In the trailer for the upcoming movie Dunkirk, a scene implies the Axis forces struck and sunk a medical ship carrying the red cross. Can anyone tell me if this was considered unlawful engagement of war for the time and if so, was it covered in the Nuremberg trials as a formal charge?
Part of this question still seems unaddressed; Is an attack on a hospital ship a war crime. Yes, attacking a Hospital ship is a war crime.
Hospital ships were covered under the Hague Convention X of 1907.
But there are restrictions that must be followed:
Article four of the Hague Convention X outlined the restrictions for a hospital ship:
-Ship must be clearly marked and lighted as a hospital ship
- The ship should give medical assistance to wounded personnel of all nationalities
- The ship must not be used for any military purpose
- The ship must not interfere with or hamper enemy combatant vessels
- Belligerents, as designated by the Hague Convention, can search any hospital ship to investigate violations of the above restrictions
- Belligerents will establish the location of a hospital ship
So there are rules that must be followed by a hospital ship to be under protection. To play devil's advocate (and not my personal opinion, so don't yell at me) if the Paris could be considered ,acting at that moment, not in its role as a hospital ship, but as a military troop transport, then it would no longer be under protection...
The first link provided by Mark's answer bears a closer look:
The fact that there is a LIST indicates this happened way to often (and note ships on both sides were sunk).
Back on topic (sorry), the casualties on the sinking of the HMHS Paris appear to be amazingly low (from Naval History.Net):
Hospital ship PARIS (1790grt), on passage to Dunkirk, was badly damaged at 1915 by German bombing near Dunkirk in 51‑11N, 02‑07E. Two crew were killed. PARIS sank on the 3rd.
So, if this is the ship being shown in the trailer for the movie, it appears to be a misrepresentation of the facts, as the movie shows a fully laden ship.
There was another Hospital ship which was also sunk just prior to the Dunkirk evacuation. the Maid of Kent was sunk on may 21, 1940 at Dieppe, and with many more casualties(54), during the events leading up to Dunkirk. Without more info on the movie, it is possible this could be the ship shown sinking as a lead-in part of the story.
My mother, Michelle Carey was a QA on board HMHC Worthing, I believe the sister ship to Paris, and she writes to her mother on June 4th :
‘ I expect you have read all about us in the Papers. Actually, The Paris wasn’t hit but being a much older ship than the Worthing, her plates couldn’t stand up to the shock of the concussion from the bombs.’
Later in the same letter she writes:-
‘ I was very upset about The Paris. I have had such a good time on her. Blake, my friend is in hospital, as far as I know she is alright, though Matron was wounded in the arm by shrapnel. Poor things they have lost all their kit and clothes. It must have been pretty grim. I don’t suppose I shall see Colonel Hurst again either. He was such a pet and game. We had a good time.
I wish I had more detail on this but I do know that my great Uncle was on HMHS Paris when it was damaged. He survived but unfortunately he was never able to live the life he would have if the world had been a different place and we hadn’t gone to war.
Having seen the movie, the incident as depicted shows the hospital ship loading not just wounded but soldiers in uniform who were quite fit. Under these fictional conditions, the ship would have forfeited any protection it was due. The Luftwaffe did intentionally attack several hospital ships in the Mediterranean. The US also attacked some Japanese hospital ships, although the circumstances would appear to excuse those attacks.
She was not a troop ship she was under the redcross as a humanitarian taking injurd and survivors from a stat of death.the french had surrendered so the British expeditionary forces where retreating and not fighting.this gives the redcross full wavoe to act under humanitarian and germany brok all the laws of engagement of war.let us never forget dunkirk.s my grandfather use to say we gave them back what for...for dunkirk.