McGreal, Stephen.


Barnsley, 1st.ed., 2008. 272 pp., profusely illustrated with photographs. D.j., 24 x 16cm. FINE. During the First World War, repatriated wounded British and Allied soldiers were brought home on board hospital ships – merchant vessels painted white with large red crosses painted on their sides to signify their humanitarian purpose. However, such vessels ran the risk of mines which could not distinguish one ship from another ; and ran the gauntlet of U-boats whom it was hoped would not attack such vessels on their mercy missions. Contrary to the terms of the Geneva Convention, on occasions Germany had sunk unarmed hospital ships under the excuse that they were carrying ammunition or able-bodied troops. The British press seized on these examples of ‘Hun Barbarity’, and the crisis deepened in February 1917 when Germany declared unrestricted naval warfare. Hospital ships now became actual targets and Britain, outraged, threated severe reprisals against Germany. Undeterred Germany stepped up its campaign and sank two hospital ships in succession ; seven struck mines and a further eight were torpedoed. Britain took immediate counter-measures by painting the ships grey, arming them, and sending them out in protected convoys. After Germany surrendered, Britain pursued those responsible for the war crimes through the courts. This well-illustrated book includes a list of hospital ships, war memorials and cemeteries. FINE copy.

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