March 24, 2012
It was during a lazy moment at work when I decided to enter Hospital Ship Vita into google that I came across your website, (see "Hospital Ship Vita" and "Cdr Henstock, HMS Hermes" ) my Dad served on it during the war, I printed off what info you had and posted it off to my mother who has a great interest in local history and anything that my dad was involved in during the war years and she was so taken aback that there was someone out there interested in the history of WW2 hospital ships that she asked me to forward an email and a couple of photos [attached, for some reason my scanner couldn't transfer to this email as a photo so hope you can open them ok] to hopefully be displayed on your site as there are quite a few crew names identified, any way this it was she has wrote.
Through my son wanting to know about the Vita, so much information unfolded, if only my husband Walter [Wally] Walker was alive today he would be absolutely dumbfounded, he served on the Vita as an SBA [sickbay articifer] 1944/45 under Surgeon Commander Ungley who had come from Harley Street. All the names you mention of the various places they visited are right, all sounding so romantic, but of course it was war and all the lads were prepared for many atrocities.
Many a tale was told and Wally kept an album with all the places he visited and of course of the many lads serving on the Vita. There were times when they did their own entertainment, dressing up, some as women [attached photo], which must have been hilarious.
Wally used to sing solo too, often Irish melodies, Danny Boy was his favourite, and the lads would call him Paddy, this was of course the lighter side of the goings on aboard the Vita. There were sad times too, during one particular instance a lad fell down the hold and fractured his skull causing a blood clot on the brain and the
surgeon did a miraculous operation and saved his life, Wally was assisting at the time, the lad wrote a poem
dedicated to the Vita but sadly to say I have mislaid it.
There was also the Lady in White - Pearl Seidler [from Durban I believe] who sang to the boys as the ships came
in and went out of the harbour, her voice a strong operatic type and apparently she could be heard two miles out to sea and it brought many a tear to the lads eyes who were so far away from home.
Wally eventually came home in March 1946. The Surgeon wanted him to join him in Harley street but he declined as he wanted to be with his parents, good job he did as I would never have met him.
There are some photo's of his shipmates [attached], the years have gone by but you never know someone might recognise them. I hope you don't mind me joining in and telling you of my knowledge of the Vita, it brought back so many memories, if only Wally was still here to know that it was being sought after for information.
Hope you don't mind my few words, it's made my day.
Now a war widower
I do hope you find this of interest and hopefully I'll be able to view it on your site at some time, the attached photos are just two of many that my Dad had and hopefully when my I visit my mum later in the year [she lives in Cambridge I live in Orkney] I'll be able to send a few more.
Though for now ...
See bigger image, see pdf image.
See pdf image.
I am delighted that you were pleased to see my entry on AHOY about the Hospital ship Vita .
Thank you for your message and the photos, we will add them to AHOY.
Very best wishes.
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