Troopship Somersetshire was 7,456 gross tonnes (Bibby Line). She
was built in 1927 and converted into a troopship with accommodation
for 1,300 troops. In October 1927 the ship sailed to China and
from January to May 1928 she transported troops to Karachi and
was laid up in Dartmouth thereafter. In September 1939, the Somersetshire
was requisitioned and converted into HM Hospital Ship No. 25 with
507 beds, 118 medical staff and 171 crew members. She participated
in the withdrawal from Narvik in April 1940 and on 6 December
1940, was bombarded from shore as her launches brought of the
wounded at Tobruk. In February 1941, the ship joined her sistership
Dorsetshire in evacuating the wounded from the besieged Tobruk,
before operating from the Red Sea to South Africa, Australia and
New Zealand repatriating wounded soldiers.
12.57 hours on 7 April 1942, German u-boat U-453 fired a spread
of four torpedoes at a steamer of 10,000 gross tonnes and heard
three detonations after 47 seconds. HMHS Somersetshire was not
recognised as a hospital ship by the U-boat anf ortunately she
was carrying no patients. The hit was on the starboard side, forward,
and Somersetshire settled by the head with a list. One crew member
and six Royal Army Medical Corps staff were lost. 114 crew members,
64 medical staff members and two stewardesses abandoned ship in
13 lifeboats. The crew later reboarded her and managed to reach
Alexandria on the port engine and assisted by tugs. The remaining
survivors were picked up by a Greek destroyer.
1944 to 1946, the Somersetshire sailed all over the world as a
hospital ship and finishing up in the Pacific. In February 1948,
the ship was decommissioned and rebuilt until November by Harland
& Wolff to a passenger ship with accommodation for 550 passengers.
In 1953, the ship briefly returned to trooping to East Africa
during the Mau Mau troubles and in 1954 was broken up by Thos.
W. Ward in Barrow-in-Furness.