The hospital ship S.S. Rohilla sailed from Leith Docks on the afternoon tide of Thursday 29 October 1914 bound for Dunkirk to pick up wounded from the Western Front. The weather was fine and up river the great span of the Forth Bridge was silhouetted against the skyline.

There were 229 people on board including the crew, medical staff, a Roman Catholic priest Cannon Robert Gwyder and one patient, Nicholson, a naval gunner who had broken a thigh in an accident at Scapa Flow. The Rohilla was based there at the time, but about to leave for Leith, so he was taken back to the mainland. On arrival he was too ill to leave the ship and it was decided that he should stay aboard for the round trip to Dunkirk. With nearly a hundred medical staff he was bound to be well looked after. There was also the ships cat.

Among the medical staff were fifteen sick berth attendants from Barnoldswick, a small cotton weaving town on the border of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

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Copyright © Ken Wilson 1981