HMHS Newfoundland was a British Royal Mail Ship that was requisitioned as a hospital ship in the World War II. She was sunk in 1943 in a Luftwaffe attack off southern Italy. At that point she was one of three ships brightly illuminated, bearing standard Red Cross markings as hospital ships, which was her function, so due protection under the Geneva Convention.
Vickers, Sons & Maxim, Ltd of Barrow-in-Furness built Newfoundland for Furness, Withy & Co of Liverpool. Her 1,047 NHPquadruple expansion steam engine was fed by five 215 lbf/in2 single-ended boilers with a total heating surface of 16,095 square feet (1,495 m2). Her boilers were heated by 20 oil-fuelled corrugated furnaces with a grate surface of 377 square feet (35 m2).
Newfoundland worked Furness, Withy’s regular transatlanticmail route between Liverpool and BostonviaSt John’s, Newfoundland and Halifax, Nova Scotia. In May 1926 she was joined by a sister ship, RMS Nova Scotia.
Newfoundland spent the first part of World War II on her peacetime route, carrying wounded troops from the UK to Canada, and bringing the rehabilitated troops back home.
In April 1943 Newfoundland repatriated some Allied servicemen from Lisbon to Avonmouth, England. Among them was Flight Lieutenant John F. Leeming RAF, who had been captured with Air Marshal Owen Tudor Boyd (as his Aide-de-Camp) in 1940. His escape plan from Vincigliata PG 12 prisoner of war camp in Italy was by cleverly faking a very bad nervous breakdown case. He succeeded so well that the international medical board, with Swiss and Italian doctors, unhesitatingly accepted his case. As he describes in his book:
In the late afternoon (18 April 1943) we went aboard the British hospital ship Newfoundland, which was lying at the quay ready to sail for England. I walked quickly up the gangway, and as I felt my two feet touch the ship’s deck I looked up – I suppose I am too sentimental – at the flag flying from the masthead. “Done it!” I said aloud.