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

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1st August 1914 Hospital ship  


Vita, was owned by British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd, and was completed in October 1914 by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend. She was 4691 gross tons, 1955 net tons, and 5160 deadweight tons. Dimensions were 390.1 feet length, 53.3 feet breadth, 24 ft depth. She had twin props and two triple expansion engines giving 4700 ihp and 12.5 knots. Her passenger capacity when new was 32 first class, 24 second class, and 2694 deck.

Immediately upon completion she was put into military service as a troopship, and her first voyage was from Bombay to the Persian Gulf with troops, and her next voyage was to France. She carried on trooping duties until 1916 when converted into a hospital ship with 475 patient berths.

  • Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport Service during WW1.
  • Medical Staff strength.
  • Officers:
  • Nurses:
  • Other:
  • Accommodation capacity.
  • Officers:
  • Cots:405
  • Berths:
  • Period of Service as Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport.
  • Date From:27th October 1915
  • Date To:24th February 1920
  • Ships Crew details:

She was returned to British India in 1918, and in 1922 was put into regular commercial service on the Bombay-Karachi-Bushire-Basra run.

She continued in this service to 1939. Prior to this she had made some voyages to and from the UK. In May 1940 she was converted at Bombay into naval 'Hospital Ship No 8', and by September of that year her base port was Aden. In March 1941 she transferred to the eastern Mediterranean, and on 14 April, during the withdrawal of the British 8th Army, was attacked by German dive-bombers when she was leaving Tobruk for Haifa with over 400 wounded troops. A near miss lifted her stern out of the water and this put her engines and dynamos out of action.

The destroyer HMS Moorhen towed the disabled ship back to Tobruk. After the wounded patients had been disembarked, Vita left Tobruk on 21 April for Alexandria in tow, and in the course of this voyage escaped damage in two more bombing attacks. From Alexandria, on one engine and without electricity, she limped back to Bombay for repairs. When repairs were completed she went again to Aden.

In 1942 Vita was based at Trincomalee, and on 9 April went out from that port to pick up survivors from the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and her escort destroyer HMS Vampire, both of which had been sunk by Japanese aircraft. When Vita appeared on the scene, the Japanese ceased attacking and she was able to pick up 595 survivors.

In December 1942 Vita acted as a hospital ship for the landings at Diego Suarez, Madagascar. In the following year, and for 1944 she served, apparently without incident in the Mediterranean and in the Indian Ocean. In April 1945 she was at the Burma landings at Kyaukpyu, and the following month at Rangoon. She was now based at Cochin, and operated hospital voyages between Madras and Chittagong. In September 1945 she was again based at Trincomalee.

In May 1946, following a refit, she resumed commercial service, and this lasted another seven years. She was sold on 20 May 1953 to Tulsiram Bhagwandas for scrapping at Calcutta.

John Doran

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