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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Hospital Ship Aba

Hospital Ship Aba

The British hospital ship Aba made a return trip to Crete on 16 May. General Freyberg asked that 7 General Hospital be cleared as completely as possible in anticipation of enemy action. The loading of the Aba was no mean feat. It was not considered wise to bring the ship into Suda Bay where, because of the presence of warships and port installations, the risk of bombing was great. Therefore, the ship anchored in the open sea off Canea. The DDMS Creforce, Colonel Kenrick, who supervised the loading operations, arranged for 189 Field Ambulance to provide transport for the patients from 7 General Hospital to the loading point on the shore. From here 561 patients were taken out to the hospital ship in two caiques and two ship's lifeboats, the latter towed by a launch.

Fortunately, the sea was calm and within eight hours the patients were embarked, an operation which involved raising the ship's lifeboats from the water to deck level with patients aboard. Loading page 166 was completed by 6 p.m. without interruption from the enemy. The enemy carried out an air raid over Canea at 5.45 p.m., but although planes dived over the hospital ship, she was not attacked and sailed at 6.40 p.m. The next day, however, the ship was twice attacked by enemy aircraft, in spite of her Red Cross markings, and in the second attack at 6.40 p.m. dive-bombers hit her, causing considerable damage and some casualties, resulting in the death amongst others of one New Zealand soldier. The ship later reached port safely at Haifa.