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SM UC-56



26th February 1918 Hospital ship  

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.
  • Officers:8
  • Nurses:14
  • Other:59
  • Accommodation capacity.
  • Officers:28
  • Cots:109
  • Berths:316
  • 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.

Aftermath.

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.

21st May 1918 Naval Action - 21st May 1918  The Action of 21 May 1918 was a naval engagement of World War I fought between an American armed yacht and a German submarine in the Atlantic Ocean off Spain.

Background

In May 1918, the Great War had been raging for four years and the Germans were making every attempt possible to sink enemy shipping which fuelled the war in Europe. On 24 May 1918, the fight was still at hand when USS Christabel, under Lieutenant Commander M. B. McCord, sighted a distinctive oil slick while escorting the slow British steamer Danse north from La Pallice to Quiberon Bay. Unknown at the time, a German submarine, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Wilhelm Kisewetter, was nearby. Danse was about 8 miles behind the main convoy of allied merchant ships, making about 7.5 knots with Christabel off her port bow. The North Atlantic was smooth, the weather was clear and there was no wind.

Action

Once the allied convoy was within 2 miles of Ξle d'Yeu, a well-defined oil slick was sighted between the American warship and the British steamer, off Danse's port bow. Christabel cruised over to the slick for better observation but saw nothing to further indicate a German submarine's presence. The convoy continued for a little while when at 1720 the wake from UC-56 was spotted by the officer-of-the-deck and a lookout, about 600 yds off the port quarter. Christabel was, at this time, about 300 yds from the port bow of Danse. Christabel headed for the wake, making all possible speed, which was around 10.5 knots, whereupon the wake disappeared and a number of oil slicks were seen. The U-boat had apparently submerged. The American commanding officer ordered his ship to follow this oil for as long as possible and at 1724, believing that his ship was just ahead of the submarine, Christabel's crew dropped a depth charge, but nothing resulted although the charge exploded. The action was over for now and the allied vessels continued northward. At 1900, the convoy changed course, following the contour of the Spanish coast, making about 9 knots for almost two hours when Christabel encountered the German U-boat once again. This time at 2052, Christabel was astern, making about 11 knots to catch up with the convoy. The German submarine was sighted by lookouts who witnessed a periscope roughly 200 yds off the starboard beam. Her commander was quickly notified, and Christabel turned toward the U-boat when the periscope disappeared under the water. At 2055, a depth charge was dropped which detonated 10 seconds afterward. A second charge was dropped a few moments later. No secondary explosion was heard after the first charge but after the sound of the second depth charge a third, "very violent", explosion was heard which threw up a large water column close to Christabel's stern. An "enormous" amount of debris from the damaged submarine was seen, mixed in with the water column of the third explosion. Christabel was then ordered to turn and cruised in the vicinity of UC-56's position when she was engaged. The crew of the American armed yacht noticed a quantity of thick, black oil and splintered pieces of wood. There were also very large oil bubbles rising to the surface, no doubt belonging to UC-56. Sometime during the dropping of the depth charges, a number of other charges, which were prepared and live, were shaken lose and Ensign Daniel Augustus Joseph Sullivan reacted quickly by jumping on top of them and securing the charges before they could detonate. Sullivan would later be awarded the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism" in this action.

Aftermath

. Nothing further was heard of this submarine before it surfaced after the engagement. It was not capable of submerging again due to battle damage. On 24 May 1918, the U-boat arrived at Santander, Spain after a dangerous three-day voyage in a severely damaged condition. The crew of UC-56 were interned, the Germans reported to the Spanish authorities that their submarine had been seriously damaged by Christabel and that they had had no choice but to take refuge in a neutral port. It was originally thought that the yacht sank the German submarine so a traditional white star was painted on Christabel's smoke stack which represented a U-boat kill. Although the American ship did not actually sink the German vessel, Christabel was still responsible for protecting her convoy and inflicting serious damage on an enemy submarine which resulted in internment. No Allied vessels were damaged as the German submarine was spotted and attacked before it could line up for an attack. No German casualties were reported.

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Those known to have served on

SM UC-56

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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