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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

No9 Ambulance Train

Guest Martin Lang

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Guest Martin Lang

I have a photograph of my grandfather, Alfred Pickering, as one of 12 men entitled ' Staff of No 9 Ambulance Train, Southampton Docks. 11 Aug., 1916.' It is postcard size. It shows 5 men sitting at the front and 7 standing up behind them. I think they are from the RAMC. I am unable to find out very much about ambulance trains in general and nothing specifically despite some poking around on the internet. My interest is mere curiosity on my part. My grandfather died in 1972 when I was 10, and details via my mother are sketchy.

I am hoping to find out a little more about him and what he did. When I work out how to reduce the size of the photo I will attach it for viewing with this note.

Any knowledge or advice or points in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

Martin Lang


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Hello Martin

According to War Establishments 1914, an ambulance train consisted of two officers (a field officer in command, and a captain or lieutenant), three sergeants (one a QM-sgt), three corporals and 39 privates. All were RAMC personnel and had nothing to do with the running of the train itself, which was the responsibility of the French civilian railways or the RE railway service.

The standard train contained 33 "ward" trucks, each carrying 12 patients, with one RAMC private as orderly/nurse. The remainder of the men were cooks, storemen and the officers' batmen.

There is a four-volume "Official History, Medical Services - General", in one volume of which there is more information about the ambulane trains, including when each train went to France (or other theatres). Your local library may be able to get copies for you via the inter-library loan service. There were about forty of these trains in France eventually - but no number 13!


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The British Ambulance Train was a rather different beast from the French one. They were much smaller (in length), and the establishment was 1 medical officer, 2 nursing sisters and 12 other ranks, so the twelve men in the photo are just right for a British train. I have a feeling that some, at least, were run under the auspices of the Joint War Committee rather than the War Office, but I'm not sure of the ins and outs of that. There is a short description of a UK train in 'Hospital Ships and Ambulance Trains' by John Plumridge. If you would like a scan of the page drop me an email.

Regards --- Sue

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