HMHS Glenart Castle, 6,757 tons, was built by Harland and Wolff at Belfast in 1900 for the Union Line and originally named Galician. The Union and Castle steamship lines merged to form the Union Castle line almost at the time of the launch of the Galician and so she became a Union Castle ‘Intermediate’ steamer on the England – South Africa route. The ‘Intermediate’ ships sailed the route at times when the faster mailships were not scheduled.
At the outbreak of World War 1 on 15th August 1914 she was sailing home to England when she was captured by the German armed merchant cruiser Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse south of Tenerife. Two serving soldiers were taken prisoner and the Galician was forced to follow the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. After several anxious hours the commander of the German vessel, Max Reymann, signalled ‘ I will not destroy you because of the women and children aboard, Good-bye’. However a radio distress message sent by the Galician just prior to her capture was picked up by the Royal Navy and warships were sent to assist her. The German vessel likely heard the radio traffic from the Royal Navy ships and decided to make a run for it. This did not work as two days later the German raider was sunk by HMS Highflyer.
The Glenart Castle carried war wounded, mostly on the cross channel route until on 1st March 1917 when on route from Le Havre to Southampton she hit a mine or was torpedoed at11.40pm.
From the resulting Admiralty Enquiry :
By about 12.50am on 2nd all the wounded, 525 cases including 300 stretcher cases, all the Medical Staff of 88 and practically the whole of the crew of 115 persons were safely transferred from the steamer, without loss of life or injury, to the ship’s boats and to the trawlers which came alongside.
The damage to the Glenart Castle was repaired and she returned to duty as a hospital ship in November 1917.