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Remembered Today:

Official History of Medical Services, Italy


Ruth Ward

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Hello

In connection with my research into Ronald Skirth's 'memoir' I would be very grateful if anyone could clarify whether the title of the chart on page358 'Number of Beds in Hospitals on LInes of Communication, Italian Expeditionary Force, August 1918' is correct, or whether 'Italian' should actually be 'British'. The chart is not listed under 'Charts and Diagrams' at the front of the book.

Many thanks

Ruth

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Hello Ruth

From the units listed, and in particular the number of beds involved, the reference is clearly to the British Force in Italy, and not to the whole Italian Army. The Italians' medical services were not up to much but I'm sure they had more beds at their disposal than that!

Incidentally, the source appears to be a "Table", rather than a "Chart or Map", which possibly explains why it is missed out of the list at the front of the book.

Ron

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Hello Ruth

From the units listed, and in particular the number of beds involved, the reference is clearly to the British Force in Italy, and not to the whole Italian Army. The Italians' medical services were not up to much but I'm sure they had more beds at their disposal than that!

Incidentally, the source appears to be a "Table", rather than a "Chart or Map", which possibly explains why it is missed out of the list at the front of the book.

Ron

Hello Ron

Many thanks for confirming this for me - I was beginning to think I was losing the plot! Any suggestions as to how I deal with this error in my research? Is it better just to say that there appears to be a mistake in the title, as the chart clearly relates to British hospital special beds and not Italian? I'm afraid I don't really know what the protocol is on issues like this - other than footnotes.

Regards

Ruth

ps It seems a bit odd that they should list charts, diagrams, sketch maps & photographs, but not tables

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Ruth,

Maybe you have a missing page listing tables? I'll check my own (well, the library's) copy and see what I can find, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait a few days.

Could Italian be shorthand for "Italian campaign"?

sJ

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I assume (dangerous!) that as that portion of the British Army that went East was referred to as the 'Mediterranean Expeditionary Force' in this case 'Italian Expeditionary Force' is being used to signify that portion of the British Army that went to Italy. Nothing to do with the actual Italian forces. I think it's just terminology, and not an error.

Sue

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I don't think there are any pages missing - looking at the other volumes, tables are ignored in those as well, just indexing charts, diagrams, photographs and sketch-maps.

Sue

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Ruth

I think Sue is right, although I don't believe that the expression "Italian Expeditionary Force" was actually in official use. The preferred title was "British Force in Italy" but if you want to make it absolutely clear in your research, without altering the original wording, I should either use a footnote or put (i.e. the British Force in Italy) into the reference.

Ron

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I assume (dangerous!) that as that portion of the British Army that went East was referred to as the 'Mediterranean Expeditionary Force' in this case 'Italian Expeditionary Force' is being used to signify that portion of the British Army that went to Italy. Nothing to do with the actual Italian forces. I think it's just terminology, and not an error.

Sue

When I saw "Italian Expeditionary Force" I had the exact same thought as Sue above, however, I would be really careful here. I have read that some of the British sick and wounded were sent to Italian hospitals with RAMC personnel attached for duty in them. Also some medical units were set up to treat local Italian sick. The chart provides the names of medical units - I would be inclined to research these unit more, especially their war diaries.

I could be wrong to be suspicious but better safe than sorry.

Regards

Barbara

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Thank you everyone for your comments.

Nothing is ever straightforward, is it? I have read the whole chapter on the Medical Services, Italy more than several times over now & I don't think there is any reference in it to an 'Italian Expeditionary Force', but there is to the 'British Expeditionary Force'. All the hospitals mentioned in the table relate to those on p.339 - I think. They are all BEF hospitals.

Any further clarification would be very welcome.

Ruth

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I don't know whether this will help - it was researched in 1919 but it looks as if Lt/Col Stephen R.A.M.C. may have referred to information supplied by officers who were there during the period of "active operations".

I've just read a couple of accounts from R.A.M.C. officers who served in Italy but they didn't refer to the medical units as such, more about how much better conditions were in Italy than on the Western Front - I'll keep searching.

Barbara

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I don't know whether this will help - it was researched in 1919 but it looks as if Lt/Col Stephen R.A.M.C. may have referred to information supplied by officers who were there during the period of "active operations".

I've just read a couple of accounts from R.A.M.C. officers who served in Italy but they didn't refer to the medical units as such, more about how much better conditions were in Italy than on the Western Front - I'll keep searching.

Barbara

Many thanks for the link, Barbara - definitely one to try & pursue.

I've been through the entire chapter of the Medical Services, Italy, history again and the only ref to 'Italian Expeditionary Force' is in the title of the table. There is mention of Italian Army, Italian Authorities & Italian Medical Authorities, but definitely no Italian Expeditionary Force.

Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time & trouble to look things up on my behalf - I'm very grateful (if still puzzled).

Ruth

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  • 2 weeks later...

One of the nurses whose file I looked at yesterday used the term 'Italian Expeditionary Force' throughout her letters while working at 9 Casualty Clearing Station, so must have been common usage among the staff

IEF.jpg

Sue

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One of the nurses whose file I looked at yesterday used the term 'Italian Expeditionary Force' throughout her letters while working at 9 Casualty Clearing Station, so must have been common usage among the staff

IEF.jpg

Sue

Many thanks, Sue. That's really intriguing. It seems really odd that there is no mention of the 'Italian Expeditionary Force' in the 'Medical Services' history (Italy) apart from the title of the chart. Does the correspondence in the photo shed any light on the IEF at all?

Ruth

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No, the file is just a series of letters and forms that you'd expect to find in a service record. When she is writing letters, for leave, or querying pay etc., she always uses phrases such as 'at present attached to 9 Casualty Clearing Station, Italian Ex. Force'. However, on the back of her annual report, where the Commanding Officer signs his approval, the typed wording under his signature is 'British Force in Italy.' But even more interesting is the leave slip that the women were required to fill in. These were often locally provided, and this one was typed out for the staff in Italy to complete - they fill in whichever unit they're attached to above the initials 'I.E.F.' So in common usage again.

As for the point about the Official History, it might be worth considering that the people who actually wrote the history would not necessarily be responsible for the tables and diagrams. I'm not sure what others think, but I feel sure this would have been delegated to a clerk at the War Office, who would compile the figures and produce the table. If they considered 'Italian Expeditionary Force' the correct title for the table, then it seems quite possible that it would have been passed through for publication without being corrected, or perhaps not being seen by anyone who thought any different.

IEF2.jpg

Sue

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No, the file is just a series of letters and forms that you'd expect to find in a service record. When she is writing letters, for leave, or querying pay etc., she always uses phrases such as 'at present attached to 9 Casualty Clearing Station, Italian Ex. Force'. However, on the back of her annual report, where the Commanding Officer signs his approval, the typed wording under his signature is 'British Force in Italy.' But even more interesting is the leave slip that the women were required to fill in. These were often locally provided, and this one was typed out for the staff in Italy to complete - they fill in whichever unit they're attached to above the initials 'I.E.F.' So in common usage again.

As for the point about the Official History, it might be worth considering that the people who actually wrote the history would not necessarily be responsible for the tables and diagrams. I'm not sure what others think, but I feel sure this would have been delegated to a clerk at the War Office, who would compile the figures and produce the table. If they considered 'Italian Expeditionary Force' the correct title for the table, then it seems quite possible that it would have been passed through for publication without being corrected, or perhaps not being seen by anyone who thought any different.

IEF2.jpg

Sue

Thanks to you again, Sue, for the information. I'm even more intrigued now - by the use of IEF and British Forces, Italy on the same record. There is a bit about #9 CCS in the history - I am assuming therefore that it was British?

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To back up Sue's point my grandfather's papers, books etc. all use IEF.

So, am I right in thinking that 'Italian Expeditionary Force' and 'British Expeditionary Force'/'British Forces, Italy' were used interchangeably to refer to the same British forces, or is that not likely to be the case?

It was a British unit.

Sue

Thanks, Sue

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They certainly refer to the same forces, as was discussed in the other thread the official titles seems to have been BEF, but perhaps IEF was used informally to distinguish the forces in Italy.

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So, am I right in thinking that 'Italian Expeditionary Force' and 'British Expeditionary Force'/'British Forces, Italy' were used interchangeably to refer to the same British forces, or is that not likely to be the case?

They were used by different people in different situations. Maybe there were some who never used 'Italian Expeditionary Force' but this thread shows that it was usual for it to be referred to thus. As it was so usual to refer to BEF (British Expeditionary Force), MEF (Meditarranean Expeditionary Force), EEF (Egyptian Expeditionary Force) etc., I can see no reason why it would necessarily any different in general conversation to use IEF. And of course, if you're referring to Italian units in Italy, then the Italian forces would not even be the 'Italian Expeditionary Force' in their own country. I feel that one table, drawn up by a clerk should be viewed as exactly what it is - one table drawn up by a clerk.

Sue

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They were used by different people in different situations. Maybe there were some who never used 'Italian Expeditionary Force' but this thread shows that it was usual for it to be referred to thus. As it was so usual to refer to BEF (British Expeditionary Force), MEF (Meditarranean Expeditionary Force), EEF (Egyptian Expeditionary Force) etc., I can see no reason why it would necessarily any different in general conversation to use IEF. And of course, if you're referring to Italian units in Italy, then the Italian forces would not even be the 'Italian Expeditionary Force' in their own country. I feel that one table, drawn up by a clerk should be viewed as exactly what it is - one table drawn up by a clerk.

Sue

Many thanks for your wisdom, Sue.

I did wonder about Italian units being called the IEF in their own country - thought perhaps I was being a bit dim.

Ruth

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I've been meaning to upload a couple of photos I have of pages from the 51st Stationary Hospital war diary but have been really busy. The war diary is split into sections but the pages I have are headed with the section, then "51st Stationary Hospital" and then "Italian Expeditionary Force". Just to let you know that the term was used on official documentation.

Barbara

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I've been meaning to upload a couple of photos I have of pages from the 51st Stationary Hospital war diary but have been really busy. The war diary is split into sections but the pages I have are headed with the section, then "51st Stationary Hospital" and then "Italian Expeditionary Force". Just to let you know that the term was used on official documentation.

Barbara

Many thanks, Barbara

Ruth

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I can see no reason why it would necessarily any different in general conversation to use IEF.

Sue

You are right, and clearly many who served with it did call it that. The one point which works against it that the abbreviation IEF was already in use to denote the various Indian Expeditionary Forces in France, Gallipoli, Mespot, Egypt and East Africa. There might have been some reluctance to make "Italian Expeditionary Force" its official preferred designation, but as you and Barbara point out, that title was evidently in common use.

Incidentally no-one seems to have used "Macedonian Expeditionary Force" or "Salonika Expeditionary Force": the forces there were referred to as the British Salonika Army.

Ron

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Of course Ron - I never meant to suggest that IEF was the correct/official term, but was just trying to focus on the original question, which was the reason for the table of British Hospitals in the Official History having that heading. I'm now going to hide behind the sofa before someone finds a table headed 'Macedonian Expeditionary Force' in the OH :unsure:

Sue

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