3rd Aug 1918: HS Warilda sunk with loss of 123 lives

Following the conversion to a hospital ship, HS Warilda spent a few months stationed in the Mediterranean, before being put to work transporting patients across the English Channel. Between late 1916 and August 1918 she made over 180 trips from Le Havre to Southampton,carrying approximately 80,000 patients. In February 1918 HS Warilda was struck by a torpedo which fortunately failed to explode, and the following month collided with another ship the SS Petit Gaudet off the Isle of Wight, the latter being seriously damaged. However worse was to befall her when on 3rd August 1918 when transporting wounded soldiers from Le Havre to Southampton she was torpedoed by the German submarine UC-49 despite the clear display of the RedViolet Long Cross markings. Damage to the engine room meant she sailed around in a circle at 15 knots, and the lifeboats could not be launched until the steam ran out. One of her escorts attempted a tow, but the line had to be cut and she sank in about two hours. That night the HS Warilda had 801 persons on board with 471 invalids, including 439 cot cases. 123 people lost their lives, including all the engine room staff, all the occupants of “I” ward (the lowest ward containing 101 “walking” patients), and 19 people from capsized lifeboats. Amongst those that died were fifteen Australians and the Deputy Chief Controller of the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corp, Mrs Violet Long (photograph left).

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