I Was There! - The Nazis Bombed and Sank Our Hospital Ship
Returning from the Anzio beach-head, west coast of Italy, with Allied wounded, the St. David was deliberately sunk by enemy planes on Jan. 24, 1944. The story by Sec.-Lieut. Ruth Hindman, of the American Nursing Corps, is given here by courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.
We had lain off Anzio all Monday afternoon taking off wounded. The weather was not good for small craft that day, and it was a rather longer process than we had anticipated. About 5.30 p.m. we set sail, the St. David leading, followed by her sister ships, Leinster and St. Andrew.
When we were about four miles out the black-out was lifted. This is customary with hospital ships at sea, in order to distinguish them, in the hope of avoiding enemy attack. The weather turned very rough. It must have been about eight o'clock, when we were 20 miles out at sea, that I heard a crash. We all ran up on deck with our lifebelts, and were told the ship had been hit and we must take to the boats.
We did our best with the wounded. Fortunately a good proportion of them were walking casualties. It all seemed one confused rush, and then the ship began to heel over, and we were told to jump for it.
Miss Berret jumped for one of the boats, but the boat itself was tipped over and everyone in it was tossed out into the water. I was just behind her, and I went straight down into the sea.
The whole of the time from the bomb hitting our ship to the time we had to jump into the water was only four minutes – it seemed much longer. I felt myself being sucked down under the ship. I struggled and came up twice, and each time something hit me on the head. The third time I was luckier.
All around me people were clinging to rafts and bits of wreckage. Some of them had torches with which they were signalling to the boats that had been put out by the Leinster and the St. Andrew to search for us. But the ordinary flashlight does not carry far.
We spent about an hour in the water before being picked up by the Leinster. One man of our surgical team was trying to get all the wounded off right up to the last, and instead of jumping for the boats he went back to the sick bays.
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