Love The Sea - World War I Hospital Ships
New Zealand’s Hospital Ships Maheno and Marama captured New Zealand’s hearts 100 years ago and their memory continues to resonate both down the years and across the sea. In 1915 when the New Zealand Government was asked to contribute a hospital ship to the allied war effort, the Governor Lord Liverpool saw that this was a cause which the public would embrace. While the Government paid for the charter of the SS Maheno from the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand, the public appeal actively championed by Lord Liverpool provided most of the supplies needed for her duties as His Majesty’s New Zealand Hospital Ship No. 1.
Public enthusiasm to contribute to hospital ships as a way to care for the New Zealand Soldiers serving overseas continued when SS Marama was chartered and became His Majesty’s New Zealand Hospital Ship No. 2. When she left New Zealand in November 1915, she had on board the Motor Launch Nautilus given by Horace Chester of New Brighton in Christchurch.
Nautilus is thought to be the sole survivor of the four launches on the New Zealand Hospital ships. After World War I, she was returned to her owner and was used in Canterbury. After several owners and refits she was donated to the New Zealand Maritime Museum in 2011. She is currently being restored.
A page from the photograph album of A C Dalton who was part of the crew of HMNZHS Marama shows the two types of work undertaken by the Hospital Ships. The shorter trips from Ports near the front evacuating wounded soldiers to hospitals in England. On these dashes across the channel, especially after the Somme, the ships could carry many more patients than they had been designed for. Marama and Maheno each made several longer voyages bringing severely wounded New Zealand Soldiers home. It was on these trips that the items such as the deck chairs provided by the public of New Zealand were put out to use ,as the health of soldiers improved on the voyage.
More information on the New Zealand Hospital Ships and their work carrying around 47,000 paitents can be found in The White Ships: New Zealand’s First World War Hospital Ships by Gavin McLean.
This year students from Maheno School in North Otago are taking the ship’s bell from SS Maheno to ANZAC Day commemorations at Fraser Island in Queensland where the ship was wrecked in the 1930s.