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recycling of Uniforms in WWI military hospitals?


sblethyn
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Hi, I am doing some research for a story and would like some information on a few questions if anyone is knowledgeable in this area:

Were local women employed at WWI British military hospitals in France in functional roles - cleaning etc.

What happened to the uniforms worn by casualties on arrival? Were they laundered and repaired for re-use?

Were replacement uniforms manufactured in France or were they all manufactured in the UK and shipped out for returning wounded? Were battle ready casualties re-uniformed at the hospital before being dispatched back to the lines? Were the uniforms of the dead cleaned up and given out for re-use or were they sent back to next of kin? Whose job was it to sort through the pockets of the dead looking for personal effects to send home?

Can anyone recommend any good books covering this area?

I hope someone can help here, my husband tells me he always gets a response to his questions from someone.

best wishes, Sarah

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I would be suprised if much laundering and recycling was done. The uniforms would torn,filthy, bloddy, verminous and at times contaminated with gas especially later with mustard. I know that at CCS there were burn pits where uniforms were simply incinerated complete with insignia! Some have been found in France and provide the digger with a plethora of badges etc.

That said I am sure some were recycled as "there was a war on!"

I am sure someone will give more info.

Also other stuff such as webbing and helmets certainly were salvaged.

TT

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I doubt very much that uniform recycling went on during WWI, or any war for that matter. I do know the rules for Canadians in Afganistan were "If it has touched the skin it is disposed of'. This was certainly the case in WWII as well, so I would not expect WWI to be any different.

As for other kit, yes. If was servicable it would be reused. Weapons, webbing etc.

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Hi, I am doing some research for a story and would like some information on a few questions if anyone is knowledgeable in this area:

Were local women employed at WWI British military hospitals in France in functional roles - cleaning etc.

What happened to the uniforms worn by casualties on arrival? Were they laundered and repaired for re-use?

Were replacement uniforms manufactured in France or were they all manufactured in the UK and shipped out for returning wounded? Were battle ready casualties re-uniformed at the hospital before being dispatched back to the lines? Were the uniforms of the dead cleaned up and given out for re-use or were they sent back to next of kin? Whose job was it to sort through the pockets of the dead looking for personal effects to send home?

Can anyone recommend any good books covering this area?

I hope someone can help here, my husband tells me he always gets a response to his questions from someone.

best wishes, Sarah

I found the following excellent information at this link: http://www.vlib.us/m...l/ramc/ramc.htm

THE WORKING OF A CASUALTY CLEARING STATION.

There are considerable differences in the way different casualty clearing stations meet these needs, but in regard to definite operations the general practice is to provide sufficient accommodation and personnel for the performance of at least four operations simultaneously and continuously for an unlimited number of hours or days. Even when a battle is in progress, of the wounded men who arrive at the casualty clearing station at least 10 per cent. must visit the operating theatre before they can be sent to the base hospitals. In regard to other matters the general procedure is usually as follows: As soon as a convoy arrives the patients are all off-loaded promptly so that the ambulance shall not be detained. They are carried into a distributing room, where, while a clerk takes down particulars of his army status, etc., a medical officer decides to what class of case each patient belongs, being guided in this matter partly by his condition, partly by what is stated on his field medical card.

Thus, for instance, A, who has an abdominal wound, is sent straight to the operation-theatre preparation room. So, too, is B, who has a wound of the head and is insensible. C, who has a wound of the thigh, is sent to the stretcher case dressing-room; but D, who has an apparently corresponding wound, is for some reason in a state of profound collapse, and is therefore sent to the observation ward. E has a perforating wound of the upper thorax, and is sent to the chest ward; while F, who has a flesh wound of the shoulder, is sent to the walking case dressing-room.

When A arrives in the preparation room all his clothes are removed, and he is got ready for a laparotomy, which takes place as soon as a table in the theatre is free. B, in addition to other preparations, has his head shaved, and is sent to the theatre as soon as a surgeon and anaesthetist are ready for him. It may be decided that no craniotomy should be performed, at all events until the patient has reached a base hospital, but the case must be thoroughly examined before this conclusion is reached.

C's stretcher is placed on trestles and his wound carefully examined to see whether any operation is required; if so, he too is sent to the operating-theatre preparation room; otherwise his wound is redressed and an extension or other splint suitable for train travelling is applied.

D, on his arrival in the observation ward, is put to bed and submitted to various antishock measures until his condition is sufficiently good for an elaborate treatment of his wound.

E, on his arrival in the chest ward, is examined by a medical officer who specializes in internal medicine.

When F enters the walking-case room his bandages are taken off and the required treatment applied, unless his general condition and his field medical card clearly indicate that no further interference with the wound is likely to be desirable until he reaches a base hospital. From the dressing tent for walking cases F goes to the evacuation tent for walking cases, where he is given food and cigarettes and waits for the ambulance train; a train is usually available every day, and even oftener in times of activity; but, if there is any delay, F is given a stretcher bed and his wound is redressed in due course.

Meantime, into another evacuation tent men who belong to the various classes, A, B, C, D, E, and who have come down with the same or a previous convoy, are being brought on stretchers from the wards or other places where they have been prepared for evacuation. The standing regulation is to send on all cases to the base as soon as suitable transport is available, but any case at all likely to suffer by transport is detained as a matter of course; chest cases are never sent down until all danger of haemorrhage is presumed to have ceased, and abdominal cases are detained until they have so far recovered that they can be sent straight through to Great Britain without further treatment at the overseas base.

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Sarah,

Salvage of uniforms became a big deal in the British Army due to wastage.

There are no good easily available sources.

Best written source is the History of the Army Odrnance Services, but hard to get. That source talks about one Division recorded as employing a workshop of three tailors where serviceable bits of puttee from unserviceable pairs were re-sewn to make new serviceable pairs.[1]

The puttees came from all sources.

Hospitals per se did not do the salvage work they would turn in the mass of clothing. French woman were employed in recycling uniform items.

Usually, with Jackets and trousers they would be inspected and be determined to be deemed servable or not. If unservicable they were to be bailed and sent to the UK for recycling into blankets etc. Serviceable items were repaired for re-issue and marked as category W (worn). These were not intended to be re-issued to frontline troops but instead issued in emergencies to UK troops, also issued as work clothing to specific units and Labour Corps.

I do not know what would be deemed serviceable of clothing from casualties--clothuing from the dead was not reissued (unlike Germany). Initially in the war, the practice of sending the Deads uniforms (after inspection) was done but an order forbiddening the practice was issued very early on.

You might want to go to the IWM or order via library loan a series of Documents known a CDS/SS 309 which are abstracts of Adj. Gen Orders in France that in cases talks about spefics of what is to be done.

In addition you can go to the Canadian War Diaries--online--

http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/archivianet/02015202_e.html

You can go to the Salvage Companies WD--I know 3rd Division Salvage Coy talkks about salvaging thousands of uniforms.

Also go the Hospital and CCS WD.

Although Canadian same applies to British Army.

Joe Sweeney

[1] HAOS, p.75

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Hi Sarah.

I am unsure of the practices at british hospitals but looking at the war diary's of the australians. Available online and free!!! They have comprehensive lists of what a casualty clearing station did month by month from operations to salvaged equip. eg look at page 41/55 in the link for an example. The casualty clearing station returned 40 trousers 60 tunics etc etc.. you can read the rest. This is CCS no 2 for the month of june 1918. You can look at the activities of the units month by month, absolutely fasinating.

page 41/51 in link below

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/records/awm4/26/63/awm4-26-63-23.pdf

the australian diarys are fantastic. Pity british ones are not free as well.

australian diary link is

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/records/awm4/class.asp?levelID=94

hope this helps a little.. i wonder did british casualty clearing stations do the same? Probably did i reckon..

ian

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Brilliant stuff Joe and Ian and very interesting, thank you for posting. I suspect that the British Army procedures were almost identical.

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Thank you Gentlemen, very interesting, especially those with links to Canadian and Australian war diaries. Can anyone answer my last question - are there records of where uniform was manufactured in the UK?

I'm intrigued that recycled uniforms got turned into blankets if they were no good for anything else - what an exciting array of bugs they must have harboured!

I much appreciate your extensive replies and will be sure to cite the Great War Forum if ever I make it to print!

Best wishes

Sarah

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...........I'm intrigued that recycled uniforms got turned into blankets if they were no good for anything else - what an exciting array of bugs they must have harboured!....................

Best wishes

Sarah

They would have been fumigated first. :thumbsup:

(There was nothing unusual about recycling used fabrics at that time - the rag and bone men made a living from collecting rags for recycling.

Labels on woollen blankets often said Pure New Wool to distinguish them from the cheaper, recycled versions.)

CGM

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Can anyone answer my last question - are there records of where uniform was manufactured in the UK?

Sarah

Clothing for other ranks was largely made at the Royal Army Clothing Depot (RACD) at Pimlico, although the sheer scale of effort required for a truly National Army led to some sub-contracting and a secondary storage depot had to be established at the Kensington Olympia (later an arena).

Here is an interesting history relating to the RACD, which did not close until the depression of the early 1930s:

"Previous to the year 1857," observes a writer in the Queen newspaper, "all the clothes for the British army were made by contractors, whose first thought seemed to be how to amass a fortune at the expense of the makers and the wearers of the clothes primarily, and of the British public indirectly. But in that year the Army Clothing Depôt was established, somewhat experimentally, in Blomberg Terrace, Vauxhall Road; the experiment answering so well, that an extension of the premises became imperative. In 1859 the present depôt was opened, although since then it has largely increased, and has not yet, apparently, come to the full stage of its development.

The whole of the premises occupy about seven acres, the long block of buildings on the one side being used asthe Government stores, while the corresponding block consists of the factory. The main feature of the latter is a large glass-roofed central hall of three storeys, with spacious galleries all round on each storey. The ventilation is ensured by louvres, so that the whole atmosphere can be renewed in the space of five minutes or so; the temperature is kept at an average of 60° to 63°, and each operative enjoys 1,200 cubic feet of air, so that we have at the outset the three requirements of light, air, and warmth, in strongly-marked contrast to the crowded rooms of the contractor, or the more wretched chamber of the home-worker. Five hundred and twenty-seven women are at present working in the central hall, and five hundred in the side rooms,which also accommodate about two hundred men.This forms the working staff of the factory, which comprises, therefore, what may be called the pick of the sewing-machine population in London.

It may well be imagined that the prospect of so comfortable an abiding place would attract great numbers of workpeople; and, indeed, this has been so much the case that very rigorous rules have been obliged to be made to guard against unworthy admissions. 'The good of the public service' is the motto of the factory, and everything else must yield to that; so that, both for in-door and out-door hands, all candidates must first ofall appear before a committee, consisting of thematron, the foreman cutter, the foreman viewer,and the instructor, who are held responsible for the selection of proper persons. In-door candidatesas needle women must be healthy and strong, and, if single, between the ages of seventeen and thirty; if married or widows, they must have no children at home young enough to demand their care.These points being settled, the candidates are examined as to any previous training or fitness for army work, and are required to show what they can do. If all these requirements are satisfactory,the matron inquires into their character, and finally they are examined by the doctor, who certifies to their fitness, after which they are placed in a trial division in the factory for further report and promotion."

From: 'Pimlico', Old and New London: Volume 5 (1878), pp. 39-49. URL: http://www.british-h...px?compid=45221 Date accessed: 17 July 2012.

There was also a large AOC central distribution depot at Weedon, where clothing and other stores were held in bulk, including all those for the Reserve.

There are further interesting records on the RACD in the National Archives.

post-599-0-55978700-1342515258_thumb.jpg

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Glass roofed Olympia with huge piles of bundled clothing.

and (red brick) Weedon. A large part of Kitchener's Army was clothed from there.

post-599-0-42700400-1342515305_thumb.jpg

post-599-0-56449900-1342515420_thumb.jpg

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This thread is duplicated in ' women' which is confusing for those of us who use new posts etc as well as being inefficient. Could the mods consolidate the two?

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  • 4 years later...
On 7/14/2012 at 09:30, sblethyn said:

Hi, I am doing some research for a story and would like some information on a few questions if anyone is knowledgeable in this area:

Were local women employed at WWI British military hospitals in France in functional roles - cleaning etc.

What happened to the uniforms worn by casualties on arrival? Were they laundered and repaired for re-use?

Were replacement uniforms manufactured in France or were they all manufactured in the UK and shipped out for returning wounded? Were battle ready casualties re-uniformed at the hospital before being dispatched back to the lines? Were the uniforms of the dead cleaned up and given out for re-use or were they sent back to next of kin? Whose job was it to sort through the pockets of the dead looking for personal effects to send home?

Can anyone recommend any good books covering this area?

I hope someone can help here, my husband tells me he always gets a response to his questions from someone.

best wishes, Sarah

I'm coming in to this discussion several years after the fact, but for the sake of researchers I'll add a little insight:

 

-"Were local women employed at WWI British military hospitals in France in functional roles - cleaning etc." Short answer is yes. But most were VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment) "nurses." They did lots of the cleaning, dusting, bed-making, etc. Things were different depending on whether the hospital was a military hospital or a VAD or Auxiliary hospital. I'm pretty sure VADs in military hospitals were paid a wage. (I know VADs who served abroad were.) VADs in auxiliary hospitals (hospital for those not as seriously wounded) were generally volunteers, except that the cook and matron were generally paid. (Think Sybil in Downton Abbey--auxiliary hospital, high class women like Sybil volunteering. Incidentally, those with serious injuries like Matthew Crawley would NOT have been initially sent to a hospital at a Country Home. They would have been sent to a military hospital staffed by professional nurses and staff doctors. When he was recuperating, he might have ended up at a 'hospital' like Downton.)

 

-"What happened to the uniforms worn by casualties on arrival?" Men were stripped of their clothing fairly quickly upon arrival because of the body lice problem. Nurses also frequently commented in their diaries how muddy the men were. Tunic and trousers were 'tagged' and sent to be fumigated and cleaned. All undergarments were heaped together and cleaned, so when you walked out, you didn't leave with same undergarments you had when you came in.  All medical personnel were encouraged not to cut uniforms off the wounded unless absolutely necessary. At the beginning of the war, the dead were buried in their uniforms, but as the war progressed, I think the uniforms were recycled. 

 

"Were they laundered and repaired for re-use?" While categorizing WWI photos at Wiki Commons, I came across an interesting batch of photos that illustrate the whole business of cleaning and repairing uniforms--everything from sorting uniforms, to washing rubber boots, repairing hobnail boots, and sewing on buttons. (I've pasted a few photos below, or you can see the entire collection here.) The pictures really illustrate the enormity of the task. If I saw THAT much stuff and thought I had to make sense of it, it would be pretty overwhelming!

 

"Were replacement uniforms manufactured in France or were they all manufactured in the UK and shipped out for returning wounded?" Mfg in Britain. Someone else already gave the lowdown on this, but you can see a whole collection of photos here. It really illustrates the scale of the operation and is a reminder that "uniforms" did not just consist of the typical Tommy uniform we all think of. It also included Navy, aviation, and specialty uniforms (see photo below).

 

"Were battle ready casualties re-uniformed at the hospital before being dispatched back to the lines?" I'm pretty sure every hospital had a 'stores' to help re-outfit the men. I once tried to do some research about the flow of uniforms through casualty clearing stations (like how the tunic and trousers ever reunited with their owner) but never found any details. I can appreciated how there were so many regiments and specialty troops like signallers, artillery guys, etc, all with special patches and insignias (not to mention his size), that it would definitely be optimal to reunite the owner with his original tunic. But I never found any info how it was done. I did read that often French women were hired to do 'laundry,' but I don't know that it included tunics or only undergarments, sheets, etc. I've attached a few photos of that as well. One additional thing to consider: Seriously wounded men had their clothes stripped at the CCS, but were often transferred to hospitals on the French coast, and then perhaps on to England. And then, maybe even to a convalescent depot where they did training and exercised to get back in shape enough to return to the Front. The British army was good at keeping up with their men, so after all that time, it wouldn't be too hard to reunite man with uniform. In thinking about reuniting a soldier with his uniform, a situation similar situation to a CCS would be a bath house. When men went to bathing facilities, they were stripped of clothing, their tunic and trousers cleaned and mended, then returned to them on the spot with fresh undergarments (not their original ones). 

 

"Whose job was it to sort through the pockets of the dead looking for personal effects to send home?" That is a good question. I imagine in field hospitals it was orderlies. I do know that a wounded man's personal items were put in a "Dorothy Bag" (made by womens' sewing circles in the UK and donated) and hung/tied to his bed. (see photos below) If you died "in the field" and were discovered by locals or an opposing army, pockets were looted and personal letters and photos left to scatter in the wind. 

 

"Can anyone recommend any good books covering this area?" I wish I knew of some. These sorts of "women's issues" interest me as well, and most of what I know was picked up from hours and hours of reading nurses' diaries. But surely there is some official 'army handbook' on army protocol for this. If anyone knows, please post. 

 

Heaps of uniforms off train Ministry_of_Information_First_World_War_Miscellaneous_Collection_Q33357.jpg

Repairing uniforms Ministry_of_Information_First_World_War_Miscellaneous_Collection_Q33382.jpg

Sewing on buttons Ministry_of_Information_First_World_War_Miscellaneous_Collection_Q33383.jpg

Rubber boots to wash Ministry_of_Information_First_World_War_Miscellaneous_Collection_Q33364.jpg

Boilers to clean furs Ministry_of_Information_First_World_War_Miscellaneous_Collection_Q33362.jpg

sorting clothes Women_at_work_during_the_First_World_War_Q108446.jpg

Boot repair The_Home_Front_in_Britain_1914-1918_Q33291.jpg

Specialty uniforms The_Production_of_Clothing_in_Britain,_1914-1918_Q30788.jpg

Stoorkeeper suppliesQueen_Mary's_Army_Auxiliary_Corps_Storekeepers_-_Soquence,_Havre_Art.IWMART2908.jpg

Steam Laundry The_Steam_Laundry,_Abbeville_Art.IWMART2894.jpg

More laundry An_Improvised_Laundry_-_Princess_Beatrice_Camp,_Beaumarais,_Calais_Art.IWMART2906.jpg

Dorothy bag William_Fitchie's_belongings,_item_2.jpg

Dorothy bagSoldier's_correspondence_bag.jpg

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Catfishmo,

Thankyou for resurrecting this interesting thread and posting your pictures, I particularly like the water colour sketches.

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Well done Catfishmo, good to see you posting again and adding to this thread.

There is another thread somewhere on how wounded soldiers clothing was dealt with and I recall that the late Sue Light contributed to it.

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4 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

Well done Catfishmo, good to see you posting again and adding to this thread.

There is another thread somewhere on how wounded soldiers clothing was dealt with and I recall that the late Sue Light contributed to it.

Thanks! I recently started a WWI blog, Bligthy and Beyond, and in preparing a post about public domain WWI photos, I ended up organising and categorising thousands (yes thousands) of photos at Wiki Commons. But it's turned out to be a new (and very interesting) education about WWI! 

 

I'll dig around and see if I can find Sue's post. If I find it, I'll post the link here. If anyone else finds it first, please add the link.

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7 hours ago, Gardenerbill said:

Catfishmo,

Thankyou for resurrecting this interesting thread and posting your pictures, I particularly like the water colour sketches.

I really like her work as well. You can see her other interesting pictures of "camp life" here

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An interesting thread, thanks for the info.

 

Derek.

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catfishmo,

A wonderful post with some fascinating photos and illustrations.  Many thanks for the effort that went into the research and preparation.

Regards,

Michael.

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for getting this going again Catfishmo and for putting so much information onto it. It's something I hadn't given much thought to but am now fascinated by.

 

I love the photo of the 5 workers showing the uniforms, what on earth is the one second from the left???

 

I also like the fact that a lot of the ladies seem to be wearing the tunics as they worked or on the main list they are wearing the hats whilst drying the waders.

 

A great thread, thanks again,

 

Michael

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7 hours ago, Shiny said:

Thanks for getting this going again Catfishmo and for putting so much information onto it. It's something I hadn't given much thought to but am now fascinated by.

 

I love the photo of the 5 workers showing the uniforms, what on earth is the one second from the left???

 

I also like the fact that a lot of the ladies seem to be wearing the tunics as they worked or on the main list they are wearing the hats whilst drying the waders.

 

A great thread, thanks again,

 

Michael

 

The garment second from the left is cold weather 'kapok' (i.e. quilted) flying overalls for high altitude aircrew (mainly bombers of the 'Independent Air Force).

Edited by FROGSMILE
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9 hours ago, Shiny said:

I also like the fact that a lot of the ladies seem to be wearing the tunics as they worked

Ha! I hadn't noticed that before. Maybe being able to don the tunic in the cold weather was a perk of the job : )

2 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

The garment second from the left is cold weather 'kapok' (i.e. quilted) flying overalls for high altitude aircrew (mainly bombers of the 'Independent Air Force).

Looks like a mascot suit. What's the purpose of the cylinder-looking head thing?

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That is the face protector rolled up out of the way, you can see the snaps on the upper and lower parts where they afix in the down position.

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9 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

 

The garment second from the left is cold weather 'kapok' (i.e. quilted) flying overalls for high altitude aircrew (mainly bombers of the 'Independent Air Force).

 

I hadn't realised that sort of thing went on in WW1, who was the independent air force?

 

Michael

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55 minutes ago, Shiny said:

 

I hadn't realised that sort of thing went on in WW1, who was the independent air force?

 

Michael

 

The 'Independent Air Force' was the first effort by the newly formed (1st April 1918) Royal Air Force to create a strategic, long range bomber force that was not supporting the Army or the RN, but a projection of power in its own right. It was quite a large fleet for its day and after the armistice many of the aircraft became the basis of international air travel that   emerged in the 1920s.

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