Killed by drowning while being transported to England after being wounded in October, 1915.
On November 17, 1915 the HMHS Anglia was sunk of Folkestone by a submerged mine lain by a German UC series of mine laying submarines. It was the 1st sinking of an Allied hospital ship from enemy action and 134 souls where lost.
Two of them were men from the 18th Battalion.
From the war diary on October 9, 1915 there is an entry for Pte. Thomas Priestly:
Trenches found in filthy + unsanitary condition + most unsafe. In the afternoon a rifle grenade killed Pte. J. TAGGART (53858) and wounded 53856 R. SARVICE [SARVIS] – was leg + face. 53855 G. S. SMITH – knee, throat + arm; 53840 T. PRIESTLY – leg, arm, left hand + chest; 53505 A. SEAGROVE [illegible] lower leg. Was clear in the open acrpss [country?]. LA BRASSERIE with Brigade [Charing?] Station and R.A.P.
In the intervening time Pte. George Ebenezer Knight (53550) became wounded. Both men joined the 18th Battalion in different cities and at this time it cannot be determined if they served in the same company but one can surmise that injuries for both men were serious enough to warrant transportation to England for treatment.
In particular the case of Pte. Priestly is interesting because an entire month had transpired from his wounding on October 9, 1915 until his death by drowning on November 17, 1915. Several scenarios could be at work but the most likely is given the severity of his wounds he was stabilized at a Base Hospital until such time as he could be transported to England for further recovery and convalescents.
One wonders how both soldiers were feeling when their hospital ship became disabled by a mine only 1.6 KM from the Folkestone Gate? Where they berthed together because they served with the same battalion? Of the 390 soldiers a third perished and it would have been more of not for the efforts of the attending ships that came to the HMHS Anglia’s aid and the staff made of nursing sisters who worked to save who they could:
” The Nurses worked magnificently ” said another, ” but you have no idea of the difficulty of their task. Imagine, there was no place on deck where the wounded could be safely put except just beside the rail. ” The men mention each sister by name, the Matron, Mrs. Mitchell, Nurse Walton, Nurse Meldrum, and Nurse Rodwell, each as having been conspiciously brave. They would not use the lifebelts themselves, but insisted on giving them to the men, and when the destroyers came hastening out from Dover to take the wounded to safety, the Nurses refused to leave the ship. They would stay with their men, they said. Nurse Rodwell had been injured in the explosion and was drowned.”
For more information with images about the sinking go here.
Sadly, of the 38 Canadian soldiers that died that date 23 of them appear to have perished on the HMHS Anglia.