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Who was to blame for the sinking of the Marquette?

Thirty-two New Zealand medical staff, including ten nurses, were killed when the troop transport ship SS Marquette was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat on 23 October 1915. The Marquette was en route from Alexandria to Salonika, carrying troops of the British 29th Division Ammunition Column, Royal Field Artillery, along with their equipment and animals. The medical personnel, equipment and stores of the New Zealand No. 1 Stationary Hospital were also on board. Questions were later asked about why a hospital unit was travelling with an ammunition column, which made the ship a legitimate military target.

In this 1965 recording two survivors, Herbert Hyde and Alexander Prentice of the New Zealand Medical Corps, recall the shipwreck and their impressions of why the disaster happened.

Year:1915 (Recorded 1965)

Location:Aegean Sea

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Who was to blame for the sinking of the Marquette?

Thirty-two New Zealand medical staff, including ten nurses, were killed when the troop transport ship SS Marquette was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat on 23 October 1915. The Marquette was en route from Alexandria to Salonika, carrying troops of the British 29th Division Ammunition Column, Royal Field Artillery, along with their equipment and animals. The medical personnel, equipment and stores of the New Zealand No. 1 Stationary Hospital were also on board. Questions were later asked about why a hospital unit was travelling with an ammunition column, which made the ship a legitimate military target.

In this 1965 recording two survivors, Herbert Hyde and Alexander Prentice of the New Zealand Medical Corps, recall the shipwreck and their impressions of why the disaster happened.


Year: 1915 (Recorded 1965)

Length: 13:34

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

Catalogue Reference: 250732 [Two survivors of the sinking of the British troop transport Marquette describe their experiences].


People: Herbert Stanley Hyde, Alexander Prentice

Location: Aegean Sea

Tags: Troopships, Submarines, Casualties, Hospitals, Ships

Subject: Marquette (Ship)


Image Title: Northern Advocate, 4 November 1915, Page 4

Image Source: Papers Past


The sinking of the Marquette and the resultant loss of life, particularly the lives of the 32 New Zealand medical staff, “sent a wave of sadness through the Dominion.”[1] It was later asked whether the Marquette had been a legitimate target for the submarine, and why the hospital staff were on board. A British hospital ship, the Grantully Castle, had sailed from Alexandria to Salonika a few days before, and had sufficient space on board for the No. 1 Stationary Hospital staff. As a white-painted hospital ship, the Grantully Castle was less of a target than the grey-painted Marquette.

The Marquette had had a military escort, in the form of the French destroyer Tirrailleur, but it had stopped escorting the Marquette the previous night. As the Marquette was close to the port, it was probably thought unlikely that she would be attacked.

After the survivors arrived at Salonika, an enquiry was held which found that nobody was at fault for the tragedy. Yet some good did arise from the disaster. New Zealand Governor-General Lord Liverpool made a recommendation to the War Office that medical personnel should only be transported by hospital ships in the future, where possible; a policy which remained during the Second World War.

[1] Nurses’ Memorial Service. Kai Tiaki : the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, Volume XII, Issue 4, October 1919, Page 155. Papers Past: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=KT19191001.2.16