Among the thousands of New Zealand deaths in the First World War, the 32 caused by the 1915 sinking of the Marquette were particularly poignant, shocking – and scandalous.
Along with a British ammunition column, No. 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital sailed from Egypt bound for Salonika on 19 October. Not marked as a hospital ship and therefore vulnerable to German U-boat attack, the Marquette was torpedoed in the Aegean Sea on the morning of 23 October. Ten New Zealand nurses and 22 mostly Medical Corps men died. Several more were injured, some severely. And the disaster was entirely avoidable: medical personnel should never have been onboard. The Nurses’ Memorial Chapel in Christchurch honours the three local nurses who were lost in the sinking. It is the country’s first hospital chapel and its only memorial chapel to women who perished in all wars or in the 1918 influenza epidemic. It is thought to be the only purpose-built hospital chapel in the world that commemorates nurses who died in the Great War. Yet this lovely building was twice threatened with demolition in the 20th century and only survived thanks to a passionate, hard-fought campaign. Then came bad damage in the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010–11, followed by superb restoration and reopening in 2018.
This vivid, compelling and attractive book tells the story of the Marquette sinking, and the scandal surrounding it, and of the creation of the chapel and the challenges it has faced. It will help to ensure that tragedy of the Marquette, the names of those who died and the special building that honours them, will never be forgotten but stand for all time