100 Years Ago: Influenza pandemic hits the Navy hard

As we commemorate the centenary of the German Armistice we also remember the influenza pandemic. By October 31st 1918, the H1N1 Influenza virus had spread across the world. Primarily seen as a civilian tragedy, its effect on the war and the military forces should not be forgotten.

The non virulent wave of the pandemic began in early 1918 and by the end of March it began to appear in American army camps. In early 1918, those infected with the virus had a low mortality rate, with sufferers left incapacitated for a few days. The virus quickly spread to Europe and the Western Front. In May, the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet reported over 10,000 cases of influenza, enough to form ship’s companies for ten battlecruisers like HMS New Zealand.

By mid August, the influenza outbreak had reached HMNZT Tahiti. The ship’s medical facilities were overwhelmed with over 90% of the men catching the virus.

Read the full article, written by Michael Wynd, Navy Museum Researcher, at http://navymuseum.co.nz/the-influenza-pandemic/