[Three survivors of the sinking of the British troop transport, Marquette, describe their experiences]
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The British troop transport, Marquette, was torpedoed in the Mediterranean in World War I on 23 October 1915, with nurses and male staff of the New Zealand No.1 Stationary Hospital on board. There were thirty-two New Zealand casualties. Three survivors give separate accounts of the sinking and their rescue.
An unidentified female announcer interviews Mrs Walter Peek [Jeanne Sinclair] who describes her experience. When she got into a life raft, it was full of water up to the seat. The raft was still attached to the ship, which was coming over on top of them. She saw Sister Wilson who was swimming, so she got out into the water too, but she wasn't a very good swimmer. A sailor came along and she swam with a hand on his shoulder until they were clear of the boat. He got a wide board and told her to hang onto it. There was a group of them hanging onto boards, and they were in the water for eight hours. They were picked up at 4:00 p.m. by the French torpedo destroyer the Tirailleur. The sailors on board gave them all their clothes, and as she was one of the last picked up, she got a short grey singlet. Four of them shared an officer's single bed.
Neville Webber interviews Mr H. S. Hyde, [Herbert Stanley Hyde] a medical orderly, who describes the sinking. They were on deck ready for the ship's inspection at 9:00 a.m. when the torpedo struck the bow in the well-deck. There was a panic and he got a lifebelt off the rails of the ship where they were tied. The nurses were in one lifeboat but it drifted under the next boat being lowered, which went on top of it. He and a friend jumped over the side of the ship into the water and swam away. They saw the periscope of the submarine which launched the torpedo. It circled the ship twice. There were about 400 horses on board as part of the English ammunition column. He describes the 'pathetic din' of the screaming horses. He watched the ship go down, pointing straight up in the air with people jumping off the stern and landing on the propeller. It was all over in about ten to twelve minutes from the time the torpedo hit. He got onto a raft with five others from an English unit. They joined up with another raft and tied them together, but their raft sprang a leak. Eventually he left it and found a plank and lifebelts, which he tied together. He was on his own for about six hours. He was picked up at about 6pm with another man, by a British minesweeper. They could just see land, probably about twenty miles away. After the rescue they went to Salonika on cargo transports. It was the next afternoon before they knew who was lost or rescued.
Mr Prentice [Alexander Prentice] describes the sinking of the Marquette. He explains it was a troop ship full of soldiers and equipment of the 29th Divisional Ammunition column. He says the New Zealand No.1 Stationary Hospital should never have been put on board a troop ship, but was crammed on as a last thought. He believes the ship was therefore 'fair game' for the Germans. There was no escort at all at the time of the sinking, and it was a sitting duck. He describes the torpedo strike at 9:00 a.m. and gives a vivid account of the sinking, and how he survived and was rescued. He explains how the nurses who died were lost when two life boats upended as they were being lowered into the sea. He and his cobber, Bill Tynan [William John Tynan], got onto a raft with nine men on it and narrowly missed being sucked into the blades of the ship's propeller. They drifted away and were alone and when they spotted a life boat and swam, towing the raft towards it. There were about thirty men on the lifeboat including three British officers. It was agreed that Sergeant John Hanna of Auckland [John Leslie Hanna] should take charge, as he had sailing experience. Later that afternoon, Lonsdale Elliot [Lonsdale Edgcumbe Elliott] paddled alongside them, sitting on a raft with an oar and they attached him to their boat and headed for the distant shore. At dusk, they saw two masts on the horizon and tied flares onto the oar and mast and burnt them. The Tirailleur came alongside and rescued them.
Reference number 250732
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Nonfiction radio programs
Peek, Jeanne, Interviewee
Hyde, Herbert Stanley, Interviewee
Prentice, Alexander, Interviewee
New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (estab. 1962, closed 1975), Broadcaster
Date 25 Dec 1965