Llandovery Castle

The sinking of the Canadian Hospital Ship

One of the more controversial events during the Great War was the sinking of the Canadian Hospital Ship Llandovery Castle by a German submarine, U-86, on 27 June, 1918. The ship was returning to England after having brought Canadian casualties back to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Being a Hospital Ship, it was clearly identified as such with a brightly illuminated Red Cross, was unarmed and running with full lights. On board, the crew consisted of one hundred and sixty-four men, eighty officers and men of the Canadian Medical Corps, and fourteen nurses, a total of two hundred and fifty-eight persons.

According to the Hague Convention, an enemy vessel had the right to stop and search a Hospital Ship, but not to sink it. U-86 made no attempt to search the ship, but rather torpedoed it
Even though the Llandovery Castle sank within ten minutes, a number of boats were lowered successfully and the ship was abandoned in a calm and efficient manner. Three boats ultimately survived the sinking of the vessel undamaged and proceeded to rescue survivors from the water. They were interrupted by Patzig, who intercepted the boats and started interrogating crew members to obtain proof of the misuse of the hospital ship as an ammunition carrier. When no proof could be obtained, Patzig gave the command to make clear for diving and ordered the crew below deck.
Patzig, two officers (Ludwig Dithmar and John Boldt) and the boatswain’s mate Meissner stayed on deck. The U-boat did not dive, but started firing at and sinking the life boats to kill all witnesses and cover up what had happened. To conceal this event, Patzig extracted promises of secrecy from the crew, and faked the course of U-86 in the logbook so that nothing would connect U-86 with the sinking of the Llandovery Castle.
Only one lifeboat survived the attack. It was picked up by the destroyer Lysander on the morning of 29 June, 36 hours after the attack Twenty four people survived the attack on the lifeboats, including six members of the Canadian Army Medical Corps. All 14 Nursing Sisters on board lost their lives.

After the war, the British initiated a War Crimes trial against the officers of U-86. The commander, Helmut Patzig could not be found and was never brought to trial. The two other officers, Ludwig Dithmar and John Boldt were tried and convicted. The men were sentenced to 4 years of hard labour, but escaped while underway to the prison. It is unclear if they were ever recaptured, but it is certain that they never served more than 4 months.

Extracts from the official report, as printed in Our Bit : Memories of War Service By a Canadian Nursing Sister, by N.S. Mabel B. Clint can be found here.


The Canadian Survivors

The six Canadians that survived, along with 18 of the Llandovery Castle crewmen.

Major T. Lyon
528654 Sergeant A. Knight
536288 Private G. R. Hickman
69 Private W. Pilot
522907 Private F. W. W. Cooper
536437 Private S. K. Taylor

The Canadians who lost their lives

The Canadian Army Medical Corps personnel who lost their lives in the attack on the Llandovery Castle are as follows:


Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Howard Macdonald
Major Gustavus Mitchell Davis
Captain William James Enright
Captain Arthur Vincent Leonard
Captain George Luther Sills
Honourary Captain Donald George MacPhail

Nursing Sisters

Matron Margaret Marjory Fraser
Nursing Sister Christina Campbell
Nursing Sister Carola Josephine Douglas
Nursing Sister Alexina Dussault
Nursing Sister Minnie Asenath Follette
Nursing Sister Margaret Jane Fortescue
Nursing Sister Minnie Katherine Gallaher
Nursing Sister Jessie Mabel McDiarmid
Nursing Sister Mary Agnes McKenzie
Nursing Sister Rena McLean
Nursing Sister Mae Belle Sampson
Nursing Sister Gladys Irene Sare
Nursing Sister Anna Irene Stamers
Nursing Sister Jean Templeman

Enlisted Men

536451 Private John Anderson
421053 Private Hubert Tyndall Angus
536234 Private Albert Baker
33281 Private Frank Barker
2568 Private John Arthur Bentley
50972 Lance Corporal Hugh Bonnell
524507 Private James Frederick William Bristow
2098951 Sergeant Daniel Brown
526511 Private Neville Raymond Stevenson Carter
962 Private William Frederick Cates
536231 Private Frederick Clark
536448 Private William Clark
536023 Private Walter Cowie
526671 Private John Henry Curtis
536282 Private Kenneth Daley
823269 Lance Corporal William Albert Dawson
536338 Private David William Duffie
418883 Private Alexander Livingstone Dunlop
50379 Private John Eaton
523837 Private Harley Clifton Elsley
34408 Staff Sergeant Herbert Harold Evans
645609 Private Robert Douglas Falconer
50946 Private James Benedict Foley
522922 Private Wilfred Howie Gemmel
535505 Private Myer Philip Goldberg
770053 Private James Hannah
33354 Private Matthew Henry Harlock
33079 Private Bertram Harris
536276 Private Harry Harrison
524248 Private George Edward Harvey
40310 Private Clifford Hugh Hoskins
T/815 Private Sidney Isaac
33653 Corporal William Jackson
535449 Private Wilfred Lawrence James
195880 Private Robert Carman Kelly
536277 Private Edward Moore Macpherson
27150 Private Frederick Leo McAnally
526600 Private James Henry Murray McDermott
2098858 Private Leonard Hugh McDonald
525169 Private John McGarry
644511 Private George Edward Nash
213383 Private Norman Robert O'Neil
467562 Private John Cooper Pateman
81693 Private Herbert Arthur Patton
1390 Private Frederick Pollard
525545 Private John Porter
50089 Private John Arthur Purcell
524579 Private Alfred Renyard
523324 Private Percy Richards
910940 Private Kelby Roseboro
536477 Private Walter Bramwell Sacre
644708 Private Victor Sanders
527999 Private Walter Harry Sanders
536403 Private Robert Andrew Sanderson
862726 Private Frederick Jacob Sayyae
536249 Private Clement George Scribner
524307 Private Lewis Shipman
527654 Private Ernest Crosby Smith
3676 Private David Radcliffe Smuck
536315 Private John Spittal
400171 Private Robert Alexander Steen
536236 Private Frank Chandler Williams
530063 Private Robert Williams
527674 Private Andrew Wilson

If anyone knows of any inaccuracies in this list, please let me know

Links to more information on the Llandovery Castle

Newspaper Transcripts

Sinking of the Llandovery Castle

The Sinking of the Llandovery Castle


The War Time Trial - Llandovery Castle