Medical Evacuation LST’s

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Gasmanwj, Apr 30, 2023.

  1. Gasmanwj

    Gasmanwj Member

    There were 70 LST’s that carried surgical teams to evacuate wounded from the British and Canadian beaches. Does anyone know which LST’s these were, or where I might be able to search for this information?
    Many thanks
  2. P-Squared

    P-Squared Well-Known Member

    Rob Crane likes this.
  3. Gasmanwj

    Gasmanwj Member

  4. There were 35 HM LST(2) fitted to carry stretchers: LST 9, 62, 65, 80, 163, 164, 180, 238, 239, 302, 303, 304, 320, 322, 323, 361, 363, 364, 365, 367, 401, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 413, 416, 419, 420, 423, 425, 427, 428 and 430 (source = Green List "Corrected to A.M. 5th June, 1944").

    The remainder must have been US LST, among the 29 in Force G and the 37 in Force L, but they are not listed as such in the Green List and I do not know which ones they were, apart from a few whose Deck Log mentions the fact and which I will list later.

    Last edited: May 2, 2023
    SDP and P-Squared like this.
  5. Here's what I have about US LST of Forces G and L fitted for casualty evacuation:

    Confirmed : US LST 21, 25, 30, 44, 52, 60, 175, 208, 229, 279, 287, 293, 345 and 517
    Probable : US LST 2 and 493
    Possible : US LST 524 and 542

  6. Gasmanwj

    Gasmanwj Member

    Many thanks for your information. I have been doing some more research and have included it here in case it is useful for anyone. There were definitely 70 LST’s converted to carry casualties from the British and Canadian beaches, a number of which were crewed by Americans but the surgical teams on the LST’s were British. The picture below is taken from the Joint Interim Medical Plan (Centre Zone) at The National Archive WO 199/2236.
    I believe that 38 of the surgical teams were provided by the Royal Navy and 32 by the Royal Army Medical Corps.
    I have also found a list of the LST numbers for those LST’s converted to carry casualties in DDMS Southern Command’s Medical Arrangement papers in WO 199/2242.
    P-Squared likes this.
  7. P-Squared

    P-Squared Well-Known Member

    I am continually amazed at the level of planning that went into Op Neptune. I mean, it seems obvious that you’re going to need medical support, but, even so - the requirement for LSTs, the teams to man them, the whole coordination effort. And that’s just one tiny element of the whole plan. I find it incredible.
    When Stalin banged on about the Western Allies dragging their heels in starting the ‘second front’ (though I’ve never understood how Italy didn’t count!) he really had little concept of the complexity of such an undertaking. Some of the Red Army river crossings were massively impressive, of course, but nothing like the channel crossing on 6th June and subsequently.
  8. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    Not only the medical side, but the evacuation of prisoners from the beachhead by those valuable LST. All of whom needed to be guarded. How many troops did that tie up or was it simply left to the RN / USN crews.
  9. Gasmanwj

    Gasmanwj Member

    The more I find out about the medical preparations, the more amazed I am at their scale. The speed of the build up on the beaches with Field Ambulances and Advanced Surgical Centres arriving with the first wave, through to the scale and speed of the evacuation process and then the hospital resources available in the UK is truly incredible.
    I think it’s far too easy to overlook the support troops and logistics that went into an achievement on the scale of Overlord.
    lindap, SDP and Trux like this.
  10. lindap

    lindap Member

    Yes, agree. The logistics are staggering. Also the sheer volume and intensity of training. My late father was a medic in a Beach Dressing Station on Gold. His unit formed up in Scotland in June 1943 to prepare for the assault.
  11. Rob Crane

    Rob Crane Well-Known Member

    In case it's of interest, from ADM 1/16773 Medical aspects of Operation Neptune for Force 'S'


  12. Gasmanwj

    Gasmanwj Member

    May thanks Rob. I had managed to find that record for Force S at the National Archives since I posted this thread. What I haven’t been able to find is a similar document for Forces G & J. I don’t suppose you know whether such documents exist?

  13. Gasmanwj

    Gasmanwj Member

    May thanks for posting this, do you know which unit it was that your father served with on Gold beach? I am researching all of the medical units that served in Normandy and particularly those who served in the early days of the landing and so would be very interested if you have any further information about your fathers service.

  14. Rob Crane

    Rob Crane Well-Known Member

    I've been wondering the same! You'd think they do exist somewhere, wouldn't you?
  15. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    The Hospital Carriers

    These smaller vessels were adapted to transport casualties, again several were packets. Most were to discharge their patients at the Outer Dock at Southampton; which in peacetime had been the base for the Southern Railway packets to France and the Channel Islands. Outer Dock had the advantage that it had rail lines alongside the berths; it was also close to the Southampton Terminus Station. The dock is now called Ocean Village.

    From Southampton casualties were dispersed all over the south of England, many to country houses that had been converted into hospitals. A least one of these hospitals was close to Weymouth, which also had a railway running along the dock. This does not seem to have been used for this purpose, unless the Americans landed their injured there.

    All but one of the ships carried six landing craft adapted as ‘water ambulances’. The Medical Staff were provided by the Royal Army Medical Corp or the United States Army, depending on which task force they served. In addition to transporting casualties the ships were effectively floating Accident and Emergency centres. All but the Dutch flagged Batavier II were Red Ensign ships. They were painted white, with a broad green band broken at three points to allow red crosses to be inserted. An identifying number was painted on bow and quarter. Like all approved hospital vessels they were supposedly exempt from attack; but, as the Allies had found during the Mediterranean landings, the Luftwaffe failed to observe their status and some were sunk. Also sea mines failed to differentiate between them and other targets.

    Batavier II had been converted in London to be Hospital Carrier No 50; with accommodation for 215 patients. After training in the Thames Estuary she sailed for Southampton on 6 June. From there she was due to sail to Gold on the 7 June, but was inexplicably prevented from doing so because of ‘shortage of coal’. This delayed the sailing until the 11th, when she was unable to find her convoy. She was returning to the Solent when she met the outbound convoy. On the far shore she embarked 198 casualties, just over half being stretcher cases. When the northbound convoy was attacked she escaped damage.

    On 11 June the Batavier II was instructed to sail just as the ‘Great Storm’ was starting. Because of the high seas her water ambulances could not be launched and she again ran low on coal and returned empty. At Southampton a severe leak had to be repaired; later she was in collision with three American vessels while anchored off Cherbourg. Not a lucky ship!

    The Southern Railway’s Dinard No 28 was no more fortunate to begin with. She sailed for Juno on the 7 June, but did not keep to the swept channel and struck a mine that evening. There were doubts as to whether the casualty would founder and the order was given to abandon ship. Two naval trawlers got her back to the Isle of Wight, from where, with extra pumps, she made Southampton. The ship was under repair until the 17 June, when she embarked her first 236 off Juno. After that poor start she made frequent successful crossings.

    The London Midland and Scottish Railway’s Duke of Lancaster was fitted out as Hospital Carrier No 56. Her first sailing was on the 8 June. She returned with 245 casualties, including 42 POWs. On her return she was diverted to Portsmouth as all the Southampton berths were occupied. This ship was also twice delayed by bunker and water shortages. It should be said that these vessels were designed to make short passages and probably had small bunker spaces.

    Another LMS ship, the Duke of Rothesay, became Hospital Carrier 62. Her first sailing for Juno was on 8 June. She loaded off several beaches, returning with 315 wounded and two dead servicemen. In fair weather it was found that the water ambulances were successful in transporting casualties over comparatively short distances. Their record was ferrying 115 cases in two hours, while the ship was anchored three miles off. On 30 June this ship embarked five hundred casualties, including 334 stretcher cases; 111 more than her rated capacity.

    The Coast Line ship Lady Connaught, Hospital Carrier No 55 was allocated to the US Utah Beach. Her Medics were therefore provided by the Americans. Her capacities were ninety five stretcher patients and 246 walking wounded; but on her first sailing on 9 June she carried at total of 450 injured. She maintained an uninterrupted service throughout month of June and beyond.

    The Naushon and the New Bedford were two ferries that had been built by the Bethlehem Ship Building Corporation of Quincy, Mass. The New Bedford was only two hundred feet long, getting her across the Atlantic was an achievement in itself. Both were put under the Red Ensign and allocated the US Western Task Force, arriving at Omaha Beach on 8 June.

    The London North Eastern Railway ship Prague was the fourth ship for the two Western Task Force beach-heads. She was designated Hospital Carrier No 51. She made her first crossing on 7 June and maintained a regular service to the beaches; followed by Cherbourg and Dieppe. The Prague was equipped to treat and transport 194 stretcher cases and 228 walking wounded.

    The US war correspondent Martha Gellhorn was probably on the Prague, but whichever of the four ships she sailed on we are indebted to her for a description of, among other things, the merchant crews. It is difficult to believe that she boarded without active help from members of the crew. She said that she only came out of her lavatory hiding place when she heard the ships engines start. If so she could still have been disembarked, fortunately she wasn’t.

    Her stepson, Sandy Matthews, handles her Estate; he lives in Torquay. He has not responded to a message I sent, so I cannot quote extensively from her dispatch without infringing copyright. I will therefore paraphrase some of her report. An online search will find at least an abridged version of the article.

    She confirms that there were 422 beds on the ship, which ties in with the Prague. There were six nurses, who had been training in the USA up to three weeks before. They had been allocated to a train ambulance, but found themselves on a ship – something that they didn’t seem to have complained about. The ‘beautifully white’ hospital carrier sailed alone, with ‘not so much as a pistol on board.’ She says that they crossed in daylight and it seemed a long morning and the captain never left the bridge as they made their way through the mine-swept channel.

    She confirms that they had six water ambulances ‘light motor launches that swung down from the ship’s side and could be raised the same way when full of wounded.’ She describes the orders being given to the civilian boats crews, as they set off with their American stretcher bearers. Upon return ‘the ship’s crew became volunteer stretcher bearers instantly.’ The four doctors, six nurses, and about 14 medical orderlies had to be great people to care for 400 wounded men. She describes the sterling work of these Americans in detail.

    Somehow or other she managed to get ashore on one of the water ambulances. Once there they were stuck for some time on a falling tide. It was long dark before they assembled the injured on a British LCT. ‘The night too; went on longer than other nights. Our water ambulances found us and there was a lot of incomprehensible cockney talk among the boatmen.’ The stretcher bearers had realised on the LCT that most of their casualties were German; but all did their duty, as always. With more cockney chat they set off. ‘So, full of conversation, we zigzagged back to the ship and -9were at last swung aboard.’

    Everyone was waiting for daylight, everyone longing for England. They had faith in their ship and ‘counted on one another’. All, from the British captain to the London messboy, did his job tirelessly well. Similarly the doctors, nurses and orderlies were there for the wounded and the wounded alone, and would not fail them. Then the coast came in sight and English air flowed through the wards and the wounded seemed to feel it. The captain shouted down from the bridge, “Look at it! Just look at it!” ‘He had spoken for all of us.’

    US sources give the medical complement as five officers, five nurses, and forty nine enlisted men. British manning was similar with the Officers, NCOs and other ranks coming from the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Matron and five nursing sisters from the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (as it was until 1949).

    All of the ship and boats crews were merchant seamen. What is not clear is where the extra civilian boatmen were recruited. They may have been from the ships’ home port 6

    Like the Merchant Infantry Landing ships, these ships have been largely forgotten; any occasional reference being incorrectly prefixed HMHS.

    ilt and a number of ships were constructed under licence for private owners


Share This Page