New Zealand Military Nursing
New Zealand Army Nursing Service - Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps

Hospital Ships - World War Two

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New Zealand Hospital Ship Maunganui



























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Discussions with reference to the provision of a hospital ship began in April 1940 but the decision took until 10 January 1941 when the Union Steam Ship Company converted the Maunganui into a hospital ship.

The ship was converted to carry 390 patients accommodated in 100 swinging cots, 100 single fixed cots and 95 two-tier fixed cots. Emergency lighting, electric lifts and a 700 ton fresh water tank were fitted.

H S Maunganui with Miss E M Lewis RRC as Matron (affectionately called 'Mum' Lewis) and 20 NZANS departed Wellington for Suez on 22 April 1941. The arrival of the ship at Port Tewfik on 22 May 1941 evoked the comment that it was the best fitted and finest hospital ship in the Middle East. On 10June the ship was filled with 338 New Zealand and 40 Australian casualties from Greece and Crete.

The wounded in the Libyan campaign in December and January were treated at 15 Scottish Hospital and at 1NZGH with all 371 serious cases being returned to New Zealand on Maunganui 26 January 1942.

During the next two years Maunganui transported the sick and wounded from the Middle East to New Zealand. The Italian campaign saw casualties evacuated to 3NZGH Bari thence to Alexandria by hospital ship and by ambulance train to 1NZGH Helwan.

HS Maunganui took ex POWs to the United Kingdom on her final voyage on 23 November 1945. After a voyage in which they brought back POWs from Hong Kong to Wellington in October 1945 a tribute was paid to the Maunganui,

Wonderful work was done by the Nursing staff on board to restore these undernourished captives of the Japanese. Nothing was too good for these people and they to show their appreciation did their best to recover and after 5 weeks at sea several of the patients were able to assist in many small ways and help their own friends to regain some of their lost health. They were a brave ship of patients that arrived in Wellington and were keyed up with expectation as to what this land was going to do for them.

Those 2NZEF sick in Italy were transferred to 45 British General hospital, Taranto and embarked from there on 11 February 1946 to arrive back in New Zealand on 20 March 1946. During the war period HS Maunganui carried some 5677 patients mostly to New Zealand.

Hospital Ship Oranje


The Netherlands Government in 1941 offered their ship Oranje to the New Zealand and Australian Governments with the suggestion that the ship might be used as a hospital ship to transport the sick and wounded from the Middle East. The offer was a most generous one as the Netherlands were responsible for the conversion to a floating hospital, the supply of surgical equipment and medical stores and the maintainance of the ship. The ship was the world's newest luxury liner and departed Amsterdam on 4 Sept. 1939 the day after war was declared and did not complete her maiden voyage until six and a half years later.

Length 655 feet; 83.5 breadth; 20,016 tons and as a hospital ship she made 44 voyages sailing 382,260 miles and transported a total of 32,461 patients who were not only service personnel. Her average yearly distance sailed was about 83,000 miles and this figure was only exceeded by the two Queens of the Cunard White Star line, Mary and Elizabeth.

The 26 knot speed of the ship meant that long voyages could be made without the need to refuel and 300 tons of fresh water each day was made by the condensation of sea water distilled by the heat of the exhaust gases The ship could carry 600 patients (increased to 870 in 1944). Even though the patient capacity was increased she frequently carried 947 patients and finally in the first voyage to Java they carried 1200 of whom 500 were children under the age of 12 years.

In 1943 the Australian medical staff were withdrawn from the ship and the medical staff now comprised 12 Netherlands, 44 United Kingdom and 76 New Zealand. The tripartite control was undesirable and led to so many indecisions and petty jealousies that the New Zealand Government desired to remove its staff from the ship but the War Office made an urgent request that they remain because of the shortage of British staff.   In 1945 the disciplinary control was given to a New Zealand Army Liaison Officer and the morale improved considerably.

HS Oranje was present in Singapore when the Japanese surrended and from here POWs were embarked. Under the care of the nursing staff the POWs health improved daily and were showing a great improvement by the time the Oranje reached port.

The NZ staff completed their duty on 26 November 1945 and the sterling record of the ship includes the 2532 New Zealand patients who were returned home from the Middle East as well as the transport of nearly 15000 sick and wounded to the United Kingdom and South Africa.

The efficiency of transportation offered by HS Maunganui and Oranje supplemented by the assistance of the Australian HS Wanganella enabled the sick and wounded to be evacuated from the Middle East without the necessity of another Hospital Ship being required.

Sherayl McNabb: 100 YEARS - NEW ZEALAND MILITARY NURSING: New Zealand Army Nursing Service - Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps: 1915 - 2015. Published 2015.
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