The steam yacht Liberty as a Hospital ship

John Collins (Nottage Maritime Institute)

As a Royal Navy Hospital ship, the Liberty served at Gallipoli.
Nottage Maritime Institute 00718

The large steam yacht Liberty was loaned to the Admiralty as a hospital ship, and fitted out as such in 1914.  She had been built by Ramage & Ferguson at Leith at 1908, and measured 1571 tons.  She was beautifully fitted out as a yacht and no doubt the sick and wounded men she carried would have enjoyed the benefits of some of her facilities.

Unusually, she was a Royal Navy hospital ship.  Most hospital ships were controlled by the army under the red ensign with a merchant service crew and Army personnel (RAMC and QARINC) for medical staff, but when she was first in service the idea was that she could care for sailors in remote anchorages, and the horrific number of wounded soldiers who were to need care later in the year was then totally unexpected.

Besides serving as a base hospital ship, the Liberty took part in the Dardanelles Campaign.  For some reason she was redefined as an auxiliary patrol yacht for a while in 1915, probably when at Gallipoli, but reverted to being a hospital ship later the same year.  It is possible that the temporary change was simply because she was diverted to a task not compatible with her legal status as a non-combatant vessel with the protection of international conventions, or possibly because the Turks had said they would not recognise the Red Cross.  She later became a hospital carrier.  In October 1918 she was renamed Liberty IV and was returned to her owner in 1919.

Captain Frank Goodwin of Wivenhoe, a former member of the Nottage Institute Committee, was at one time in command of the Liberty.

It would appear also that James Husk, from the Wivenhoe boat-building family who was also a member of the R.N.V.R., worked as an engineer on the Liberty being too old to go to War on active service at the age of 37 when War broke out.

See also Arthur Shead (able seaman)


This page was added on 27/03/2015.

Comments about this page

  • My grandfather designed the hospital ship.

    By Lawrence (16/11/2022)
  • My Grandfather James Thomas Oakley also served on the Liberty Hospital ship as a stoker during the campaign in the Dardanelles. Born in Wivenhoe in 1877, he too would have been too old for active service.

    By Kay Johnson (28/04/2020)

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