The notion of hospital ship is quite old, the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem creating a hospital ship in 1523. But she was only a troop transport ship intended to serve as a hospital, that is to say to isolate the sick for fear of contagion.  Later, ships dedicated to the rescue of the shipwrecked and wounded will appear instead of ships temporarily assigned to this task during the Civil War (1861-1865).
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was established in 1863. During the First World War, several liners were transformed into hospital ships. The Second World War saw the appearance of vessels specially built to fulfil the function of hospital ship, in particular to monitor operations across the Pacific. Further conflicts will follow and hospital ships will be implemented, particularly in Vietnam.
In France, no hospital ship in the strict sense has been built since then. Health support was provided until the 1990s by “Health Support Vessels” (bâtiments de soutien santé), but they had other military missions and therefore did not benefit from the protection afforded to hospital ships. In addition, many warships (transport of landing craft, projection and command vessels, aircraft carriers, etc.) have significant hospital capacities.
The Hague Convention of 29 July 1899 adapted the Geneva Convention of 22 August 1864 to the maritime war. It requires hospital vessels to wear hull markings for identification. In addition to a white hull, they must wear:
* Green strips for military hospital ships
* Red strips for non-military hospital ships
At the end of 19th,  hospital ships of Société des Œuvres de Mer used to visit the fishermen on the Banks to assist the fleet of cob fishing off St Pierre-et-Miquelon and to deliver the mail.(See the page  Rescue at sea (2))
Saint-Pierre was built at the Buron shipyard in St Malo and launched on March 18, 1897 to replace the first of the same name, sunk on May 30, 1896.  Willy Fursy, built in 1929 in Fécamp and converted into a hospital ship, is named SAINT-YVES fon Easter Monday 1935 in Saint-Malo. The hospital was modest (eight berths) but the ship was modern and equipped with a TSF. The sailboat did five campaigns from 1935 to 1939. After the war, she was converted for the transport of shellfish. Called then Maryannick, she was moored in Morlaix.
In 1900, an iron steam and sail vessel with a 300 hp engine is launched at Nantes: SAINT FRANCOIS D'ASSISE.
ALICANTE is a cargo ship built in Dumbarton (Scotland), transformed in 1896 after its acquisition by a Spanish company. He served as a hospital ship during the Spanish-American war. After his return to service, he ended up in the port of Barcelona, sunk after a bombing in 1939. .
During the First World War, hospital ships were used for the first time by France and the only one where they would be used in such large numbers. The number of wounded and sick transported by French hospital ships from the Eastern Front is estimated at about 250,000. 
CHARLES-ROUX successively liner Messageries Maritimes between Marseille and Algiers, auxiliary cruiser during the war, then hospital ship, and again liner first turbine ship of the French Navy of Commerce in 1907.
Military franchise card "on board the Charles Roux, floating surgical hospital 1 Dec 1915"

On April 20, 1912, the only French "4 funnels" left Le Havre for New York. Registered under the name of FRANCE IV as a hospital ship, she sailed on 8 December 1915 for Salonika. He made 10 trips between Salonique and Toulon before taking over the civil service for the CGT from 1919 to the commissioning of Ile de France in 1927.
Postcard in franchise Date stamp "Trésor et postes" 18/08/17 Blue stamp THE MEDECIN MAJOR purple mark ship-hospital France IV

Launched in 1913 for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, FLANDRE was requisitioned in January 1917 and left Saint-Nazaire on 24 March; she made several trips between Salonique and Toulon with stopovers in Corfu, Bizerte and Bône. After the armistice, she took part in the repatriation of Serbian and then Senegalese troops. On July 16, 1919, she was finally returned to the company that commissioned her on the Colon line. In 1935 she was transferred to the West Indies Line and eventually sunk in September 40 by a magnetic mine at the entrance to the Gironde.
Postcard of 13/02/18 for St Victor (Ardèche). Blue stamp HOSPITAL SHIP "FLANDERS" Service to the Sea
Launched in 1914 as the Island of Cuba for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, LAFAYETTE was requisitioned in January 1917. With a capacity of 1400 beds, it leaves Le Verdon on March 28 for Algiers and Salonika. It made a total of 10 trips between Salonique and Toulon and was used to repatriate French prisoners after the war. Last to be released on October 22, 1919, he resumed commercial service before being sunk in June 40 by a magnetic mine in Gironde.
Military mail from Toulon sur mer 23/10/17 Purple oval stamp "Service militaire des chemins de fer * commission de gare de Toulon".
The steamer CANADA, built in 1911 in La Seyne for Cyprien Fabre, was requisitioned and militarized on August 10, 1914, then transformed into a 650-bed hospital ship. He made 11 sanitary journeys between Toulon and the Eastern front. It became auxiliary cruiser before being demilitarized in June 1918 and returned to service on Marseille/New York then the Africa line. He was again a hospital ship from 1940, making several voyages to North Africa. It was demolished in 1952, after resuming commercial activity.
Military mail from  2-09-1914 Tunisia Ferryville (today Menzel Bourguiba) Blue cancel Compagnie Française de navigation Cyprien Fabre. Black cancel "CORRESPONDANCE DE/L ARMEE NAVALE / SS CANADA / NAVIRE HOPITAL"  
  One of the largest yachts of his time, LIBERTY, over 80 m (304 ft) long, was sold after owner, Joseph Pulitzer, died in 1911 to a Canadian; she was later taken over by an English lord and leased in 1915 to the Royal Navy. Converted into a hospital ship, she operated in the North Sea until 1919.      
MAHENO, named after a small north Otago township in the Southern Island of New Zealand. In 1915 she was requisitioned by the New Zealand Government for conversion as a hospital ship for 515 patients. She made nine voyages between New Zealand and U.K and Egypt from July 1915 till April 1919 only between Augusts to October 1916 she was used between France and England in the cross-channel service. She was refitted in Port Chalmers again for the service across the Tasman by the Union Line staff. Early 1935 out of service and laid up in Sydney. she grounded on the coast of Fraser Island. . During the Second World War, 27 hospitals were established in the Maltese archipelago. Launched in 1906, REWA takes the name of a princely state disappeared in 1950, integrated into the territory of the current state of Madhya Pradesh; it has a capacity of 165 passengers in two classes but also 1543 troops. After the British India Steam Navigation Company was taken over by P&O, the ship was transformed and used by the Dardanelles. On 4 January 1918, returning from Thessaloniki with 279 patients on board, the hospital ship was torpedoed by the U55 off Lundy. Only 4 engine crew members were killed in the explosion but all the crew and sick were saved before the ship sank after 2 hours 45.
Le COLOMBIE, seized in December 1942, is transformed into a troop transport; renamed ALEDA LUTZ, it becomes hospital ship in European waters then in Indochina. Modernized, it returned to the service of the West Indies before being sold in 1964 and then demolished in Barcelona in 1974. 
JUTLANDIA is a passenger-cargo ship of 8.452 tons for 59 passengers built in 1934 to connect Copenhagen and Bangkok, before and after the war. In 1950, he was converted into a 300-bed hospital, 3 operating rooms, a dental clinic... He made three trips between 51 and 53 in Korea. In St Peter’s on December 21, 1944, chartered by the International Red Cross, VEGA, a Swedish cargo ship of 1073 tons, brings provisions to the inhabitants of Guernsey with clothes and medicines. It will make 6 trips before the liberation of the island.
During the second war, only two hospital ships appeared under the French flag: CANADA and Sphynx.
Mail from Dakar 7/07/1942 to Marseille with military censor strip
CENTAUR is a passenger-cargo ship of 3066 tons for 72 passengers in two classes built in 1924 to connect Australia to Singapore for the Blue Funnel Line. In 1943 she became the hospital ship AHS 47 of the Australian army. On August 14, 1943, at 4:10 am, itshewas torpedoed by the Japanese I-177: of the 332 people on board, 268 were killed
Built in 1963, HELGOLAND is a 3,500-ton ship converted into a 150-bed hospital ship, after serving four years as a ferry between Hamburg and the island of Helgoland. He served during the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1971 and assisted the civilian population that was the victim of the conflict. Moored in Saigon from 3 October 1966 to 30 June 1967, it was moved to Da Nang until 31 December 1971.
The BI Discovery cruise ship, the SS UGANDA, was requisitioned in the Falklands as a hospital ship during the South Atlantic conflict in 1982/83. it will position itself in the «Red Cross Box» (with an Argentine hospital ship), north of the Falklands, to redirect the wounded in Great Britain by plane via Montevideo.
Launched in Liberia in June 2007, AFRICA MERCY is the largest civilian hospital ship in service: Mercy Ships a non-governmental organisation founded by American misionaries, has been providing medical assistance and training in developing countries since 1978. Africa Mercy was built on the DRONNING INGRID ferry, from the shipyards in 1980 with a capacity of 2280 passengers, 18 train cars, 480 cars on 4 bridges.



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