Today we have one of a trio of special Christmas related items we will be looking at over the festive period. It was common for men to club together to arrange printing of special Christmas greetings cards for their unit, regiment or ship. Everyone who wanted the cards contributed to the cost of printing in accordance with the number of the finished cards they wanted to send to friends and relations and these were then used as normal Christmas cards, but with a military twist. Today’s example is quite simple, however it is unusual in that it was sent from HMHC Dinard:
HMHC Dinard was His Majesty’s Hospital Carrier, Dinard- a ferry ship built in 1924 for the Southern Railway and requisitioned for the war by the Admiralty, being converted into a hospital ship with accommodation for 208 patients. Officially she was HMHC 28, but clearly the ship’s crew continued to call her by her civilian name. The ship was to serve at both Dunkirk and Normandy, although this card dates from 1941. As can be seen, the card features the cap badges of the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Merchant Navy, the ship being merchant crewed. She was also involved in the important job of ferrying the injured from hospital ships arriving at Scapa Flow down to Aberdeen, shuttling back and forth regularly with her precious human cargo and during an eventful war she spent time in the Mediterranean at the Sicily landings and was damaged by mines on several occasions, including off the coast of Normandy on the 7th June 1944.
The rear of this card has the simple greeting, “Dear Babs, Wishing you all the best. From Dad”:
The following description of service on HMHC Dinard at Dunkirk comes from a letter sent to Britain at War magazine back in 2018:
The cross-channel steamer SS Dinard was hurriedly fitted out and converted to a hospital ship across a period of just five days.
On 28 May 1940 the ship set sail for Dunkirk and arrived without too many problems. However, as there was no berthing party on the jetty being used, the crew had to jump into the water and swim across with the ship’s ropes. On 29 May, the Dinard again went to Dunkirk and brought back no less than 271 stretcher cases, although on this occasion men were being killed and wounded on the pier as she was alongside. En-route on the 29th, they were targeted by torpedoes, but as the water was calm and the weather clear they were spotted in time and Dinard took evasive action. However, Captain Ailwyn- Jones also reported a number of near collisions with other vessels in the crowded area.
On 30 May, the Dinard made her third trip, but on this occasion, with the fall of bombs and shells around the ship and the depth of water dropping with the tide, so the order was given to cut adrift and set sail. Meanwhile, a group of women had been on board all along during her three Dunkirk ordeals; nursing sisters, along with a stewardess from her peacetime days, 59-yearold Mrs A. Goodrich.
One of the soldiers brought on board had his eyes bandaged, but when he heard one of the nursing sisters he remarked: ‘Ah! A female voice…’ The captain later spoke of his admiration for the sisters on board during the trips to Dunkirk, and two others to Cherbourg, but Mrs Goodrich’s contribution was perhaps the more extraordinary because she didn’t have to be there. When the ship was converted she was discharged as she was a civilian, but she steadfastly stated that if the nursing sisters were going then she certainly was, too!