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108th Indian Field Ambulance Photos.


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Hello. I had a rather serendipitous discovery at TNA yesterday. While trawling the 29th Indian Infantry Bde War Diaries I discovered 4 sheets of photos taken by the CO of the 108th Indian Field Ambulance - major W R Battye IMS who was the SMO at ANZAC for the Indian Bde. .I had never seen the photos before. Here is a panaorama of North Beach ANZAC and Bay looking towards Suvla. It is a composite photo made from three separate images.

From History of the Great War: Medical Services Vol IV:

"
The 108th Indian Field Ambulance came on board the 'Ajax' a hospital ship organised for the use of the Indians, and this ship was employed for reception of the more serious cases of sick and wounded of the Brigade. Incidentally the fine courage of the men of the Indian Army Bearer Corps of this field ambulance during the time they were on the Peninsula is worthy of mention. They worked under Major Battey (sic) IMS, the Officer Commanding the field ambulance. Their courage and devotion was speially marked during the blizzaard at the end of November when they continued to collect and bring back wounded although many of them were suffering from frostbite and exposure"

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....It looks as if the photo on the right below was taken from (nearly) the same point as the photo on the left above - but with the camera turned 180 degrees...the spoil from the long trench and debris on the parapet/parados are the same.

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There is a long despatch written by Major Battye IMS which records that the 108th Indian Field Ambulance was initially located at Gully Beach (there are photos which anyone who has been down Gully Ravine from the Gully beach entrance will immediately recognise). The 108th Ind Fd Amb later departed forImbros on 24th July 1915 as a step towards subsequently relocating to ANZAC. Initially at Aghyl Dere, it subsequently moved to a more permanent spot in near 'Danakjalik Bair' in a "cul-de-sac of the hills about 1200 yards from the sea and about 400 yards from the Chailak Dere (see map Kurja Dere 1:20,000 sq 80-b about 130 yards north of point midway betwen 1 and 2. This place was about 1 1/2 miles from our brigade trenches, and about the same distance from the pier at Walkers' Ridge. All evacuation of wounded had to take place at the latter place as the beach nearest to the ambulance which was used in the early phase had to be given up owing to the numerous casualties occurring there. The position of the ambulance midway between the brigade and Walker's pier was therefore eminently suitable as the 108th I.F.Ambulance had to act as a Casualty Clearing Station for the brigade"

He goes on to record that the approaches were over open ground and spent bullets and shrapnel fee frequently, especially in the area of the olive grove. It was necessary to dig a long deep sap to cover the arriving parties (see photos above) started on 20th August and later in October was extended right into Chailak Dere near No.2 Outpost. In November a large tunnel into the hillside was commenced, on a large scale to accommodate patients. This was not finished before the evacuation took place.

Four large terraces were built by the Kahars (stretcher-bearers) most of whom being hill-men were accustomed to terracing. "All the sap and tunnel digging, the terracing and hut-building was done entirely unaided by the ambulance Kahars under our own supervision. No help unfortunately was obtainable from the sappers or any one from outside. As son as the daily evacuation of sick was over the men returned to their digging &c and carried on cheerily in spite of the night work the heavy labour the hardships and the casualties among them.The casualties among the ambulance personnel throughout the Gallipoli campaign in killed and wounded alone mounted to:-

Stretcher Bearers.........................................................35.6% of the strength on the peninsula

Pack0store havildars and ward-orderlies.....................50% of their strength

Total ambulance personnel incl British Officers..............33.1% of strength.

The only class that by some extraordinary good fortune escaped entirely unscathed was that of the sub-assistant surgeons in spite of the fact that they were just as much exposed as all the others and were indifferent to their own safety as were all the others and often had men hit close beside them. The above figures include a few men who were wounded twice and consequently admitted twice on the books."

On three occasions they had to evacuate the hospital due to heavy shelling. He comments that the nearby howitzer battery in the next hollow of the hill was probably the intended target but the shells fell short.

One ward orderly was shot dead through the head while standing by the side of the operating table.

As a winter campaign became a possibility, it became clear that the weather might prevent evacuation to ships for days or even weeks and a Clearing Hospital was established on 23rd October at North Beach for Indian troops commanded by Capt Stocker IMS.

Battye comments "unfortunately the utterly unexpected bad weather of November 26th to 30th (fine weather had been foretold by the experts) arrived before the ambulance headquarters was ready for the 300 patients" such was the demand for space to accomodate the frost-bitten patients that the Officers' accommodation was vacated for patients. He praises Capt Stocker's energy and resourcefulness for being able to deal with over 600 casualties from the blizzard. He records that the frost-bite cases were very bad, "some men losing toes, parts of feet and even whole feet. One Gurkha died before evacuation and a few were reported to have died on a hospital ship"

He mentions that as the weather became colder dysentery dropped but jaundice increased and records that the two diseases occurred in inverse proportions.

Apparently in August bathing inthe sea was only done at night and only later carried out during the day due to the shrapnel risk. He records that the OC of the 1/5th Gurkhas was severely wounded whilst bathing.

"Serbian Barrels" were used for sterilising clothing from November onwards - does anyone know what these are?

One solution for lice was to burn sulphur in sealed-up dugouts, however he comments that the most successful measure was for each man to spend 15 minutes each day hunting through their own clothing.

The Field Ambulance alone admitted on its books and treated 5,487 cases of which 2,863 were wounded and 2624 were sick. About 80% of these were evacuated. All transport of patients was done by hand, there being "no transport of any kind" available

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The 89th I.F.Ambulance location - "cul-de-sac of the hills about 1200 yards from the sea and about 400 yards from the Chailak Dere (see map Kurja Dere 1:20,000 sq 80-b about 130 yards north of point midway betwen 1 and 2. This place was about 1 1/2 miles from our brigade trenches, and about the same distance from the pier at Walkers' Ridge. All evacuation of wounded had to take place at the latter place as the beach nearest to the ambulance which was used in the early phase had to be given up owing to the numerous casualties occurring there. The position of the ambulance midway between the brigade and Walker's pier was therefore eminently suitable as the 108th I.F.Ambulance had to act as a Casualty Clearing Station for the brigade"

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And a close-up. I think the long sap is very clear, as are the location of the tents on the terracing. The 'buildings' running parallel to the sap are where the Officers' dugouts were - the ones used for patient overspill during the blizzard. The area of the olive grove that was susceptible to 'overs' is the sloping ground just NW of the sap - see photo on Post No.5

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On three occasions they had to evacuate the hospital due to heavy shelling. He comments that the nearby howitzer battery in the next hollow of the hill was probably the intended target but the shells fell short.

One ward orderly was shot dead through the head while standing by the side of the operating table.

Given the 108th IFA was set up so close to a howitzer battery, I wonder if it was this particular Field Ambulance referred to in this piece, written from the Turkish standpoint:

"Toward 4 pm, on August 6th, artillery preparation [at Anzac] was begun against our positions, with a stupendous expenditure of ammunition. Days before, the enemy, after fair fighting, had set up great tents at this point, marking them each with the sign of the Red Cross; and for this reason they had not been fired upon. As a matter of fact, however, these tents were not intended to serve as shelters for the wounded. Under cover of night, the English set up heavy howitzers at this point - only thus was it possible for them to undertake a surprise attack here.…"

full piece to be found at:

http://www.firstworl..._germanaide.htm

I assume the writer of the above was wrong and that the Allies did not resort to this ruse as described, but were either negligent in positioning their CCSs and FAs too close to artillery sites or had no opportunity to site them a safe distance away.

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Shabash Martin - keep excavating please!

Harry

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  • 5 months later...

Hi from Gerry in Belfast, a friend of mine in Rome has bought a Pith Helmet in its transport case to Lieut Col W.R..Battye. I have passed on information of your article on the 108th Field Ambulance of which he held the rank of Major. Do you know if there are any photos available of the Major/Lieut Col so that he can put a face to the Pith Helmet he has bought. My own interest is of Major General H.H.Tudor whose post WW1 uniforms I have in my own collection.

Best Regards

Gerry

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  • 5 years later...

Im trying to get a sense of the extent of severe  disablement among indian soldiers and followers ( non-combatants) in world war one - from wounds, frost-bite, the use of explosives, as in construction work,  etc . This report about the 108th field ambulance in Gallipoli shows the degree to which the blizzards of November 1915   affected both men and medical personnel. Can one get any figures for instance, of how many Indians were  repatriated from Gallipoli as unfit for further medical service? Impressionistically the numbers are large, yet the numbers  fitted out with artificial limbs in India were  v low. I  have would be most grateful for any tips on researching this theme. R.singha

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r.singha, there are statistics here about wounded at Gallipoli, although not what you are looking for, but it does give an indication of the numbers.

Difficult to read, as the pages need to be rotated.

https://archive.org/stream/statisticsofmili00grea#page/284/mode/2up

Page 284 Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire during the Great War, 1914-1920 The War Office HMSO 1922. Contents Archive.org

 

Perhaps it would help to read the War Diaries for Gallipoli for the Indian Army which have been transcribed,  for details see the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Gallipoli

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Gallipoli#War_Diaries

 

Cheers

Maureen

 

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  • 1 year later...

Thank you so much.  Apologies for the late reply. Im relearning my way around this web-site. Can anyone help me to get hold of the complete reference to this aricle? ( even a pdf perhaps?)  I took notes from it but didnt take down the reference carefully.Evan Gibb ‘The Organisation of Labour in the Great War’, Royal Army Service Corps Quarterly. all best R.Singha

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The article appears to be from Volume 11, 1923

Quoted in  a Bibliography in 

'Theirs Not To Reason Why': Horsing the British Army 1875-1925

By Graham Winton

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=qKNZBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA476

 

You may possibly be able to buy a copy of the article from

http://www.rlcarchive.org/Welcome

(although I couldn't locate the article in a current search)

 

Cheers

Maureen

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