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Nurses remember the sinking of the Marquette

Three New Zealand nurses - Elizabeth Young, Mary Gould and Jeanne Peek (née Sinclair) - recount their experiences of the sinking of the troopship S.S. Marquette on 23 October 1915. The nurses were part of the New Zealand No. 1 Stationary Hospital unit, which was sailing on the troop transport from Alexandria, Egypt, to Salonika (Thessaloniki) in Greece, when their ship was struck by a torpedo from a German U-boat.

Year:1915 (Recorded 1965-1967)

Location:Aegean Sea

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Nurses remember the sinking of the Marquette

Three New Zealand nurses - Elizabeth Young, Mary Gould and Jeanne Peek (née Sinclair) - recount their experiences of the sinking of the troopship S.S. Marquette on 23 October 1915. The nurses were part of the New Zealand No. 1 Stationary Hospital unit, which was sailing on the troop transport from Alexandria, Egypt, to Salonika (Thessaloniki) in Greece, when their ship was struck by a torpedo from a German U-boat.


Year: 1915 (Recorded 1965-1967)

Length: 06:36

Source: Radio New Zealand Collection, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Catalogue Reference: Extracts from 250776 [Elizabeth Buchanan Young...], S246823 [Nurse M. E. B. Gould...] & S250732 [Three survivors...]


People: Elizabeth Buchanan Young, Mary Eleanor Baring Gould, Jeanne Peek

Location: Aegean Sea

Tags: Troopships, Nurses, Women, Submarines, Casualties

Subject: Marquette (Ship), Nurses


Image Title: Stained glass window in the Christchurch Hospital Nurses Memorial Chapel. WWI nurse on the left, above an image of the Marquette

Image Source: Courtesy of Friends of the Christchurch Nurses Memorial Chapel


Although the S.S. Marquette was predominantly a troopship, with 619 British artillery personnel aboard, the ship also carried 36 nurses, along with 86 men of the New Zealand Medical Corps, making up the No.1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital. A total of 167 people lost their lives in the sinking of the ship. Of these, 32 medical personnel died, including ten of the nurses.

The torpedo hit the Marquette at around 9 am, but the survivors were not picked up by the rescue ships until late in the afternoon. The evacuation of the ship was hampered by bungled attempts to launch the lifeboats. Many of the nurses who lost their lives were killed when a second lifeboat was dropped on top of the one they were in, before they had a chance to row away from the sinking ship. In the struggle to launch them, several of the lifeboats were rendered unseaworthy. One reason for these mishaps may be the speed with which the ship sunk; accounts vary between seven to fifteen minutes in total from the torpedo strike.

The result was that many of those on board ended up in the water, fighting to stay afloat as the hulk of the ship sucked them down. Several of the nurses died in this way, unable to reach the surface again. Those who swam away were faced with hours of struggling to stay afloat, clinging to whatever was at hand, the women in particular hindered by their long skirts and petticoats.

After about eight hours, the survivors were picked up by one British warship, H.M.S. Lynn and two French ships, the Tirrailleur and the Mortier. The survivors were taken to Salonika and many of the nurses, including Mary Gould, were transferred to the Grantully Castle, a British hospital ship. She continued to serve until the end of the war, and was brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for War for her valuable wartime services.

Elizabeth Young served on board the hospital ship Dunluce Castle and then at the London New Zealand Military Hospital. She was awarded the Samaritan Cross of Serbia for her treatment of Serbian soldiers aboard the Dunluce Castle.

Jeanne Sinclair contracted typhoid and was sent back to New Zealand. However, she was not deterred and served again, first at Trentham and then at Brockenhurst Field Hospital in England, where she stayed until the end of the war. She continued to work as a nurse on her return to New Zealand, where she met her convalescing future husband, Walter Peek.

The Christchurch Hospital Nurses Memorial Chapel was erected after the war to commemorate the nurses who lost their lives during the war, with particular reference to the Marquette.