Hospital ships have been used throughout history for as long as battles have been fought on the sea. From as early as the times of the ancient Greeks evidence shows that some form of a hospital ship was used in battle. Such a ship is essential in times of war, especially during sea battles. During the First World War hospital ships were used heavily by both sides. Accounts of firsthand experience aboard such a ship were written by John Clayton Taylor, a member of the U.S. Navy during World War I.
Hospital ships serve a much needed purpose in naval battles. They may be used for many different purposes, such as storage for medical supplies, treatment of the sick and wounded, and even as a holding area for the casualties of sea battles. Hospital ships in recent times, however, have been far better and extremely improved in comparison to the ships in ancient history. The comfort, food, equipment, cleanliness, and services provided today cannot even compare to the horrible conditions that were experienced by those unfortunate soldiers years ago. .
The ancient Greeks and Romans first show record of the use of hospital ships in sea battles. The Greeks used a ship with three banks of oars on each side. This ship was named Therepetia meaning therapeutic. The Romans also used ships referred to as “immunes”. These ships followed the fleet but did not engage in battle. Later on during the Crusades it was reported that the Pope sent a ship laden with hospital supplies and able to serve as a transport ship for patients to Jerusalem. Spain was one of the first countries to have a ship outfitted with surgeons and physicians. .
Before hospital ships became more advanced, casualties from naval battles were tossed over the sides of the ship. People recognized the need for a place to hold and transport the dead before they could be properly buried. It was after this realization that hospital ships began to be built in a more sophisticated manner.