 4,645 grt, Net tonnage 1,932 nrt, Deadweight 5,160 tons.
Length 118.90m (390.1ft), Breadth 16.24m (53.3ft), Depth 8.07m (26.5ft) Draught 6.979m (22.9ft).
Engines 2 triple expansion steam engines. Engine builders Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd., Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Power 4,700 ihp, Propulsion Twin screw, Speed 15.75 knots (trials).
Passenger capacity 32 first class, 24 second class, 1,292 deck passengers. Cargo capacity 4,875 cubic metres (172,158 cubic metres)

Employment* Bombay/Persian Gulf ‘fast’ service


  • 27.03.1914: Launched.
  • 28.05.1914: Delivered as Varela for British India Steam Navigation Company at a cost of £119,200. She was the first of the V-class to be delivered followed by her sisters Varsova, Vita and Vasna.
  • 24.06.1914: Takeover of British India Steam Navigation Company by The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company agreed.
  • 02.08.1914: She was the first British India Steam Navigation Company ship requisitioned by the Government for the war effort (two days before the official declaration of war). She was initially used as a supply and despatch vessel.
  • Late 1914: Served as an Indian Expeditionary Force transport. She was the headquarters ship for the landings at Fao and Sanniya in the Gulf.
  • Early 1915: Used intermittently as a base hospital at Basra.

10.1915: Converted into an Indian Expeditionary Force hospital ship with 450 beds at the Royal Indian Marine Dockyard at Bombay. She was employed mainly to and from the Gulf for the Mesopotamia campaign.

  • Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport Service during WW1.
  • Medical Staff strength.
  • Officers:
  • Nurses:
  • Other:
  • Accommodation capacity.
  • Officers:450
  • Cots:
  • Berths:
  • Period of Service as Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport.
  • Date From: 2nd October 1915
  • Date To: 1st October 1920
  • Ships Crew details:

  • 11.1917: Transferred to ambulance transport service.
  • 10.1920: Released back to commercial service.
  • 14.12.1922: Collided with a tug and the Strick Line tender Raithwaite Hall in the river below Mohammerah. She caused extensive damage to the tender. The Varela required dry-docking at Bombay to be repaired.
  • 07.1927: One of her firemen fell overboard 32km (20 miles) off land. A search was mounted without success. The fireman was entered as ‘lost at sea’ and his effects returned to his family members. A week later the ‘dead’ man was back on board, having swum for a day and a half before being picked up by fishermen close inshore and making his way back to Varela on the Barpeta.

WW2 Service.

09.1938: Requisitioned during the Munich crisis.
1939: 87.7 cubic metres (3,100 cubic feet) of insulated cargo space installed.
1941/1945: Her wartime service was spent serving as a Personnel Ship.

1946: Returned to her Persian Gulf service.
1947: Transferred to the Calcutta/Madras/Rangoon service.
22.03.1951: Sold for £45,000 to the British Iron & Steel Corporation for breaking up.
26.04.1951: Demolition carried out by Thomas W Ward Ltd at Briton Ferry.

John Doran

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Those known to have served in

HMHS Varela

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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