New Zealand History

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The White Ships: New Zealand’s First World War Hospital Ships

November 17th, 2013

Seminar presented by historian Gavin McLean at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on 6 November 2013.

In 1915 the New Zealand government converted the liners Maheno and Marama into state-of-the art floating hospitals. Fitted out partly with funds raised by high profile public appeals, the ships had a busy war, eventually carrying 47,000 people. Painted distinctively in accordance with international requirements, they were the public face of our merchant marine's war, with the Maheno's crew making a direct civilian contribution to the Gallipoli campaign. Not everything went according to plan. There were tensions between the governor and ministers and shipboard disputes between army officers and mariners and between doctors and nurses. The political left also muttered about profiteering by the Union Steam Ship Company. Come along and hear the story of New Zealand's white ships.

Gavin McLean is a senior historian in the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. He is about to start on writing a book on New Zealand's First World War at sea.

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