Nurses killed on torpedoed ship among remembered

JACK MONTGOMERIE
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2014

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Four nurses and two medical corps members with links to South Canterbury were among those killed when a British transport ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in the north Aegean sea on October 23, 1915.

The are among more than 900 South Cantabrians who left to serve King and Country, but never returned, and are remembered in a special supplement in Monday's Herald.

For King and Country commemorates 100 years since the beginning of World War 1.

Thirty-two New Zealanders, including 10 nurses and 19 New Zealand Medical Corps staff, were killed in the sinking of the Marquette which was headed for Salonika (now Thessaloniki) to establish a hospital.

Among those killed were Isabel Clark, whose sister lived in Oamaru; Mary Gorman, who had parents in the Waimate district; Catherine Anne Fox and Marion Brown, who had both nursed in Waimate;, Samuel James Bird, who also left behind parents in Waimate; and Robert Bruce Herdman, a Timaru builder. Nurse Violet McCosh-Smith, formerly a nurse in Timaru Hospital men's ward, was among the survivors.

Captain A M Harrison, of Palmerston, was among those on board, along with 36 nurses, 130 ambulance men and 600 soldiers from the Royal Field Artillery.

He reported seeing "a track on the water coming towards the ship" before an explosion shook the Marquette. A New Zealand doctor estimated the ship took less than 18 minutes to sink from the time it was hit.

At the time, Major D S Wylie, of the New Zealand Medical Corps, said several nurses were killed or seriously injured when one lifeboat fell on to another while being unloaded. Another tipped while being lowered, dropping several nurses into the sea.

The Waimate Hospital Committee named its women's ward Marquette in commemoration of the event. Divers in Greece found the wreck of the Marquette in the Thermaic Gulf in 2009.

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- The Timaru Herald

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