Hospital ship torpedoed

March 02, 2018

Glenart castle 1918

Happy Valley fire 1918

On Monday of this week, 100 years ago, a temporary bamboo stand at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong collapsed.

Three thousand racegoers were in the stand at the time.

Underneath, there were mat sheds where food was being prepared.

When the stand fell, fires broke out.

Many racegoers were trapped.

In the worst sporting disaster ever, 614 people were trampled to death or died of smoke inhalation.

Another 400 were injured.

Also on Monday, British hospital ship Glenart Castle was torpedoed by UC-56 despite being fully illuminated and marked as a hospital ship.

The torpedo’s explosion destroyed many lifeboats.

Inexperience and rough seas swamped most of the rest.

UC-56 surfaced and began to shoot survivors in the water, probably in an effort to cover up the attack.

A number of bodies wearing life preservers were later found with gunshot wounds, 199 died in the attack.

Sinking a hospital ship is and remains a war crime.

After the war, the commander of UC-56 was arrested on his voyage back to Germany.

Although held for a time in the Tower of London, he never stood trial.

It was then thought that Britain lacked legal capacity to try him.

The outcome would be very different today.

This week four former parts of Russia declared their independence.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia declare themselves the independent Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic.

The Republic was shortlived.

By May 1918, the three components had gone their own way.

Estonia was the fourth part to declare independence after 700 years of Russian occupation.

The next day German forces captured its capital, Tallinn.

During the next two years, Estonia would fight Germans and Russians to maintain its precarious independence.

Meanwhile in Benalla there was another death from typhoid this week — a 12-year-old boy.

A clean water supply and adequate sewage disposal in Benalla was still not assured.

With a promise of a better counter service, Benalla’s postal service had recently been reduced from 11 deliveries per week (two on Monday to Friday and one on Saturday) to five per week.

Today Benalla police were advised that the body of an elderly man was discovered in a shallow grave in sand at Wonnangatta.

He was Jim Barclay, manager of Wonnangatta Station.

His revolver and razor were missing.

His body had been dug up by dingoes that had then eaten his face.

Six months later, the body of his assistant John Bamford would be discovered by Benalla detectives.

He was pinned by a tree to the ground nearby with a bullet hole in his head.

Barclay’s revolver was near the body.

Police were satisfied that this could not be a murder/suicide.

Nobody would ever be charged.

— John Barry, ANZAC Commemorative Working Party, Coo-ee – Honouring our WWI Heroes

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