THE  DOVER WAR MEMORIAL  PROJECT

 

war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper

 

Notes on the Hospital Carrier "Maid of Kent"


EXTRACTS FROM DOCUMENTS


 

Report dated 24 May 1940
from Captain Addenbrooke to the Divisional Marine Manager, Dover

The "Maid of Kent" arrived at Dieppe at 09.30 Saturday, 18 May. There was an air raid warning from 22.10 to 23.50 and the port was subjected to heavy aerial bombardment.

Sunday 19 May
Air raid warning throughout the day.  .......

Between 22.00 (Sunday) and 01.50 (Monday) enemy aircraft again severely bombed the port, bombs dropping within 50 feet of the ship during the attacks.

Monday 20 May
Comparatively quiet, although on this day there were 11 air raid warnings.

Tuesday 21 May
Quiet during day.

At 10.15 Commander Annig came on board and instructed both ships (note - "Maid of Kent" and "Brighton") to proceed to Maritime Station at tide time (about 13.00) to await further instructions at half-hour's notice. He also made the remark that there was every possibility that we should be "bombed to hell", in which case three Belgian trawlers had been requisitioned to stand by for transport crew to England. ... The Chief Officer of the "Brighton" and myself agreed to take our vessels to sea on the night tide.

Just before 17.00 I received a request from Lieut. Shephard-Cross, R.N. (Route Officer) to attend a conference on a small collier immediately ahead to give me information regarding magnetic mines laid inside the harbour limits. During the conference, and whilst we were examining the chart, a salvo of bombs fell on the quay 15 feet from the collier, which listed the collier over to such an extent that the Master of the collier, the Routing Officer and myself were thrown across the cabin against the Master's bed. I immediately left the collier to return to the "Maid of Kent", but before I could get on board a second salvo of five bombs, which I saw dropped from the aircraft, all struck the Maid of Kent" - two on the Engine-room skylight, two on the after deck, and one between the ship and the quay abreast No. 8 boat. I at once got on board and told everybody to abandon ship, that is, all those that I could see. The shop was immediately enveloped in flames from the Engine-room aft. There was no possibility of fighting the fire, as the first two bombs had burst one boiler, putting the Engine-room completely out of action. All those who could be found were ordered ashore, several of whom were wounded and burned. By the time I had satisfied myself that no other member of the crew could be found, the flames had reached the Companion-way leading to the Boat deck - where I was standing. I then jumped ashore. It was then seen that one member of the crew (5th Engineer Bellenie) was trying to struggle through one of the ports. We pushed a plank out from the quay and several men stood on the inboard end and Bellenie was assisted through the port and we were successful in getting him out. I then gave orders for all survivors on the quay to proceed to H.C. "Brighton". My Chief Officer and myself stood for a few minutes watching the "Maid of Kent": by this time the fire had spread to the Hospital train 54 standing alongside with 252 wounded who were being evacuated from the train as quickly as circumstances would permit.

The Chief Officer and I then proceeded to the "Brighton". Our crew had not been allowed to go on the "Brighton" as by that time an order had been passed to that ship by Paymaster Sub-Lieut. Price to abandon her. All the survivors were then instructed to collect at the Sea Front trenches for safety, and the Second Officer (Mr Elsegood) was sent to the Maritime Station to see whether any craft was available to bring survivors over to this side. Complete confusion prevailed amongst the survivors on account of a rumour that the Germans were three miles from the town: several members of my crew took to the neighbouring fields.

By about 20.00 we had collected 27 survivors, and in the interval 4 had been taken to hospital. We then met Captain Shaw of the "Brighton" on the Sea Front. Captain Shaw and myself then discussed the question as to whether we could attempt to sail the "Brighton". Captain Shaw asked my opinion, and I said I was quite prepared to do this, but it depended on whether we should have sufficient crew. We then asked all present if they would be willing to go with us and take the "Brighton" out, and they all volunteered. The Chief Officer then proceeded to the hospital and asked the two injured Engineers if they would volunteer to come and fire the "Brighton" over: although badly burned, they both volunteered to come and try to fire the ship over. We first examined the lock gates and found that they could be opened: we then went to the "Brighton" to prepare her to go out on the night tide. My Third Engineer (Mr Rogers (note - eventually died)). who was the senior Engineer present, with the other Engineer (Mr Bowley) (note- both burned) proceeded below: 10 (a hand-written note states "20") minutes afterwards they both came back on deck and reported to Captain Shaw and myself that they considered it was impossible for them to work the ship as they were not sufficiently acquainted with the boilers, these being different from the "Maid of Kent's" (a note adds "no light") It was then decided to go to the French Barracks for the night. During this time we missed 16 of the 27 members of our crew we had collected: we arrived at the Barracks at 21.15 (11 in all). After getting the men made comfortable, my Chief Officer and I proceeded into the town again to try and get some information as to what we could do. We found the A.P.M. in his Office and he tried to assist us as far as he could with the aid of a French Liaison Officer who ascertained that Commandant Bringuier could be located in the vaults of the Tobacco Factory on the Sea Front. My Chief Officer and I then found Commandant Bringuier. I stated the position to him and he provided me with a requisition order to commander two Belgian trawlers lying in the port. We then went to the harbour to ascertain where these trawlers were lying: we tried to attract their attention but apparently there was no one on board and we therefore decided to go back to the French Barracks and make a fresh attempt in the morning.

At 06.00 (Wednesday 22 May) we left the Barracks for the harbour and succeeded in commandeering two trawlers - 0.49 and 0.91. We ordered them to be ready by 09.30. We endeavoured to locate other members of the "Maid of Kent's" crew, but without success. When embarking our survivors on the trawlers, I saw Captain Shaw of the "Brighton" and his Chief Officer. I asked him if the "Brighton" was still all right and he replied "yes". I then told him that I had several members of my crew adrift in the town or somewhere round about the town. I said that I was proceeding to England in a trawler and asked him if he saw any of our men would he kindly do the best he could for them, and this he promised to do. I then joined the others on board the trawlers: we arrived at Newhaven without further incident at 19.30 on Wednesday 22 and reported to the S.S.T.O. and Divisional Marine Manager. The badly burned Engineers were attended to on H.C. No 32 and afterwards went to Brighton hospital. We arranged for the remainder of the survivors to be accommodated on H.C. No 32 for the night and instructed them to return to Dover the next day (Thursday) to report to the Divisional Marine Manager's Office.

In conclusion I give below copy of a pencilled message which was handed tome by the S.T.O.'s Messenger at about 20.00 on Tuesday 21, on the Sea Front at Dieppe. The Messenger stated that he was the only one left in the S.T.O.s Office.:- "I and staff are now embarking per Belge trawler. You are to sail about 9.15 tonight after the collier. Commandant Bringuier will or had issued the orders. Can only wish you best of luck: it is no used us staying just to see you out. (signed) Annig (Commander R.N.V.R.)

This picture was captioned "This scrap metal was a hospital ship and a hospital train at Dunkerque. German bombers may soon wreak this kind of havoc on many British ports"

Letter dated 26 May 1940
from Malcolm Brown, Chief Officer, to Captain Coombe, General Secretary, N. & E.O.U.

.... the vessel had arrived at Dieppe, a port stated to be a hospital base and totally undefended on Saturday May 18 at 9.30pm and at 10.0pm on that night and again at the same time on Sunday 19 May (both with a full moon) the port was bombarded from the air in each case by a single enemy machine. In each case heavy calibre bombs fell within 50 yards of the ship but no damage was done except to property and quay side-hangers and equipment.

Enemy aircraft again visited the port at midnight Monday and Tuesday. No bombs were dropped.

At 5.0pm on Tuesday and without air raid warnings being given, five enemy bombers arrived over the post and commenced a heavy bombardment with very heavy calibre bombs. The second salvo of five all struck the hospital carrier, two going directly into the engine skylight, two on the after deck, and one falling between the ship and the quay on the port side.

In a very short time (a matter of three or four minutes) the ship was completely and wholly on fire. The mainmast had come down and the boilers (at least one) had burst.

.....I am enclosing a statement of the disposition of the crew as far as known to date.

 

Leslie George Bowley is in the back row on the left and in the same row on the right is Eric Durie Smith.
In the front row, first on the left, is Captain Leonard Earnest Addenbrooke.
If you know who are any of the others, please
tell us

Eleven members of Crew landed at Newhaven 8.30pm Wednesday 22 May 1940
Captain Addenbrooke Third Engineer J. Rogers
Chief Officer W. L. Brown Jnr 3rd Engineer L. Bowley
Second Officer V. E. Elsegood Fireman G. Guy
Radio Officer R. R. Ayling Ch Cook G. Walker
Quartermaster A. Russell Stewardess F. Cotton
A.B. J. Martin  
   
Sixteen members of Crew landed at Southampton ex Havre Thursday 23
Q.M. C. Wyborn Q.M. W.Austen
A.B. W.Warman A.B. P Gillingwater
Ch Steward F. Datlin O.S. D. Hunter
2nd Steward H. Page Fireman Bailey
Asst Steward J. Adams Asst Steward M. Philpott
Asst Steward E. Addenbrooke Asst Steward T Bebbington
Asst Steward H. Wanstall Asst Steward S. Simmonds
Asst Steward L. Cotton  
Asst Steward F. Pilcher  
   
Five members of Crew landed at Fowey Saturday 5.0 am
Third Officer E.Smith Fireman B. Lundy
Writer C. Croft A.B. Emptage
Carpenter W.Chenoweth  
   
Two members of Crew landed at Southampton pm Saturday
Tel Boy J. Hudson Fireman F. Hay
   
Five members of Crew known to have abandoned ship  
Fourth Engineer Bellini In Hospital at Dieppe
Greaser W. Mount Treated for burns at Dieppe
Water Tender F. Marsh In Hospital at Dieppe
A.B. W. Smith Reported to be at Fecamp Friday
O.S. G. Huntley Letter from Hospital (France) June 31
   
Seventeen members of Crew not known to have left ship and feared lost
Chief Engineer W. Hopper Asst Steward H. E Janaway
Second Engineer R. E. Marks Asst Steward W.Griffiths
A.B. C. Hastings Asst Cook F. Murphy
A.B. F.Sherwood Asst Cook F.Groves
A.B. D. Davidson Asst Cook E. Hubbard
A.B. E. Mockridge Greaser E. Turmaine
  Greaser B. Bradish
Stewards Boy S. Baker Greaser J. Kersley
Stewards Boy R. Marsh Fireman Geo. Moon
   
Total Crew 56  
Of a total of 34 R.A.M.C. forming the medical staff approximately 19

 

See also "Luftwaffe Destruction of the Maid of Kent" by Richard Thwaites (.pdf)

with thanks to Pamela Miles, née Bowley
Leslie Bowley was Maggie S-K's uncle


Copyright 2011-15 © Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved