In May of last year I wrote a blog post called “War Posters, Mercy and the Red Cross” (you can find a link to it here). In it I described the story of a World War One poster for Canadian Victory Bonds that featured a ship called the Llandovery Castle, and I mentioned that in spite of the fact that the ship was carrying medical personnel and a red cross indicating that it was a hospital ship, it was torpedoed by the Germans. I went on to describe the bona fides of the fellow who bought the poster, and I provided a brief history of the ship.
As I am a poster person and not an expert in naval history, I relied on the Internet for research. While looking into the Llandovery Castle incident, I found some photos, and used them, to illustrate the story of its sinking and its importance. Yesterday, I received the following letter:
I am writing to you with regard to a photo you have posted on your website page Poster Romance, War Posters, Mercy, and Red Cross Nurses.
The photo purports to show an aerial view of the hospital ship HMHS Llandovery Castle sinking on June 27, 1918. My grandfather came home on this ship on her last voyage to Canada, landing in Halifax on June 17, 1918.
I believe the photo to be of another ship, since the Llandovery Castle was torpedoed approximately 9:30 p.m., and, according to survivors in the captain’s lifeboat, “when they were only fifty feet from the ship her stern went under, her boilers blew, her bow stood up in the air, and she went down – about ten minutes after the torpedo had struck her.”
This account, along with many others, would make it impossible to have a photo showing the ship sinking, let alone an aerial view in daylight.
I thought you should know that the photo posted on your website showing a hospital ship sinking is not the Llandovery Castle.
During this week of Remembrance, I think it is important to remember, and remember correctly, the stories of those who gave their lives for this country and for others. If I have misidentified – inadvertently – the ship, I apologize, and I thank my letter-writer for pointing out my error. If he, or anybody else has the accurate photograph, I would be happy to insert it in its proper place.
Lest we forget.