21st May 1940 – hospital ship Maid of Kent bombed, sunk

hospital ship Maid of KentOn 21st May 1940 the British Hospital Ship Maid of Kent was destroyed by enemy action while collecting wounded soldiers at Dieppe. Maid of Kent, and her sister Isle of Thanet, were cross-channel ferries that had been requisitioned at the outbreak of WWII and converted into hospital ships. As well interior work, they were both painted in the internationally-recognised livery of white hulls and a broad green band, with large red crosses on the hull and funnel. They were also always brightly illuminated.

maid of kent at seaMaid of Kent had been sent to Dieppe on 18th May 1940, under Captain Addenbrooke, along with another ferry, Brighton. Soon after arrival the harbour was attacked by the Luftwaffe, but the ship escaped damage. Further attacks followed but each time the hospital ship escaped attention. It probably helped that a large area of lawn beside the quay had been covered with white chalk and a large red cross had been sprayed on, and also a large white canvas had been stretched between the mainmast and the stern flag post, with a large red cross painted on.

maid of kent after fireOn 21st May a train pulled up alongside Maid of Kent, and stretcher cases were taken off and laid on the quayside, waiting to be taken aboard. Then, at 5pm, the Luftwaffe attacked again. The first wave of bombers attacked the harbour but missed the hospital ship. However, the second wave of bombers swept in, and Maid of Kent was hit. One bomb dropped straight down the funnel into the engine-room, and another two hit the afterdeck: the ship was completely ablaze within a few minutes. Seventeen of the crew were lost, along with 11 RAMC personnel. The train was strafed by the aircraft and burned out, but none of the injured soldiers on the quayside were further hurt. The vessel was abandoned in the early hours of the following day.