- Letter Writer
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW1, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2014 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The following email was received from Mike Dowsett, regrettably not in time for our September edition.
A hundred years ago today, 30th August 1914 the Royal Australian Navy Hospital Ship Grantala departed Sydney. She had been quickly converted from the peacetime Adelaide Steamship coastal passenger ship to her role as a hospital ship with the inclusion of an operating theatre that had been specially built at Garden Island. In place of dining and music saloons there were medical, surgical, observation and infectious wards. Without overcrowding she could carry 250-300 patients all fitted with navy pattern cots that could swing with the motion of the ship
She sailed with a complement of 8 medical officers, 7 nursing sisters and about 30 sick berth stewards. Sister Kirkcaldie recorded their departure:
We passed down the harbour to the accompaniment of cheers and farewells from land and water and while we laughed at the excitement we created, our throats tightened as we thought of the dear ones we were leaving behind…as we entered the Heads a rousing cheer greeted us from the men already on duty at South Head. The flag at the fort dipped in salute.
Our little ship, for all its brave aura, boasted only of some 3,000 tons and as we cleared the Heads we ran into rough seas. Half an hour before we left Sydney we had been told that our first port of call would be Townsville.
Grantala had been converted into a hospital ship to provide medical support for the Australian Fleet, particularly if there was to be a confrontation between the Fleet and the German Pacific squadron which was believed to be in the vicinity of Rabaul. Her first task was the support of the landings in Rabaul that captured German New Guinea.