Anniversary of the sinking of the Marquette marked gallery

Cheryl Jenkins, is helping to co-ordinate the 100th anniversary of the Marquette sinking. Her great great aunt, Margaret ...
EMILY SPINK/FAIRFAX NZ

Cheryl Jenkins, is helping to co-ordinate the 100th anniversary of the Marquette sinking. Her great great aunt, Margaret Rogers, was a nurse who drowned in the disaster.

Cheryl Jenkins has always been fascinated with the tragic story of her late great great aunt Margaret Rogers.

Rogers, 23, was among 10 New Zealand nurses who died during World War I when the HMT Marquette transport ship they were travelling on was torpedoed by a German U-boat attack in the Aegean Sea on October 23, 1915. 

Commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Marquette take place over Labour Weekend.

Nurses' Memorial Chapel Trust secretary and Friends of the Chapel committee member Cheryl Jenkins started looking into Rogers' past and the circumstances around her death 20 years ago. 

"My grandmother scribbled this note that she had died during WWI on a hospital ship that had been torpedoed."

Research revealed it was not a hospital ship after all.

"All these nurses had been put on a troop ship and it was an easy target for the Germans – it was a legitimate target. They had every right to aim at a ship carrying soldiers and ammunition. They certainly weren't to know the stationary hospital was on board the ship."

Without the Red Cross painted on its sides, the New Zealand nurses had been deprived of the protection of the 1899 Hague Conventions.

Among the 741 people on board were 36 nurses of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service, members of the New Zealand Medical Corps, and more than 500 officers and troops of the British 29th Divisional Ammunition Column with their equipment, as well as horses and mules. 

"Stories have gone through two generations before it has finally emerged what the true story was," Jenkins said.

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Christchurch nurses Nona Hildyard and Lorna Rattray were among those killed in the disaster.  

Rogers had followed her mother, who was the midwife on Banks Peninsula, into nursing.

"She was an incredibly dedicated person, who really wanted to be a nurse," Jenkins said.

On October 19, 1915, Rogers posted her last letter home to New Zealand.

"There is no romance about war; it spells suffering, hunger, filth. How thankful I am every day that I came to do what I could to help relieve our brave boys," she wrote.

Jenkins had searched hundreds of unnamed images in search of her great great aunt.

"I recognise her instantly because she looks like some of my nieces. You look at her and her eyes have always haunted us."

In 1927, the Nurses' Memorial Chapel at Christchurch Hospital was constructed as a memorial to honour the three Christchurch nurses who drowned in the disaster. It has been closed since sustaining quake damage in 2011 and planning is under way for its restoration.

* For more information on the weekend's events, go to cnmc.org.nz or visit Marquette on Facebook.

 - Stuff

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