- Before Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7,1941, twenty-nine American Red Cross Nurses volunteered for duty in England to help staff an installation for the study and treatment of communicable diseases under wartime conditions. At the time, graduate nurses were asked to join the ARC, which was recruiting for the Army Nurse Corps.Ten of these nurses, who were still civilians, sailed from Halifax aboard the Norwegian merchant ship Vigrid in a British convoy in June, 1941. On June 24 the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine and sunk. Wearing lifebelts, the nurses were lowered into lifeboats – two in one boat, and four each in two other boats, along with other passengers and crew.
- One lifeboat was rescued by an Allied ship, after 12 days of drifting in the open sea, cold and hungry. The four nurses were taken to Iceland, and eventually returned to the U.S. Drifting for 19 days, the lifeboat with the two nurses was rescued by a destroyer, and all taken to England. The four nurses from the Vigrid in the remaining lifeboat were never found.
- June 27, three days after the sinking of the Vigrid, the same convoy was torpedoed by another German sub. Seventeen nurses were aboard the Maasdam when it was hit, and all safely abandoned ship. Two nurses lost their lives at sea, and the other 15 were rescued by two Norwegian ships and taken to England.
- After war was declared by the U.S., the hospital in Great Britain was taken over by the U.S. Army, and many of the nurses volunteered for the Army Nurse Corps, and remained in the European theater of operations.
- George Korson’s book, AT HIS SIDE, The Story of The American Red Cross Overseas in WWII, tells the story of these two ships. https://uboat.net, is another excellent source.