HMHS Glenart Castle

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HMHS Glenart Castle
HMHS Glenart Castle, in her wartime service colours
Great Britain
Name: Glenart Castle, formerly Galician
Operator: Union-Castle Line
Builder: Harland and Wolff, Belfast
Launched: 20 September 1900
Completed: 6 December 1900
Identification: 6824
Fate: Torpedoed by German U-boat UC-56, 26 February 1918. Wreck lies approximately 10 mi (16 km) west of Lundy[1] in 240 ft (73 m) of water POS - 51:07N/05:03W.[2]
General characteristics
Tonnage: 6,807 GRT
Length: 400 ft (120 m)
Speed: 12.5 knots (23.2 km/h; 14.4 mph)

HMHS Glenart Castle (His Majesty's Hospital Ship) was a steamship originally built as Galician 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 fired from the German U-boat UC-56.[3]

Operational history[edit]

Mine damage[edit]

During the First World War, Glenart Castle suffered damaged when she struck a mine in the English Channel 8 nautical miles (15 km) northwest of the Owers Lightship on 1 March 1917. She was repaired and returned to service.[4]


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."[5] At 04:00, Glenart Castle was hit by a torpedo in the No. 3 hold.[3] 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.[3] Rough seas and inexperienced rowers swamped most of the boats.

Only 32 survivors were reported. A total of 162 people were killed, including the Captain — Bernard Burt, eight nurses of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, seven Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) medical officers and 47 medical orderlies. Of the hospital patients being treated on board, a total of 99 died. The matron of Glenart Castle, Miss Kate Beaufoy (1868–1918), was among those killed in the sinking.[6] Beaufoy was a veteran of the South African War and the Gallipoli campaign.[7] Her family kept her diary and her writings describe life on the ship.[2]

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.[8] The body also had a life vest indicating he was shot while in the water.[3]

Photograph of the memorial stone to HMHS Glenart Castle
Memorial stone to Glenart Castle


After the war, the British Admiralty sought the captains of U-boats who sank hospital ships, in order to charge them with war crimes.[9] Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Kiesewetter — the commander of UC-56[10] — was arrested after the war on his voyage back to Germany and interned in the Tower of London.[9] He was released on the grounds that Britain had no right to hold a detainee during the Armistice.[9]


A memorial plaque was dedicated on the 84th anniversary of the sinking, 26 February 2002 near to Hartland Point, with the inscription, "In proud and grateful memory of those who gave their lives in the hospital ship Glenart Castle. Please remember, Master Lt. Cmdr. Burt, Matron Katy Beaufoy, the ships officers, crew and medical staff who died when their ship was torpedoed by UC56 in the early hours of 26th Feb 1918. The ship lies 20 miles WNW from this stone. For those in peril on the sea. R.I.P. Dedicated 26.02.2002".[11]

The Scottish military charity Glen Art was founded in 2013 by Fiona MacDonald in honour of her great aunt nurse Mary McKinnon who died while serving on the ship. In February 2018, Glen Art held a memorial concert in Arisaig Scotland commemorating the centenary of the sinking of HMHS Glenart Castle and nurse McKinnon’s death.[12][13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ pg 226 – A. J. Tennent. British Merchant Ships Sunk by U-boats in World War One (2006 ed.). Periscope Publishing Ltd. p. 258. ISBN 1-904381-36-7.
    Galician 6824 Grt. Blt. 1900
  2. ^ a b Crispin Sadler and Wayne Abbott (2006). "Deep Wreck Mysteries – Red Cross Outrage" (TV Show). History Television. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d "Hospital Ship Sunk by a U-Boat" (PDF). The New York Times. 28 February 1918. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  4. ^ "Glenart Castle". Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Hospital ship "Glenart Castle" – torpedoed and sunk 26th February 1918". Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub-Aqua Club. 2009. Archived from the original on 9 June 2009. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Hospital Ships". Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps. 2009. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Evidence That Germans Fired on Hospital Ship Boats" (PDF). The New York Times. 11 March 1918. Retrieved 4 August 2009.
  9. ^ a b c "Admiralty stirred by German's release" (PDF). The New York Times. 2 December 1919. Retrieved 4 August 2009.
  10. ^ Gibson, R. H.; Maurice Prendergast (2003) [1931]. The German Submarine War, 1914–1918. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 379. ISBN 978-1-59114-314-7. OCLC 52924732.
  11. ^ "Glenart Castle Memorial". Maritime Quest. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Discovering Glen Art". Creative Scotland (Executive NDPB of the Scottish Government). 11 November 2015.
  13. ^ "Scotland's finest musicians commemorate Nurse Mary Mckinnon". The Confederation of Service Charities. 26 February 2018.
  14. ^ "Project honours Scotland's First World War dead". The Scotsman. 24 February 2014.

Coordinates: 51°7′N 5°3′W / 51.117°N 5.050°W / 51.117; -5.050