Llandovery Castle

Extracts from the Official Account of the sinking

Deliberate in its conception, every circumstance connected with the incident reveals the German in the light of the cunning murderer, who employs every foul means to destroying all trace of his despicable crime . . . systematic attempts of the sub- marine to ram, shell and sink the lifeboats, and wreckage, on which floated helplessly the 248 unfortunate victims, 116 miles from land, off the coast of Ireland . . . . only one boat with 24 survivors escaped. Six were saved out of 97 C.A.M.C. personel . . . . A stirring record of the perfect discipline of all ranks, and the loading of the lifeboats in the face of every possible obstacle . . . Official verification of the facts confirms the supreme devotion and valiant sacrifice of the medical personnel and the ship's company, whose courage and resignation were in keeping with the proudest traditions of the Army and Merchant Marine Services . . . . This crime surpassed in savagery the already formidable array of murders of non-combatants by the Germans . . .

The ship went down within ten minutes of being struck, and for upwards of two hours the submarine repeatedly attempted to blot out all traces of the deed by rushing to and fro among the wreckage, and firing twenty shells or more from the large gun they carried. Three efforts were made to run down the boat that escaped, after shelling it. The hour was 9.30 P.M. Without any warning a terrific explosion wrecked the after part of the ship, killed the engine room crew and all lights went out. The scene was appalling. On all sides survivors were crying for help . . . The submarine commander ordered one boat to
leave the drowning, and put a C.A.M.C officer on board his vessel . . . (The enemy later fired into and sank several boats.) One man who climbed on to the submarine was thrown off the deck.. . . The 'U' boat remained on the spot for two hours, and made no response whatever to the cries for help coming from all directions.

“Unflinchingly and calmly, as steady and collected as if on parade, without a complaint or outward sign of emotion, our fourteen devoted Nursing-sisters faced the ordeal of certain death . . . a matter of minutes . . . . as our lifeboat neared the mad whirlpool of waters where all human power was helpless. Our boat had been quickly loaded and lowered, but there was great difficulty in cutting the ropes, and the oars were all broken in preventing it from pounding against the ship's side. Finally we commenced to drift away in the choppy sea, and were carried towards the stern, when suddenly the poop-deck seemed to break away, and the suction, tipping the boat over sideways, drew every occupant under. We had been in the boat about 8 minutes. It was the last I saw of the Sisters, and though they all wore lifebelts, it is doubtful if any came to the surface again." (Story of the Sergeant in charge of the boat, who sank three times, but was Rescued.)

Through all this record, nothing stands out more brilliantly than the coolnes and courage of the Sisters, whose sacrifice under the conditions described will serve to inspire men and women throughout the Empire with a yet fuller sense of appreciation of the deep debt of gratitude this nation owes to the Nursing service.

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