Saturday, April 25, 2009

In Memoriam - 3 February 1942 - Peter GORRIE, M.D., Surgeon, British Merchant Steamship "Madura."

"Five planes sighted approaching from the westward.
"Planes attacked three times. Ship opened fire with 12 pounder but planes too high. First two attacks near-misses with about 4 bombs, and third attack one bomb direct hit on after-part starboard side, Bridge deck through dispensary, with three near misses. Fire started in after-part over Engine Room in way of dispensary, medical locker and Surgeon's cabin. Vessel subsequently found to be making water in No 4 starboard bilge. Many of the crew taking shelter in the Alleyway received injuries and shock. The Surgeon, 2nd Steward, Iceman, Coal Trimmer and Deck Bhandary's Mate were killed. Fire under control by 2000 hours. All wounded removed to Music Room and given first aid treatment. Fire extinguished by 2030 hours and no 4 bilge kept down by pumping. Fourteen members of the crew subsequently found to be seriously wounded, and Vessel proceeded towards Palembang. Wireless messages dispatched as follows:-
"First - AAA - at 1749.
"Second - AAA (On Fire) - at 1803.
"Third - coded to Singapore - at 2030."

[A typed attachment to the ship's log for 3 February 1942, S.S. Madura, a ship of the British-India Steam Navigation Company, London, from Archives of the Department of Transport, Registry of Shipping and Seamen, Cardiff.]

The same log recorded further details:
"5.55 pm, 3 February 1942, At Sea - This day the ship received extensive damage through enemy bombing, but was able to proceed. Among casualties were 5 killed:
"P. GORRIE, Surgeon, No 23 in the Agreement;
"G.H. LACK, 2nd Steward, No 42 in the Agreement;
"Abu TAHER, Deck Bhandary's mate, No 31 in the Asiatic Agreement;
"Durbash ALEE, Iceman, No 68 in the Asiatic Agreement; and
"Motia RAHMAN, Coaltrimmer, No 82 in the Asiatic Agreement."

The Madura had sailed from Singapore at daybreak that morning, and had probably just crossed the Equator, en route to Tanjong Priok, the port of the city then known as Batavia.
She altered course for Palembang, Sumatra, to disembark the casualties into hospital.
Their dead were buried at sea next morning, probably somewhere between Bangka Island and the mouth of the Musi River on mainland Sumatra.

Once again, the ship's log recorded the details:
"7.05 am, 4 February 1942, At Sea - This day the bodies of Dr P. GORRIE, Surgeon, and of G.H. LACK, 2nd Steward, were committed to the deep. Also this day the bodies of Abu TAHER..., of Durbash ALEE..., and of Motia RAHMAN... were committed to the deep."

[Approximate estimated ship locations for Peter GORRIE's death and burial.]

A more detailed account of the "encounter" was given by the Madura's Assistant Purser, Jack BRADSTREET:
"Though an outwardly calm and peaceful day, we steamed in constant expectations of attack. Plenty of wreckage was seen and several distress messages were received by the Radio Officers during the day... Yet we went through the day unmolested, and were beginning to have more faith in our luck than was good for us when, about 6 o'clock in the evening, in Dempu Strait, five bombing planes were seen approaching from the west, where the sun was already low towards the sea.
"The guns were manned and in a minute or so we could see the yellow discs marking the planes' wings. They came in at a fair height, about 5,000 ft, far beyond the reach of our 12-pounder anti-aircraft shells, the fuses of which had been set at only about half that range by the D.E.M.S. authorities who supplied them. Accordingly, we held our fire and waited for the attack. The first bombs were misses near the poop, four great splashes which drenched the gun's team and incensed them into action. As the bombers turned for another run-in from the sun, we opened rapid fire and kept it up for the rest of the encounter...
"They came no lower, and having failed with another four bombs to hit us, turned and came a third time from the west. This time they scored a direct hit on the after-part of the bridge deck accommodation, just below where the previous bomb landed in Singapore. But this time it was a heavy bomb...
"The scene of the impact was grim; the bomb had pierced two decks and exploded in the storeroom, completely destroying, on its way, the Surgeon's cabin and dispensary with the medical stores, but luckily just failing to penetrate the engine-room. Five of the ship's company were dead, or died almost at once, among them Dr GORRIE and George LACK, the Second Steward. Thirteen were badly injured...

"None of the passengers was injured and they all behaved magnificently throughout. We were now especially grateful to have them with us, particularly the women who, with the Surgeon killed and practically no medical supplies for such a task, immediately set about administering First Aid to the wounded, working through the night until they had done all they could for the sufferers.
"The ship's Officers and crew were meanwhile fighting fires which had broken out in various parts of the wrecked accommodation, and in saving what food could be extracted from the storeroom and freezer. The fires were not very extensive, and were all under control by eight o'clock."
[Jack BRADSTREET, cited by Hilary SAUNDERS in his book "Valiant Voyaging," Faber and Faber, London, 1948.]

Peter GORRIE was aged 60. He was survived by his second wife Effie (formerly BAIRD) of Linlithgow; his elder son Lt Bob GORRIE, 2/14th Field Regiment, 2nd A.I.F. (then stationed at Knight Cliffs, Darwin - see his separate entry on this blog-page); and his two daughters, Betty PIGOTT of Adelaide, and Jan GORRIE in London. Peter's first wife, Janet Howatson (formerly YOUNG), had died in Adelaide in 1936; and his younger son, F/O Peter GORRIE Jr, had just been killed-in-action at Kema Bay, near Menado, North Celebes Island, three weeks earlier (see also his separate entry on this blog-page).

[Peter GORRIE, M.D., in an earlier conflict, as Temp Lt, R.A.M.C., 1915-16.]

Peter GORRIE Sr had witnessed the horrors of war before, when, 27 years earlier, he had taken 12 months "sabbatical" from his Medical Practice in Peterborough, South Australia, and enlisted as a Temporary Lieutenant with the R.A.M.C.; between September 1915 and April 1916 he saw service on hospital ships in the Mediterranean and in a hospital or hospitals on Malta, treating the wounded taken off Gallipoli - he is even recorded as having set foot on the Peninsula at Suvla Bay.

Peter GORRIE's name is inscribed on the Memorial to Merchant Seamen, Tower Hill, London - Madura, Panel 66 (pictured above); it is also recorded in the Merchant Seamen's Memorial Book in Edinburgh Castle; and on the Honour Roll at Edinburgh University (pictured below).

[The Tower Hill Memorial. Panel 66 is the last panel on the right side of  the curved section, 
obscured by the top of the stone pillar in the foreground. 
Image courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web-site]

= = = = = = = = = = = = LEST WE FORGET = = = = = = = = = = = =


Peter GORRIE was born at 12 Rosehall Terrace, Edinburgh, on 7 August 1881, the first born child of Daniel GORRIE, a Pharmaceutical Chemist, and Janet Bisset MACLAGAN, both originally from Perth, Perthshire (see the most recent post on tis blog-page for the "GORRIE family of Condocloich").

[Rosehall Terrace, 117 Dalkieth Road, Newington, Edinburgh, where Peter was born.]

Peter was enumerated with his father Daniel GORRIE, at 2 Cameron Terrace, Newington, in the 1891 Census, while his mother and two younger sisters were away visiting her MACLAGAN family in Perth.
Peter was educated at George Watson's School, Edinburgh, 1889-98; and then went to Edinburgh University, where he studied Medicine.
In the 1901 Census, he was enumerated at 3 Cameron Park, Newington, aged 19, Apprentice Chemist, Worker, with his widowed mother Janet, and 4 younger siblings.
He was registered as a Chemist and Druggist by the Pharmacy Society of G.B., Edinburgh, 2 July 1908, a qualification that would serve him well in South Australia, where circumstances often meant he had to dispense his own prescriptions for his patients.
He was awarded the University Medal for Practical Chemistry in 1904; and his name appeared regularly in the Class Honours lists for the Faculty of Medecine published in the University of Edinburgh Calendars - with First Class Honours in Anatomy, Junior Division (1904-05); Physiology, Junior Division (1905-06); Chemical Physiology (1905-06); Practical Anatomy (1905-06 and 1906-07); Materia Medica (1906-07); Experimental Pharmacology (1907-08); and graduating with Honours, Class II, 4th in a list of 14 (behind the top 8 who obtained Honours Class I).

Peter graduated M.B, Ch. B. (Edinburgh), in 1908; he was registered as a Medical Practitioner by the Scottish Branch of the General Medical Council, 28 July 1908.
The length of time that elapsed between Peter leaving school and his graduating in Medicine indicates that he suspended full-time studies and worked for a living. This is confirmed by his 1901 Census enumeration, and was probably made necessary by his father's early death, in 1898, from a heart attack. It may well have been by an arrangement with his late father's business partner, who bought Daniel GORRIE's interest in the dispensing business in Minto Street after his death; it is probably how Peter qualified as a practicising Pharmacist.

Peter worked for 6 months with Frank DAWSON, M.D., as his Assistant in General Practice, in Corbridge, Northumberland, from September 1908; he was for 6 months Resident Surgeon, Essex County Hospital, Colchester, from April 1909; six months as House Surgeon, Cancer Hospital, Fulham Road, London, from September 1909; and a further six months as House Surgeon, Temperance Hospital, Hampstead Road, London.

[Picture post-card view of Essex County Hospital in the 1900s.]

[Cancer Hospital, Fulham Road (left); Temperance Hospital, Hempstead Road (right).]

Testimonials from these four employers assisted Peter's further qualification as M.D., Edinburgh University, in October 1910.

At some stage of this part of his professional life, Peter saw service in the Merchant Navy, on the S.S. Priam, a ship of the Alfred HOLT's Blue Funnel Line (built in 1904, of 4,543 tons, 382.7 feet x 47.2 feet x 28.2 feet, Triple expansion, IHP 2,700, capable of 10 knots, in service until 1931). She is likely to have been involved in HOLT's subsidiary Ocean Steam Ship Company business in China and Japan.

[The S.S. Priam. Image courtesy of the web-site.]

Peter mentioned this engagement, with a discharge date of 1910 but without papers, when he signed on the crew of the S.S. Madura in 1940; but formal details of it have not yet been found; and since details of his voyage or voyages to Australia are likewise unforthcoming, it remains possible, even likely, that the two are connected, his engagement on the Priam perhaps getting him to the Far East, where he may have transferred to another vessel for the onward voyage to Sydney.

Peter was given a set of three volumes of Shakespeare's works, inscribed " Peter GORRIE, 15 June 1911"; they were from his sisters, Belle, Beth and Mary, and probably marked his departure from Edinburgh.


Details of his voyage (or yoyages) to Australia have yet to be discovered; he clearly did not arrive as a regular passenger, and probably instead "slipped under the radar" of immigration officials by working his passage as a ship's surgeon, or at least assisting one, in an arrangement that may well have gone un-recorded by the Shipping Line as well. It was probably on board a vessel of the Blue Funnel Line, with whom he had previously served, and with whom his fiancee was to travel in the following year. He may even have completed part of the voyage on the S.S. Priam, despite the different date (1910) for his service on that ship on his Merchant Service Agreement of 1940.

[An undated portrait photo of P.GORRIE, with his signature (below) on the back - 
now in the holdings of the N.S.W. State Archives, Kingswood.]

Peter probably disembarked in Sydney, where the British Medical Association was holding their 9th Australasian Medical Congress in September 1911. He may well have attended some of the Sessions of the Medical Congress in Sydney, where advice on job prospects would undoubtedly have been forthcoming for a man of Peter's qualifications.
He appears to have lodged a portrait photograph with the N.S.W. Medical Authorities, probably as a prelude to Registration. But it is clear that he did not proceed to Registration in N.S.W., and instead went to South Australia.

Peter was registered as a "...legally qualified Medical practitioner in and for the State of South Australia" at a meeting of the S.A. Medical Board in Adelaide, 12 October 1911, as reported in several South Australian newspapers of near date.

He may have earlier visited Cummins, where he would shortly take up employment - a report in the West Coast Recorder of 12 July 1911 stated that several doctors had visited Cummins with a view to settling there.
Peter was recorded in the S.A. Government Gazette of 4 January 1912 as a Registered Medical Practitioner at Cummins.
He was cited by Wendy TRELOAR, in her "Cummins, Its People and History," as:
"... the first recorded resident Doctor in 1911. He lived in the Hotel... for some months. He was a tall, slight man, definitely not a horseman, and it was amusing to see him trying to get the horse away from the stables - the horse would go out one gate and come back through the other..."

Peter relocated from Cummins to nearby Port Elliston, on the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula, in early May 1912. This was undoubtedly connected with the arrival in Adelaide, from Scotland, of his fiancee, Janet Howatson YOUNG, on the S.S. Aeneas (Blue Funnel Line), and their marriage 2 days later, on 15 April 1912, in the North Adelaide residence of Dr George DAVIDSON, Presbyterian Minister.
There was also a small hospital in Elliston - Peter was not unique in finding it professionally unsatisfactory to be obliged, when necessary, to refer his patients on for the lack of one - he moved again later, citing a lack of a hospital as the reason.

When Peter moved to Petersburg (later Anglicised to Peterborough) in May 1913, after one of the resident doctors there had moved to Broken Hill Hospital, moves were under way towards the building of a hospital there, although a World War was destined to delay that during Peter's time there, and this delay would see him move yet again, 5 years later, to Port Augusta.

But in Peterborough he seemed settled; he purchased several properties in the town; made house visits up to 16 miles away on horseback, with afternoon consultations in town; was Officer of Health for the District; and he added to his young family - first-born Robert Maclagan (born in Elliston, 21 January 1913) was joined in Peterborough by Elizabeth Nancy (born 26 June 1914), and later by Peter Creighton (born 6 June 1918).

[The GORRIE family - Peter and Janet, with Bob and Betty - at Peterborough, 1915.]

Peter also took 12 months leave of absence, which necessitated a "Locum Tenens" to be arranged by the Medical Board to provide for the patients in his practice. This he did in order to respond to urgent requests from Australian and British Military authorities for Medical men to deal with the vast numbers of casualties being taken of the Gallipoli Peninsula.


He embarked in Adelaide on the R.M.S. Omrah on 14 May 1915, the same date as his enlistment, on a Temporary Commission, as Lieutenant, Royal Army Medical Corps.
Janet and the 2 young children stayed behind, shortly to visit and stay with her married sister Janey MACKIE in India.

Peter arrived in England on 20 June, and after brief "home" visits to Edinburgh, went into camp at Aldershot. His younger brother Robert, then a junior officer in the 2/3 Scottish Horse, visited him at Aldershot, and was amazed by his brother's access to officer luxuries - a roofed cabin, and hot water! Some of the detail for this part of Peter's comings and goings were recorded by brother Bob in his diary, now with descendants in Edinburgh.

[Temporary Lieutenant Peter GORRIE, R.A.M.C., with an unidentified colleague, presumably in England, and probably at Aldershot, 1915.]

On 29 September 1915, Peter embarked on His Majesty's Hospital Ship Panama, bound for Malta and service in the Mediterranean.

His exact movements beyond this date are a little uncertain, but we know from his own reports that he did not remain on the Panama for the duration of his Mediterranean tour-of-duty, and that he was aboard H.M.'s Australian Troopship A18, the S.S. Wiltshire, off the coast of Crete, probably about the middle January 1916 (see below).

There is a suggestion from family sources that Peter actually visited the Gallipoli Peninsula - circumstances would probably have made his disembarking anywhere on the Turkish mainland unlikely unless he was attached to a Battalion serving there, which it appears that he was not; although the impact of the medical injuries he had to deal with on board ship probably amounted to the same thing.
However, we do find this report in the Barrier Miner, Friday 28 July 1916:
"Dr M. BIRKS, Surgeon Superintendent of the Broken Hill and District Hospital, will leave in a few days... the duties of superintendent will be taken over by Dr GORRIE, who served with the A.I.F. at Malta, and at Suvla Bay."

It would appear that his stated involvement with A.I.F. troops may have been a little off the mark - as he was with the British R.A.M.C., he was more likely to have been dealing mainly with British troops, at least during his time on the Panama in and out of Malta - although his time on board the HMAT Wiltshire would account for that reference (see below). But this mention here does indicate that Peter was probably still on board the Panama at that time, in November-December 1915.
Further, Sister R.A. (Rosa) KIRKCALDIE, in her book "In Grey and Scarlet" [1922], detailed her time on the Panama, which she joined in Malta on 26 October 1915; she noted that there was a Scotch Doctor on board, whom she did not identify by name; and she recorded that the ship did go to Suvla Bay to evacuate severe frost-bite cases after the "Great Storm" of late November 1915, and that their senior M.O. MACLEAN (not the Scotch doctor) did go ashore to assess the cases prior to their embarkation.
Given Peter's evident enthusiasms for life's experiences (see his visit to Crete below), and as it does appear that he was still aboard at this later date, I imagine that he probably made his best effort to have been one of the shore bound party.

[His Majesty's Hospital Ship "Panama" in a later guise as the Hospital Ship "Maine."
Image courtesy of the web-site.]

The Panama was built in 1902 by the Fairfield Ship Building and Engineering Company, of Govan, in their yard No 419, for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company; of 5891 gross tonnage, with dimensions of 401 feet x 52 feet x 34 feet, Twin Screw Triple Expansion machinery generating 4,000 I.H.P., and capable of cruising at 13.5 knots; she was purchased by the Admiralty in 1920 and renamed the Maine; and was broken up at Bo'ness in 1948.
This suggests the possibility that in 1915, she was "leased" by the British Government, and placed under the overall responsibility of the Admiralty (hence her being named as one of His Majesty's Hospital Ships), whilst her maritime crew remained outside of the Royal Navy, and probably still managed by the P.S.N.C. (presuming they still owned her).
In late October 1915, her Medical complement was identified by Sister KIRKCALDIE as Principal Medical Officer MACLEAN, four Medical offices (2 Irish, 1 Scotch, 1 Canadian), a Matron, five Nursing Sisters (2 Australians, 1 South African, 1 Irish, 1 Burmese) and two Nurses (1 English, 1 Scotch). There was evidently capacity for another 58  R.A.M.C. and St John's Ambulance Staff (who probably acted as Orderlies and Wardsmen). Patient accommodation provided for 19 Officers (in single cabins), 217 Cots (for N.C.O. and O.R. patients needing regular attention) and 248 berths (in double bunks, intended for the less medically demanding or convalescent patients). They carried mattresses for use in corridors, and on deck (weather permitting).

By the time Peter GORRIE arrived in the Mediterranean, there had been a major shift in medical evacuations after the August Offensives. In the month of August, a total of 43,553 wounded and sick had been processed through Mudros, more than 70% of them wounded; by September the total number had dropped to 25,848, with the wounded now accounting for only 14%; and in Peter's first month on the Panama, there were 24,611 evacuations from Mudros (88% of them sick), of which 8,805 were destined for Malta. These figures were recorded in the Official History of the British Medical Services in W.W.1, Volume 3.

[Map image courtesy of the web-site.]

A potted chronology of the Panama's movements in the Mediterranean can be drawn from several sources, including dates, many speculated, from Rosa KIRKCALDIE's book, several "published" servicemen's diaries, and with some additional entries in the War Diary of the Embarkation Officer at Mudros Harbour [EOM]:
25 July- The Panama was commissioned into Naval service as a Hospital Ship.
[Details of her first voyage to the Mediterranean have not yet been found. I imagine that some time would have been required for her being equipped initially. Later voyages with recorded dates suggest she probably departed from Malta on or about 15 September 1915 bound for England (with wounded 65 year-old Lt-Col Walter PEARLESS, a former medical practitioner in N.Z.). There may have been time for at least two, perhaps 3 return voyages to Malta prior to this voyage.]
16 September - Sailing at 36 deg 40 min North, 0 deg West (about 550 km east of Gibraltar), when Private N.F. CAUSLAND died after amputation surgery and was buried at sea - evidently on a voyage from Malta to Britain.
[She probably arrived in Southampton on or about 23 September; and the next date, recorded in a GORRIE family diary in Edinburgh, indicates that she had no time for a return voyage to Malta at this time.]
29 September - In port at Southampton when Peter GORRIE, M.D., embarked for Malta, as Temp Lieut, R.A.M.C.
8 October- In Malta, when a number of wounded servicemen were embarked for repatriation to England, several of whom left diary evidence - Private Adam DAVIDSON, 1st Bn/4th Royal Scots Regiment, wrote that he drove to Valetta at 1 p.m. on the 8th and boarded "...the H.S. Panama, and about 5 o'clock we head for home"; he later observed passing Gibraltar at 4 a.m. on 12 October, and arrival in Southampton at 8 a.m. on 16 October. This was a voyage of 6 days and 15 hours. James Donald Sutherland MUNRO, who served on Gallipoli with the A.I.F. (but later joined the Royal Flying Corps), also embarked on the Panama in Malta on the 8th, and was admitted to 1st Southern General Hospital in Birmingham on the 16th (which corresponds exactly with DAVIDSON's diary entries).
[Several newspaper sources indicate that she may have embarked a number of other AIF and N.Z. troops in Malta, but on the 9th - the N.Z. contingent was reported in the N.Z. press as having been intended for Britain. The 9th does not correspond with the diary evidence.]
16 October - Left the Dardanelles, bound for Malta. This date does not reckon with the above, and may have been recorded in error for the arrival in Southampton, and perhaps also her departure for a return voyage to Malta.
ca 20 October - Probably back in Malta if she left Southampton quickly, and steamed at regular speed. If so, she had sufficient time for a return trip up to Gallipoli before her 31 October departure for England (evidence for this possibility not yet found).
30 October - In Malta. Sister Rosa A. KIRKCALDIE was embarked as a new member of the Nursing crew, having been hurriedly enlisted from one of the military hospitals in Valetta. [Which suggests a possibility that her previous voyage may not have involved patients.]
31 October - The Panama left Malta for Britain with a complement of wounded.
ca 8 or 9 November - After disembarking the wounded at Southampton, she sailed around Lands End to Newport (a voyage of about 30 hours), in Monmouthshire (a short distance NE of Cardiff), for coaling and replenishment of supplies. Nursing staff were given 4 days leave.
ca 16-17 November - She left Newport for Malta, having only just heard news of the sinking of H.M.H.S. Anglia, in the English Channel.
ca 24 November - Arrived in Malta and received orders to proceed immediately for Mudros Harbour, Lemnos Island.
ca 26-27 November - After 2 days clear weather, the Panama ran into the "great storm" that engulfed the Gallipoli Peninsula on the evening of the 27th, and turned to a blizzard next day, followed by 2 more days of hard frost; despite advice to lay over in the lea of one of the nearby islands, her Captain persisted in her voyage.
ca 28-29 November - Arrived at Lemnos Island, and was ordered to proceed direct to the Gallipoli Peninsula.
ca 30 November or 1 December - Anchored off the beach at Suvla Bay, in order to embark 1,172 frost-bite victims from the beach.
ca 2 December - Returned to Mudros Harbour, and off-loaded some 200 of the wounded men with "milder" injuries.

A number of the above dates were speculated from Sister KIRKCALDIE's account, which was often imprecise about actual dates.
I had interpreted some of them from several dates which were recorded, and on the basis of my estimation that the sailing time from Malta to Mudros, a little over 1400 kilometres apart by sea, would have been about 60-65 hours, or 2 and a half days, at full cruising speed (she may have traveled below her maximum speed if the weather or Surgeons requirements in the Operating theatres demanded it, or to reduce vibrations for reasons of patient comfort, or indeed to derive engineering benefits including reduced mechanical wear-and-tear and improved fuel efficiency if she wasn't under duress or threat).
However, I have since re-estimated these dates, as it is evident that the Embarkation Officer at Mudros dates were precise:
3 December - The Panama left Mudros for Malta [EOM].
10 December - Arrived in Mudros from Malta [EOM]. She came alongside "...a well-known transport..." in Mudros Harbour, in order to receive the wounded men who had been on the vessel for 7-8 days, but without having received any medical attention; this horrified and scandalised the staff on the Panama - they reported that seriously frost-bitten men had not even had their boots removed in the interim - and as they toiled to clean the men up, and dress their putrifying wounds (many of which necessitated amputation), the galley crew on the Panama were also kept busy making soup and baking fresh bread for the suffering men. I had originally speculated this event as having taken place on or about 6 December, but see now, from EOM dates, that it must have been this later date.
11 December - Left Mudros for Malta [EOM]; and was en route for Malta when Private Lawrence WRIGHT (Machine Gun Section, 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers) died after amputation surgery and was buried at sea. [His mother received two letters from him, one dated 30 November, saying - "We have had a most trying ordeal by water; a fearful storm" - and another said to have been dated 4 days earlier (?) saying - "We are suffering from exposure and frostbite, so are going in hospital somewhere" - it appears that the dates on these letters may perhaps have been reversed.]
18 December - A Saturday - Arrived in Mudros from Malta [EMO]; she was again ordered to go up to the Peninsula. But she did not go in to shore, and instead went to the Island of Imbros; the extensive fires they had seen at night ashore at Anzac Cove turned out to be the last stages of the great military evacuation (the last troops left the beaches at Suvla and Anzac on the night of the 20th).
20 December - Arrived in Mudros from Kephalos [EOM]; in the absence of any casualties requiring transfer, she received orders to proceed around Greece and up into the Adriatic, to embark Red Cross units at San Giovanni di Medua.
24 December - In San Giovanni di Medua, but the Red Cross units were still inland; she instead embarked two smaller V.A.D. units, and some 150 Serbian women and children, as well as some Red Cross men. [San Giovanni di Medua, in Albania, is now known as Shengjin, to the north of Tirana.]
25 December - The Panama landed the alien passengers at Brindisi in the afternoon, before continuing on her voyage to Malta (probably about 30 hours sailing time). Shortly after her arrival, a case of para-typhoid was discovered, probably brought on board in Albania, and the vessel and her crew were quarantined in a harbour backwater for about two weeks, and evidently setting out once more for Mudros on or about 12 January.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Peter GORRIE may have transferred off the Panama about this time.
While she was in Malta, some 136 members of the Panama's complement were successfully inoculated against Typhoid A with serum issued from the Vaccine Department of the Royal Army Medical College to the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Intarfa, Malta [report of the Officer-in-Charge, Major W. BROUGHTON-ALCOCKE, R.A.M.C., in the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Volume xxxiv, Number 3, March 1920].
Despite his medical erudition, it is unlikely that Dr GORRIE could easily have exempted himself from quarantine requirements.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
15 January - The Panama arrived in Mudros from Malta [EMO]; now out of quarantine, she went back into service, this time working in reverse - transporting wounded troops due for repatriation from Malta back to Mudros Harbour, for loading onto the super-hospital ships, including the Aquitania and Britannic - which vessels were too large to enter most of the other Mediterranean Harbours. The Panama continued a shuttle service between the two ports.
22 January - She left Mudros for Malta [EMO].
ca 31 January - Arrived back in Mudros Harbour with what would prove to be her last complement of wounded repatriees from Malta - but she found Mudros Harbour was empty of shipping. After two days of waiting, she was finally ordered to proceed to Naples .
4 February - Arrived in Naples about 9 a.m., and transferred her wounded onto the Britannic - the latter sailed for Britain in mid-afternoon of the same day (she had been waiting for the Panama to arrive); she then remained in Naples for another 5 days awaiting further orders.
9 February - Ordered back to Malta.
ca 14 February 1916 - The Panama was ordered to return to England. She thereafter was based in Cowes, and provided a shuttle service between Southampton and Le Havre, for repatriating wounded troops from the Western Front. However, there is a report of her arrival at Stavros on 19 December 1916, which suggest she may have stayed in the Mediterranean beyond February 1916.

Peter's transfer to the H.M.'s Australian Troopship Wiltshire is not yet verified from any official record; it would have taken place about the time the Panama was quarantined in Malta in early January 1916; which date is consistent with records of soldier embarkations on her in lists held by the Australian War Memorial - which lists record embarkations for two relevant voyages, one on 18 November 1915, and another on 7 March 1916, both in Melbourne; and these are entirely consistent with a turn-around date in the Mediterranean half-way between these embarkations, on or about 12 January 1916, perhaps at Malta.
The Transcontinental (Port Augusta), Friday 29 June 1923, carried a report of a lecture delivered by Peter GORRIE, which began:
"One day in 1916, when the steamer Wiltshire was carrying troops to Mesopotamia, she pulled up off the island of Crete... Dr GORRIE was on the Wiltshire... he went across in a naval boat with a naval officer and another officer who was in civilian life an Oxford Don. What they saw was described in a lecture by the doctor at the Port Augusta Methodist Kindergarten Room..."
Further, Dr Harold PAVY, in his book "Bush Surgeon," wrote:
"I was asked to go to the assistance [August 1916] of Doctor Peter GORRIE at Peterborough. He had been invalided out of Mesopotamia earlier in the year..."
Together, if accurate, and I have no particular reason to suspect that Dr GORRIE was telling tall tales (exaggerating a little, perhaps), these two reports indicate that Peter, who may have boarded the Wiltshire in Malta (she would not have been near Crete if carrying troops bound for Mesopotamia from Alexandria or Port Said), probably proceeded on her as she headed further east, to the final destination of the Australian troops (who may have been embarked in Melbourne on 18 November 1915), evidently somewhere on the coast of Palestine (rather than by the sea route, the long way around the Arabian Peninsula and through the Strait of Hormuz).
However, Army service records indicate that the Melbourne embarkations on the Wiltshire in November 1915 were largely 7th Reinforcements for 21st Battalion Infantry, and a number of units of the 4th Field Artillery Brigade, both of which groups appear to have disembarked at Suez, on or about 13 December, without any apparent onwards travel. Perhaps the Wiltshire embarked in their place other units which had been training in Egypt?
Perhaps the Transcontinental reporter, and Dr PAVY, simply mis-took Mesopotamia for Palestine - although it would have been quicker to go there overland through Gaza, as some Australian units did.
Perhaps instead the Wiltshire had crossed the eastern Mediterranean and sailed up the Aegean to assist in ANZAC troop and support personal evacuations from either Gallipoli or Lemnos, and was returning to Alexandria? This would have entailed her travelling close to either Crete or Rhodes on the way there, or back, or both. But not necessarily to Palestine.
Perhaps Peter had missed a sailing on the Panama and was just trying to catch up with her by hitching a ride on the first available vessel?
None of which quite explains why the Wiltshire was anchored off Crete for long enough to give two Officers time to sneak a quick shore visit, chauffeured by a Naval Officer, and to visit the Minoan ruins. Unless they took advantage of the Navy boat going ashore for more pressing operational reasons?

[H.M.A.T. 18 - Wiltshire. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.]

And what he got up to over the next 9 to 10 weeks remains an enigma.
For we learn, from his brother Bob's diary, that Peter returned to Southampton on 8 April 1916, but not by which vessel (clearly not the Wiltshire, and probably not the Panama).

After writing to Bob from Wimbledon on 16 May, and a further family visit to Edinburgh, Peter embarked on the S.S. Basra, 22 May 1916, bound for India.
On 6 Jun, Bob was unsure whether Peter still held his Army Commission; on 24 June he had confirmation that Peter had relinquished his Commission; on 16 July he received news from Peter in Karachi; and by the end of June he was in Colombo, where he joined his wife Janet, and young children Bob and Betty (the 1st words her father Peter heard her utter were spoken in Hindustani), for the voyage back to Adelaide on the R.M.S. Kaiser-I-Hind.


The family disembarked in Adelaide on 19 July 1916, and Peter returned to his practice in Peterborough, although not immediately - he spent 6 weeks in the Broken Hill and District Hospital, while the Surgeon Superintendent, Dr M. BIRKS, was on leave in Sydney (it was BIRKS's departure from Petersburg in 1913 that created the opportunity for Peter to move there), returning on the Adelaide express on 17 October 1916.
His experiences in the Mediterranean, bleak as they must have been, saw him begin to take a keen interest in the welfare of returned servicemen, and he probably aided in establishing a branch of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Association in August 1918.

But the lack of a hospital in Peterborough once again began to rankle, and Peter made arrangements with Dr Leonard J. PELLEW in Port Augusta, who had re-engaged to serve overseas in the Army, for taking over his practice there. PELLEW had enlisted in the R.A.M.C. in 1915, 2 days before Peter did, and sailed to England on the same boat - he and his family had also returned to Adelaide from that earlier tour of duty on the same ship as Peter and his family in July 1916. The transfer arrangements were finalized on 18 October 1918. When the Armistice was announced shortly after, Dr PELLEW stated that, whilst he now was no longer going overseas, his agreements with Dr GORRIE had to be honoured.


Apart from taking on PELLEW's General Practice, Peter immersed himself in the life of Port Augusta. He became Medical Officer for both the Hospital, and the Railways Department, Hon. Surgeon for the Jockey Club, Committee Member of the Institute, Member of the Auto Club, and visited remote Aboriginal communities and the local Gaol to supervise inoculations and deal with other health issues. He was deeply involved with the local response to the threat rising from the Great Influenza Pandemic, supervising arrangements at the isolation camp established on the Transcontinental Railway about 17 miles from town, although they were not needed.

Peter also maintained his close interest in the welfare of the Returned Men. He addressed a banquet organised in their honour to mark the Peace Celebrations held in July 1919, and there delivered a short speech, the only recorded one by him that I have found:
"...and then followed a scene which onlookers describe as the most impressive they had ever witnessed. Dr GORRIE proposed the toast of "Fallen Comrades" and referred to the sacrifices the country had made in the recent great war by the loss of the flower of her manhood. He pointed out that no great object was attained without self-sacrifice and strenuous effort, and this great war had been no exception. He alluded to the promising intellectual, athletic, noble comrades who had laid down their lives that their country might live, and how incomprehensible that those who, at this time of reconstruction, would be of the most value as citizens, had been called to make the supreme sacrifice. It was up to those present to cherish the memory of those worthy comrades, to play the game and become valued members of society, so that the sacrifices that had been made by Fallen Comrades would not be in vain. Those present then rose and drank in silence the toast to their Fallen Comrades; after a pause of half-a-minute, they softly and solemnly sang 'For they were jolly good fellows'."
[Report of "The Peace Celebrations in Port Augusta," The Transcontinental, 25 July 1919.]

He was also instrumental in establishing the Soldier's Club in Port Augusta in July 1920, when "Dr GORRIE... promised to hand over interesting wall decorations to the club."

[Left - Peter and Janet outside their home in Gilbert Street, Port Augusta.
Right - The house was still in use as a residence when I photographed it about 10 years ago.]

But family pressures came to bear, and by July 1923, Peter decided to move from Port Augusta to Mount Lofty. A fourth child, Janet Howatson Jr, had been born on 1 May 1922, and the eldest son Bob was now aged 9; perhaps Janet wanted to be nearer better schools for the children's education; or perhaps Janet just wanted to be nearer the city herself. Either way, Peter stated publicly, and rather bluntly, that he "...had no desire to leave... but was compelled for family reasons."

[The walnut cigar box presented to Peter GORRIE on his farewell from Port Augusta (above);
 and the inscribed plate inside the lid (below).]

His farewell from Port Augusta on 23 July 1923 was well reported - Mayor CHINNERY referred to his "splendid service," and presented him with a wallet of notes and an address from the Municipalities, R.S. and S.I.L., Hospital, Institute and Racing Club, which noted:
"Dear Sir, - Your departure from our midst is an event which your fellow townsmen and residents of the district cannot allow to pass without an expression of sincere regret. During the past 4 years and 8 months you have, by gratuitous service as health officer to the several municipal bodies, placed the citizens under a deep obligation. Your occupancy of the position as medical officer of the Port Augusta Hospital, of Government departments of the State and Commonwealth, Friendly Societies and Racing Club, has been a fine record of skill and devotion, and in the private branch of your profession you have won the regard and esteem of your clientele. Your support to the Port Augusta sub-branch of the R.S. and S.I. League, your practical sympathy, not only for those who suffer from war injuries, but for every charitable object, your interest in the Institute and other societies have merited the high esteem of the community. The many friends you leave behind you unite in the sincere wish that, with Mrs GORRIE and family, you may enjoy added prosperity, health and continued happiness."
[Report of the "Departure of P. GORRIE, Esq, M.D. - Public Farewell," The Transcontinental.]


Despite the injunctions of his Port Augusta friend's, Peter's life after moving to Mount Lofty appears to have begun to lose its edge.

He purchased the practice of Dr Sydney Letts DAWKINS, and along with it, the large mansion still known as St Anne's, in Avenue Road, with a rear entrance onto Orly Road where he established his surgery and dispensary.

Peter also purchased the lease of Lot 8, Druid Avenue, where the old Hospital operated:

[View of the rear of the former hospital on Druid Avenue, now a Dental Clinic, December 2015.]

And during his time in Mount Lofty, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Community Hospital which still operates from the original site on Milan Crescent, the only Hospital in Australia still under community ownership:

[View of the central wing of the Community Hospital on Milan Crescent, December 2015.]

[The portrait of Peter GORRIE that was hanging in the boardroom at Stirling Hospital until recently.
Image courtesy of Elizabeth PIGOTT.]

He was also, despite never "...having experienced the pangs and pleasures of golf before," an inaugural Director of the Mount Lofty Golf Club (along with Dudley C. TURNER of Thorpe, and J. Fred DOWNER of Glenalta), 1 April 1925.

[The original "club-house" at Mounty Lofty Golf course.
This photo was taken by Janet GORRIE, and is in her photo album, presently in my possession.]

And his private practice flourished, with many memories of his sterling efforts on behalf of the genuinely ill (although he apparently suffered fools less than gladly), and his constant attention to difficult cases - his rural colleagues placed a very high value on his diagnostic skills, and would often travel miles to seek his views on their own difficult cases.

[Loading up for a trip into the country, Peter supervises Janet at St Anne's, Mt Lofty.]

He also maintained contact with his Port Augusta acquaintances, and often visited his BRODIE friends at Nonning and Yardea stations.

[Peter GORRIE in the Bush, in a typical pose, pipe in mouth.]

But for Peter, something had gone missing, and in January 1930, a very close friend, Thorburn Brailesford ROBERTSON, died aged 45, four years Peter's junior. He was Professor of Biochemistry at Adelaide University, and his mother lived in Milan Crescent (Peter knew her as "Brown Grannie" and she was renowned for her home-brewed beer). Peter may even have first met up with his "...pal ROBERTSON" in London in September 1915. In 1932, ROBERTSON's wife (Jane STIRLING, daughter of "White Grannie") published her late husband's "A Note Book," which related an account of his visit to Dr PAVLOV's laboratory in St Petersburg in 1914, and of his numerous experiences with premonitions. It was "...dedicated to his friend Peter GORRIE, M.D."

Thereafter, Peter's abilities, although professionally never publicly questioned, began to show signs of suffering from an increasing dependence on alcohol.

There are some recollections of Peter among old Mount Loftians, which celebrate his craft, and reflect his complex character. Some of these were collected by the Mount Lofty District Historical Society, and are to be found in the Stirling Library:
"...the irrascible Dr GORRIE... (his) rough and ready advice.."
[Bob RICHARDSON, Mt Lofty House.]
"...a bluff Scotsman who came here from Port Augusta. He enjoyed a reputation as a fine surgeon and diagnostician, but many tales are also told of his bluntness. The best story told of him is of the old fellow who lay dying, then opened one eye and remarked: 'I know I am not in heaven - I can still see you, Doctor!'..."
[Mrs Joan DEANS, Nursing Sister.]
"There was a Private Hospital on Druid's Ave, and he walked the Avenue of a night time, almost all night, working out what he could do to save him. And he did - and he was one of the first. It was history at the time..."
[Mrs Mary PEPPER, about her husband, speaking in 1978.]
"Dr GORRIE... took to the whiskey... of course they used to have a life; there was only one Doctor, and he'd be called out at all hours. He told one story... driving along, it was misty and rainy, and (he was very Scottish, Dr GORRIE) this woman was trudging along, so he stopped and offered her a lift. She put her head through the window and said to him: 'Are you a respectable man?' He said: 'No!' and drove off."
[David ROBERTSON, Milan Terrace.]
"...they separated, Dr and Mrs GORRIE. And there were two factions - split the town down the middle - those that were for the Doctor and those that were for Janet. It got to a point, as kids, when you'd go over to play with - well to see kids - that I'd be glared at, at home, because it happened to be the son of somebody who was supporting the Doctor instead of... It got really quite tense."
[David ROBERTSON again.]

[A watercolour by Gilbert ROACH, showing the township of Port Augusta, and given to Peter GORRIE by the artist
 in lieu of payment for his "keep" on a camping holiday with Dr GORRIE and his friends.]

By October 1933, Peter had sold St Anne's to his successor, Dr Arthur REID, and had left his family in Mt Lofty. He sailed from Adelaide, 28 October 1933, on the S.S. Ballarat (P. and O. Steam Navigation Company), bound for London; arriving there on 4 December, intending to stay at 7 Priestfield Road, Edinburgh.

Peter stayed with his mother and his sisters at 7 Priestfield Road, at least for a while.

He did make one return trip to Australia, perhaps to sort out some unresolved financial affairs, and to see if he could make a new start with Janet and the children. Details of this voyage are likewise undiscovered, and he may well have secured passage by working as an assistant to a ship's surgeon, again.

His daughter Betty, then in Melbourne, recalled that he visited her on the way to Adelaide, and calculated that that was in late 1934, which is consistent with information that he was hospitalised in Adelaide in February 1935.

His wife Janet's response to his desire to get his life back in order was telling, as she confided in a letter to her sister Janey MACKIE in India, dated 18 March 1935:
"I tried to get him to go back to Scotland again, or in fact anywhere away from Adelaide, but he decided to make another start in Adelaide... he would ruin this venture. Now he is NOT supposed to come here, there is nothing he wants more. He takes me and Janet out for runs on Saturday afternoons. He knows that this is the last opportunity and chance of coming back to his family..."

Janet had been advised to seek a legal separation so that she would not be liable for Peter's debts; on his ability to sort out his problems, including his professional disabilities due to an increasing dependence on alcohol, she wrote:
"...he may be able to overcome the weakness, but I hae ma doots."

He made his final departure from Adelaide on 22 February 1936, sailing on the S.S. Barrabool (Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company); arrived London 28 March, destination again 7 Priestfield Road, Edinburgh.

The "venture" referred to by Janet was her attempt to establish a Nursing or Convalescent Home at Lower Mitcham. On 5 May 1936, she purchased the 3 and 3/4 acre property known at St George's, with a frontage to Unley Road measuring 215 feet, with a depth of 788 feet to Durdin Road, on which stood an 11 room house, with out-buildings, on a well wooded property, which had recently been use as a slightly up-market Guest House.

Janet's somewhat precarious financial situation was evident from the fact that she immediately mortgaged the property back to the vendor, Dr Henry Carew NOTT (jointly with Mary Jane BOWMAN).
Janet did not long live to "enjoy" her new venture - after a brief stay on the South Coast with her sister Janey MACKIE, out from India, she died at a Private Hospital in Adelaide in early June 1936.
The property at Lower Mitcham survives - it was eventually purchased in 1950 by Mitcham Corporation, and was ear-marked as a site for a new Town Hall and Civic Centre. That plan never eventuated, but the old house (evidently built about 1860) is now in use as a Child-care Centre, not far from the neighbouring old GAULT family residence, now better known as the Lenzerheide Restaurant.


Peter's Australian family believed that he worked in General Practice in Linlithgow, but there is no record of him in Linlithgow Directories. In 1997, Peter's cousin, Gordon MACLAGAN, wrote that Peter "...had retired (came to see us at Petts Wood) and when the war broke out, volunteered as a ship's surgeon."

But in between, we have, from his son Peter Junior's R.A.A.F. Service Record, an undated address for his father Peter at East Fortune Base Hospital, Drem (in East Lothian), sometime after February 1940.

And Peter did enlist in the Merchant Service; on 12 December 1940, he signed on the crew of the S.S. Madura, then in Glasgow, as Ship's Surgeon.

But that wasn't until 2 days after his second marriage. Janet, his first and estranged wife, had died in Adelaide in June 1936 (see above). On 23 November 1940, at St Ninian's Church, Linlithgow, Peter married Agnes Euphemia (Effie) BAIRD. She lived at Elinor Cottage, Linlithgow, with her mother; it is possible that Peter was boarding there with the family. Peter was aged 56; Effie, a spinster, was 36.
I corresponded a few years ago with an elderly "Black Bitch" in Linlithgow, who had actually attended the wedding - Effie, proudly carrying her little white lap-dog, had been their Sunday School Teacher.


Peter's first "outing" on the Madura was a return voyage to Bombay, departing Greenock on 24 December, via Birkenhead, Freetown, Capetown and Mombasa. In port at Bombay, 18 March until 8 April 1941, she arrived back in Glasgow on 13 June, again stopping at Mombasa, Capetown and Freetown.

The second voyage was a return run to New York, 30 June - 21 July 1941, delivering a consignment of £1 million worth of Johnny Walker whiskey, which caused the stevedores untold "problems" during unloading, resulting in "accidental" breakages, and thereafter increasing drunkenness on the dock!

On the return voyage, the Madura joined a convoy of more than 70 ships, with Naval escort, leaving Halifax on 5 August 1941, and was host to the Convoy Commodore for the passage. In mid ocean, the convoy gave an ecstatic reception to a British battleship which sailed through the convoy ranks. The guest-of-honour on H.M.S. Prince of Wales was Prime Minister Winston CHURCHILL, returning from his "Atlantic Meeting" with President ROOSEVELT. He was so chuffed by the experience that he ordered the helmsman on the Prince of Wales to go round and "review" the convoy a second time.

The third and final voyage saw them depart Glasgow on 5 September 1942, for New York. Three days out of Halifax, their convoy was scattered by U-boats, and the Madura proceeded into Halifax unescorted. Events in the Far East were developing rapidly, and the ship was ordered to embark troops and war materiel for ports beyond New York, principally and ultimately Singapore. Some cargo was unloaded at Bermuda (13 October); water tanks were replenished at Jamaica (19 October); a Company of Cameron Highlanders was disembarked at Santa Anna, Curacao (22 October) to guard the massive Dutch Oil Refinery there; two days with shore leave in Pernambuko, Brazil (3-5 November); Capetown (22-23 November); and in Mombasa (6 December), embarking passengers, including newspaper reporters heading for the Japanese "War Zone." On the next stage of their voyage news was received of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and America's entry into the war; arriving Colombo, 17 December, further progress to Singapore was delayed due to military uncertainty and troopship movements. They spent Christmas in Colombo; finally being cleared on Boxing Day, but to head to Tanjong Priok, port of Batavia, where they were again held up, from 4 - 11 January 1942, as a result of more troopship movements, this time Australian, and carrying large numbers of ill-fated Army recruits into Singapore for its eleventh-hour and futile defence.

The Madura made its final run into Singapore, arriving 14 January. Several attempts to unload deck cargo in Singapore were frustrated, firstly by Japanese bombing raids, and then by the shortage of wharf labour after the raids. In one raid, several crew of the Madura were wounded by a direct hit, but which did not cause a lot of damage to the ship. The cargo was unloaded, but, while awaiting further cargo for loading, the Captain (John BEATTY) ordered the ship away from the dockside and out into the harbour, so as to more easily take evasive action to protect his ship from any further enemy bombardment.

[The Madura, in the middle distance, dockside in Singapore Harbour, late January 1942.]

Jack BRADSTREET tells the rest of the story:
"The Madura, empty and battered, was sent out into Keppel Harbor to await cargo for India. We waited three days, by which time Allied troops had retreated back on Singapore, and quitting the mainland, had blown up the causeway. Capt BEATTY was quick to realise that our promised cargo was in all probability lost in the chaos which now reigned ashore. He accordingly made representations to the Naval authorities, with the result that, on the evening of 2nd February, we went alongside once more, took on board about 200 passengers (about two-thirds Chinese and the rest Europeans) for passage to Java, and sailed next morning."
[Hilary SAUNDERS, "Valiant Voyaging," Faber and Faber, London, 1948.]

And so, at 7.00 am on Tuesday 3 February 1942 (and 12 days before Singapore was surrendered into Japanese military control), the final leg of Peter GORRIE's last voyage began.

[Details of Peter's death, not all correct, are recorded on the family monument, Newington Cemetery, Edinburgh.]

Peter GORRIE was my maternal grandfather.

No comments: