TODAY WE REMEMBER THE SINKING OF THE HMHS LLANDOVERY CASTLE
JUNE 27, 2020 Today – Mr. Stéphane Ouellette, President and Chief Executive Officer, Merchant Navy Commemorative Theme Project (MNCTP), joined the Royal Canadian Medical Service Association, Valour Canada, and the Canadian Opera Team, in remembering the tragic sinking of His Majesty’s Hospital Ship (HMHS) Llandovery Castle.
“In following our mission to preserve the Royal Canadian Medical Service heritage and to increase the public awareness of the contributions made by the men and women of Canada’s military medical services, on this date, we commemorate the 102nd anniversary of the torpedo sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle (a Canadian Hospital Ship) on the 27th of June 1918. With the passing of historical information and remembrance of events like this, it definitely will assist and ensure that they are never forgotten. We honour and remember those members of the Canadian Army Medical Corps and all others who lost their lives. May they “Rest In Peace.” commented Chief Warrant Officer (Ret’d) Maurice Beauchamp, MMM, CD, President, Royal Canadian Medical Service Association.
On June 27, 1918, the HMHS Llandovery Castle, under the command of Lt.–Col. Thomas Howard MacDonald (a native from Nova Scotia), was torpedoed by German submarine SM U–86, off southern Ireland (en route from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool, England). Out of the 258 souls on board, 234 lives were tragically lost by drowning and subsequent machine-gunning of lifeboats.
The hospital ship consisted of a crew of 168 men and 94 Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) personnel, including Medical Officers, Nursing Sisters, a Pharmacy Dispenser, a Ward Master, Medical Orderly NCOs, dozens of Medical Orderlies, and a hospital Chaplain. Only one lifeboat survived the attack. It was picked up by the destroyer HMS Lysander on the morning of June 29, 36 hours after the attack. Twenty-four people survived the attack on lifeboats, including six members of the Canadian Army Medical Corps. This tragic sinking was the deadliest Canadian naval disaster of the Great War, and became internationally infamous as one of the greatest atrocities of WWI.
“It is essential that youth learn about the sacrifice of these brave Canadians and remember their service to Canada,” said Peter Boyle, President, Valour Canada.
Matron Margaret Marjory Fraser, from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, was one of 14 nursing sisters aboard the hospital ship that perished. Matron Fraser was known as “Pearl” to many of her peers. She was the daughter of Nova Scotia’s then Lieutenant Governor. For additional information, please select: Matron Margaret Marjory Fraser | Valour Canada
On June 26, 2018, The Llandovery Castle: A New Canadian Opera, premiered at the Calvin Presbyterian Church (located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Another performance followed on June 27th. This ‘New Canadian Production’ was created by composer Stephanie Martin and librettist Paul Ciufo as an act of remembrance for this special centennial commemorative date. On April 6, 2020, The Llandovery Castle: Opera Laurier’s First Full Performance was streamed on “YouTube Premieres.”
“The sinking of the Llandovery Castle has been inexplicably all but forgotten by everyone except historians and the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and the incredible contributions and bravery of nurses throughout the war that have also largely been overlooked. It is a privilege to help shine a light on this significant story and these remarkable women,” mentioned Paul Ciufo, Canadian Playwright, and MNCTP Media Relations Director.
The Llandovery Castle is part of an international recognition initiative to ensure legacy preservation of Allied Merchant Navy and American Merchant Marine Veterans, and all other forgotten military and civilian groups of WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It also recognizes the present day worldwide shipping industry and its critical role to security and defence internationally.
On Monday April Monday April 6 at 9:00 pm EDT, Opera Laurier’s performance of the first full production of Stephanie Martin’s opera Llandovery Castle will be streamed on YouTube Premieres.