H.M.H.S. St. David

Thomas Boston Anderson



Rank.  Quartermaster.
Service.  Merchant Navy.
Unit TextHis Majesty’s Hospital Ship St. David.
Killed in Action.  24 January 1944.
Husband of.  Winifred May Anderson, of South Benfleet.  Essex.
Memorial Ref.  Tower Hill Memorial.  London.

H.M.H.S. St. David.

Designated as a hospital or medical treatment facility all hospital ships were protected under the Geneva Convention.  These ships were identified by having their structure painted white with a large red cross painted on each side.  This however did not stop the ships being attacked by the enemy and firing on a hospital ship was considered a war crime.

24 January 1944.  H.M.H.S. St. David, well illuminated and displaying the neutral markings of a hospital ship was about 25 miles south-west of Anzio  when she was attacked by enemy aircraft.  One bomb hit the ship in No.3 hold, two others exploded alongside No. 2 hold.  The ship was sinking fast and Captain Owens gave the order to abandon ship.  The crew attempted to save all those aboard but the ship sank five minutes after the initial hit.  Captain Owens lost his life with 12 of his crew, 22 patients and 22 Royal Army Medical Corps, including 2 nursing sisters from the Reserve Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service, Sarah Elizabeth Dixon and Winnie Alice Elizabeth Harrison.  159 people were saved.

During the war years the H.M.H.S. St. David carried 6000 patients and covered 25000 miles.

Reverse of postcard.  Posted to Bishops Waltham. Hampshire.

Dear Mum/ Just arrived in ‘Blighty.’  Will let you know the hospital when I get there.  Lots of love ?

H.M.H.S. St. David.
Reverse of Post Card.

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  • My Aunt Audene Cooper was a nurse onboard this ship when it was attacked and survived. She was in the US Army. She never spoke of her service

    By Sally Moore (18/03/2024)
  • Relatives may like to know that there is a memorial to HMHS St David at her home port of Fishguard Harbour. A service is carried out at it every Remembrance Sunday.

    By Chris Kelly (16/02/2024)
  • My father , a member of the surgical team, mentioned here previously , was killed at Anzio when the ship was sunk . His brother William, also on board , survived . He told my mother that he met his brother , who was going below to evacuate another patient . William carried on up to the lifeboats when the bombs hit .
    It was 1949 , when I was 8 years old , before I finally accepted that he would never come back . I have copy of a letter he had written to my sister soon after my birth in 1941

    By Christine ( collinson ) jee (06/06/2023)
  • I believe U.S. Army 1st Lt. Blanche F. Sigman was also one of the surviving nurses who helped to rescue other trapped nurses as the ship was foundering.

    By Bruce Freeman (31/03/2023)
  • Sarah Elizabeth Dixon, one of the QAIMNS(R) nurses killed on the St David has a memorial plaque in South Charlton church, Northumberland. Oddly, it states that her death was 24 January 1942, not the correct 1944.

    By Robin DICKSON (12/02/2022)
  • T B Anderson and W Rees are two of the names with Captain Owens on panel 90 of the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill re the St David https://www.benjidog.co.uk/Tower%20Hill/Panels%2081%20to%2090.html My father 3rd Engineer Emlyn Williams was in the water with Captain Owens and told the rescue boat to pick Owens up first but they got my father and by then Captain Owens had drifted off. Dad said nobody over the age of 50 survived once in the water, he was 38

    By Selwyn Williams (31/10/2021)
  • My brother was injured when taking tanks from LCT 542 to the beach head, taken aboard RHS St David, too badly injured to be moved, doctor stayed with him. He was just 20 a couple of days before the ship was sunk. His name: AB Ronald McCormick.

    By Irene Corke (29/07/2021)
  • My Grandfather was on the St David. His name was William Rees,sadly he died when my mum was just 5 years old and my Grandmother remained a widow until she passed away.

    By Shirley Hooper (10/05/2021)
  • Although this ship is the St David she is not the one that was sunk at Anzio. A later ship of the same name, also a hospital ship, was in fact sunk. The written detail is accurate and my father was one of the survivors.

    By Pippa Nicholas (07/01/2021)
  • I live near Anzio. I read passionately and with a great deal of respect the stories of your loved ones lost during the sinking of the St. David.
    Together with a team of divers we are doing research on the ship. Our goal is to locate the wreck.
    We know that there is an official archive that contains a lot of information. It would be very important to have the cooperation of the relatives of the victims.

    You can write to my email ocramx74@libero.it

    I will be grateful to you. With respect.

    By Marco (18/12/2020)
  • Winnie Harrison, one of the two brave nurses who stayed on the sinking ship to save others, was my Great Aunt (too). My grandmother, Ivy, was one of her (three, I think) sisters, and a framed photograph of her was always proudly positioned (with British Legion poppy) on top of the TV at her home in Eastbourne.
    My mother Susan, as a very little girl (b. 1937), remembers her fondly as always immaculately dressed, and nicely perfumed, bringing oranges to the family home in SE20.
    After the bombing, my distraught grandmother, Ivy, persuaded her husband, my grandfather Arthur, stationed as an army medic/ambulance driver (in his 40s then) in Anzio, to go looking for her.
    Incredibly, he did just that, and went AWOL to go to the coast to see if he could find her, obviously unaware of her fatality. Unsurprisingly, he was put on a charge when he returned to his unit.
    I believe her parents and family (sisters and brother) campaigned for a medal for her, sadly to no avail.
    She is proudly remembered too by this side of the family, what an absolute heroine!

    By Simon Avis (11/11/2020)
  • Winnie Harrison was my Nans Sister. She is still remembered today and her picture is in the Anzio museum. She died trying to save others, a very brave nurse to the end!

    By Lauren Harrison (24/01/2020)
  • Just found details of my husbands uncle, Harry Henry Collinson who was on the St David. He was in the Royal Army Medical Corp. We found the tomb stone where he was mentioned in the cemetery in Italy. So So sad.

    By Grace Collinson (13/05/2019)
  • My Great Grandfather returned on the St David after being injured in the first world war. We have the card with a message written on his way home.

    By John Draper (28/12/2018)
  • My grandad served on the LCG 19 during WWII. He was acting temporary leading seaman on the landing craft. The LCG 19 killed the German bomber that bombed the St David’s Hospital Ship.

    By Michelle Atkinson (14/09/2018)
  • My father was last seen going below to save another patient just before the St. David sank, which is mentioned by another of the surgical team who saw him from a lifeboat. His brother Billy, also on board, met him descending to recover another of the wounded. Billy was on his way up and survived.

    By Christine Jee (12/01/2015)
  • The original correspondent  (Ronnie Pigram) mentioned that no image was available of the ill-fated ST. DAVID. On the following link to the internet are a number of images: 


    By Leslie Spurling (12/01/2015)
  • My Grandad Harry (Henry) Collinson serving in RAMC was also killed in action when the St. David was sunk. We have copies of the last letters he wrote to my Mum, very moving.

    By H Owens (18/01/2013)
  • Thanks for this very interesting information. My granddad (Maurice Lynden) was on HMHS St. David when she was sunk. The ship he was picked up by was later sunk too! He survived both times!

    By Stephen Hulbert (05/11/2012)
  • Dear Ronnie, Thank you for your research and for putting this page onto the Benfleet Community Archive. I believe that Thomas Boston Anderson is related to my wife (nee Anderson). I haven’t viewed the marriage certificate of Thomas Boston Anderson to Winifred May Anderson (nee ? Barker or Parker), but note that it took place in West Ham, Essex, in 1927, this being where his Father and Mother had retired to in the 1911 census. 

    I have a scanned copy of what I believe to be his seamen’s registration card, with an image attached. This is the only image we have of anybody from the family, earlier than my wife’s Dad. If we are talking about the same man, then his Great Grandfather was a shepherd in Tweedsmuir, Peebleshire from the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s. Do you have any further information about Thomas or his family, please? I am happy to share what I have found about his ancestors, with you. Thank you for your time. My regards, Bill Rayner.

    By Bill Rayner (24/06/2012)
  • I was unable to find a real photographic postcard of the ship that Thomas Boston Anderson served on. The postcard used on this site was an indication of the type used by the Royal Navy.  

    If anyone has a photograph of the actual ship we would appreciate hearing from you.

    By Ronnie Pigram (12/12/2011)

    By T Hissey (12/12/2011)

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