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TSS KAROOLA as a World War I hospital ship

Date: 1919
Image: 400 x 950 mm
Overall: 710 x 1270 mm
Medium: Watercolour on paper, framed
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from McIlwraith McEacharn Limited
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00030237

User Terms

    Painting by CES Tindall of the WWI hospital ship SS KAROOLA. Watercolour on paper, framed. SS KAROOLA is depicted in hospital ship livery and flies the Red Cross. Inscribed 'S.S. Karoola' lower left and signed 'C.E.S. Tindall 1919' lower right.
    SignificanceThe London-based shipping company McIlwraith McEacharn was heavily involved with Australian maritime industries for a period of nearly 80 years.
    HistoryKAROOLA was built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast for the shipping company McIlwraith McEacharn and intended for use in Australian coastal passenger services. The liner was largely successful as a luxury transport for travellers moving between Australian ports until it was requisitioned in May 1915 for war use as a troopship.

    However KAROOLA's time as a troopship was short lived, and in August of 1915, while in port at Southampton England, she was converted to a Hospital Ship, the work being funded by public subscription in Australia. KAROOLA became officially known as No 1 Hospital Ship and was mainly tasked with transporting ill and injured servicemen from England back home to Australia. While she was equipped for surgical procedures, most of the patients on board were convalescents or chronically ill servicemen who required specialist care during the long trip home to Australia. The Official History of Australia in the war of 1914-1918 notes that during the first two years of the war sea transport resources were mainly channelled into the transportation of troops to the lines of battle. However sustained fighting on the Western Front began to produce a sharp increase in casualties, and thus a greater demand for properly equipped ships for repatriation. In total KAROOLA spent four years in war service, from 9 May 1915 to 27 November 1919. She made 13 voyages to Australia from England and Egypt during her time as a hospital ship and delivered patients 6067 home. The KAROOLA's medical fittings were dismantled and she was returned to McIlwraith McEacharn in June 1919. After the war KAROOLA returned to work as a popular passenger vessel until 1936 when she was sold to shipbreakers.

    Malcolm McEacharn was a Scottish shipbroker and the son of a master mariner who had died in 1854 when his ship was wrecked in Bass Strait.

    Andrew McIlwraith was born into a family of shipowners and two of his brothers were well established businessmen and politicians based in the Australian colonies of Queensland and Victoria. Within a year of forming, McIlwraith McEacharn had won a major contract with the Queensland Government to provide six ships for two years, transporting British migrants to Australia. When the contract between McIlwraith McEacharn and the Queensland Government ended in the 1880s, the company's ships instead conveyed wool and passengers.

    Around this time McIlwraith McEacharn gained some notoriety as pioneers of frozen and refrigerated sea transport. Throughout next few decades, McIlwraith McEacharn became involved in mining and transportation services, and strengthened its hold on passenger shipping. By the 1980s coal had become the major focus of McIlwraith McEacharn and the company sold its remaining shipping interests. In 1992 the remainder of the business was traded to a US company and lost the 19th century name.

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