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Hospital Carrier Amsterdam

Details of the QAIMNS and RAMC awards in recognition of gallant and distinguished services for their actions when the ship sank with patients aboard

The Hospital Carrier Amsterdam was sunk by enemy action off the coast of Normandy on 7th August, 1944. Details of the members of the QAIMNS and their heroic actions are also written about on the Hospital Ships page. Below are the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire awards to the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service personnel, sourced from The National Archives:

Public Record Office (now TNA):WO/373/68 Pt.2

The War Office 13th December 1944.

Most humbly submitted to your Majesty by your Majesty's most humble and most devoted servant, that the awards set out in the enclosed statement be approved, in recognition of gallant and distinguished services.

The most excellent Order of the British Empire.

To be Additional Members of the Military Division of the said Most Excellent Order:-

Sister Miss Elsie Roberts (206427)
Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service.

This nursing officer showed a most valuable example in assisting the evacuation of patients from the wards to the promenade deck of Hospital Carrier "Amsterdam" when the ship was sunk by enemy action off the coast of Normandy on 7th August, 1944. In emergency stations drill she had been shown that her place was officer in charge No.2 water ambulance; she continued, however, to help patients up the deck, after the water ambulance had been lowered and when the ship was actually capsizing. Miss Roberts escaped down the almost horizontal side of the ship just before it sank. Her calmness was an important factor in averting panic and by her aid many patients reached the deck who would otherwise have been trapped in the wards.

Sister Miss Ellen Theresa Hourigan (305029)
Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve.

This nursing officer displayed much courage and a high sense of responsibility for the safety of her patients when Hospital Carrier "Amsterdam" was sunk by enemy action off the coast of Normandy on 7th August, 1944.

She was aware that, in Emergency Stations, she was officer in charge No.4 water ambulance. Nevertheless, Miss Hourigan continued to help her patients to escape to the promenade deck from B deck, of which she was jointly in charge. By her calm example, as well as by helping the more severely wounded patients who were trying to climb the stairs, she reduced the possibility of panic. Miss Hourigan did not leave the ship until after it capsized, when she escaped by scrambling down the almost horizontal starboard side, just before it sank.

Sister Miss Lily McNicholas (246129)
Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve.

On the 7th August, 1944, during the sinking by enemy action of Hospital Carrier "Amsterdam" off the coast of Normandy, Miss McNicholas rendered important service whereby lives were saved which otherwise would have been lost. Well knowing that her place in emergency stations was in No.3 Water Ambulance as officer in charge, she continued to give encouragement and help in bringing patients from her wards on A deck up to the promenade deck. Her patients were admitted to the ship as stretcher cases, but in the grave emergency all, save the quite helpless were obliged to walk. In this distressing situation, Miss McNicholas' presence and her cheerful encouragement was of great value. She left the ship after it had capsized by scrambling down the starboard side which was almost horizontal by that time. Unable to swim, she had much difficulty and felt ill in the water, where she was helped by the Master of the ship and by an officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps.
Shortly afterwards she was rescued by an American cutter. With complete disregard of her own comfort she immediately rendered aid to patients as they were rescued from the sea.

Of note is the citation for:

Lieutenant Oliver Gary, (305170), Royal Army Medical Corps.

Lieutenant Gray displayed great courage and devotion to duty when Hospital Carrier "Amsterdam" was sunk by enemy action off the coast of Normandy on 7th August, 1944. He was in charge of two wards on the lowest deck of the ship and evacuation required great steadiness. Moreover, one ward, through which the ship broke in two 14 minutes after the explosion was under his charge. He superintended the evacuation of patients and did not leave these wards until all living patients had gone. The ship capsized and sank while this officer was standing on her horizontal starboard side in the endeavour to rescue a nursing officer through a port hole of the lower deck in which she had been trapped.

With thanks to Terry Hissey.

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