Massacre of Canadian Army Medical Corps personnel after the sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle and the evolution of modern war crime jurisprudence

Massacre of Canadian Army Medical Corps personnel after the sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle and the evolution of modern war crime jurisprudence

Can J Surg 2018;61(3):155-157 | PDF | Appendix

Jay Doucet, MD; Gregory Haley, MD; Vivian McAlister, MB

Summary

Events after the sinking of the hospital ship Llandovery Castle on June 27, 1918, by the German submarine U-86 outraged Canadians. Survivors aboard a single life raft gave evidence that many of the 234 souls lost had made it to lifeboats but were rammed and shot by the submarine. Many of those who died were nurses. Three German officers were charged with war crimes after the war. The submarine’s captain evaded capture. The remaining two officers’ defence that they were following the captain’s orders failed and they were convicted. This ruling was used as a precedent to dismiss similar claims at the war crime trials after the Second World War. It is also the basis of the order given to members of modern militaries, including the Canadian Armed Forces, that it is illegal to carry out an illegal order.


Accepted May 3, 2018

Affiliations: From the Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care, Burns & Acute Care Surgery, University of California San Diego Health (Doucet); and the Canadian Forces Health Services, Ottawa, Ont. (Haley, McAlister).

Competing interests: None declared.

Contributors: All authors contributed substantially to the conception, writing and revision of this article and approved the final version for publication.

DOI: 10.1503/cjs.006518

Correspondence to: A. Gregory Haley, Commander, Senior Staff Officer Surgeon General, Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters, c/o National Defence Headquarters, 101 Colonel By Dr, Ottawa ON K1A 0K2, greg.haley@forces.gc.ca