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Remembered Today:

British Field Hospital - Antwerp / Serbia - Unit diary ?


(nzef)

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Hi All,

I'm currently researching a remarkable lady, who after arriving in England in September 1914 (Visiting family after living and working in New Zealand) joined the British Field Hospital in Antwerp prior to the evacuation. From there she went, again with the hospital, to Serbia, where she worked until taking part in the great retreat.

I have been able to locate numerous books and documents but nothing that resembles a unit diary.

Can anyone assist ?

Seasons greetings!

Grant

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It was not a British military hospital under War Office control, so there will not be any 'official' war diary. I believe it was run/financed by the Order of St. John, so any surviving records would now be with the British Red Cross Society archives in London.

Sue

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Grant - just incase you haven't come across it - the following letter might interest you:

The Register (Adelaide), Tue 9 Feb 1915:

LETTERS FROM THE FRONT

THE FLIGHT FROM ANTWERP

The following is an extract from a letter by Nurse Carrie Wilson (a South Australian) after her escape from Antwerp and return to London. The communication was addressed to Nurse Bottrill, who is doing district nursing in Somerset, and forwarded by her to friends in Adelaide:-

“No doubt you have been wondering what was the fate of your comrades, and thinking how sad it would be if you had to return to Australia alone. We are both alive and well, and have had the most exciting and thrilling time of our lives. The descriptions in the papers of the fate of Antwerp are fairly accurate. Now for our own individual experiences. On Wednesday midnight exactly the first shell came whizzing over our heads. In three minutes we were dressed, and all hands rushed to carry the patients to the cellars. We had only two stretchers, so many were carried on screens. All who could move, or help themselves, did so, and it is wonderful what strength fright will give. In half an hour we had them all (about 120) in the cellars. During the night many of the able-bodied ones (those with arm or head injuries) cleared, of their own accord. [sic] All that night and next day shells fell almost without intermission, and houses all around us were wrecked. A bomb fell in the garden 50 yards from the hospital. The noise was terrific. During Thursday we gradually got the patients away. A few we had to leave in another hospital and convent, their cellars being much safer than ours. One doctor and four nurses left about 2 o’clock with an ambulance load of wounded. By 5.30 pm all the patients were disposed of, and the remainder of the staff (about 20) had almost decided that escape that night was hopeless. In fact, Nurse Clifton and I had started to arrange mattresses in the cellar to sleep on, when we had a call from the gates that three motor buses were there and would only wait a minute. We were soon aboard. Never shall I forget that ride through the desolation of Antwerp – houses in flames and wrecked, telegraph wires across the street, fallen trees, and holes feet deep to be avoided. The city was deserted. We crossed the bridge of boats which was burned down about 9 o’clock. Our spirits sank again when the officer in charge ordered us out, saying he could do no more for us. He advised us to make for the Dutch frontier, 15 miles away; so we abandoned goods and chattels and took to the road – a melancholy lot. We had walked only about half a mile when we came to a Belgian Red Cross transport. Mrs Stobbard found the commander, and, joy unspeakable, we were soon in motors, travelling to safety; also, he sent an ambulance to collect the luggage. We travelled until midnight. The Belgian Army was retreating by the same road, so progress was slow, and we got only 20 miles from Antwerp. Our leader advised a halt at a convent, where the good nuns made us hot coffee. Then we all lay on the floor. We were near a railway station, and the train was to leave about 5 am. At about 3.30 am we were aroused in alarm and told to hasten for our lives, each to go to the car we had travelled in, as quickly as possible. It was dark and cold, and the streets of the village were crowded with people hurrying away. We could not find the cause of alarm, but heard afterwards that the Germans were within two miles of us, and had torn up the railway line and cut telephone wires. The Red Cross motors took us to the station, and we joined a train full of British marines on the retreat. We travelled all that day, not knowing our destination until we got to Bruges (the famous belfry is still standing). Then we took it for granted we were bound for Ostend, but we were landed at Blankenbergh, and crossed to Ostend by steam tram, getting there about 8 pm. Could get no beds, but slept again for a few hours on the floor of an hotel. Early on Saturday morning we got on a boat for England, and arrived at Folkestone about 3pm, tired and dirty, wishing ourselves safe at home in our beloved Australia.”

Cheers, Frev

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It was not a British military hospital under War Office control, so there will not be any 'official' war diary. I believe it was run/financed by the Order of St. John, so any surviving records would now be with the British Red Cross Society archives in London.

Sue

Hi Sue,

Thanks. This is what I understood also. I have contacted the Red Cross and am awaiting a reply.

Regards

Grant

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Cheers Frev,

These accounts are chilling. I believe from here the 'Belgian Field Hospital' relocated to Furnes before relocating to Serbia where another more dreadful retreat awaited them.

Regards

Grant

Grant - just incase you haven't come across it - the following letter might interest you:

The Register (Adelaide), Tue 9 Feb 1915:

LETTERS FROM THE FRONT

THE FLIGHT FROM ANTWERP

The following is an extract from a letter by Nurse Carrie Wilson (a South Australian) after her escape from Antwerp and return to London. The communication was addressed to Nurse Bottrill, who is doing district nursing in Somerset, and forwarded by her to friends in Adelaide:-

“No doubt you have been wondering what was the fate of your comrades, and thinking how sad it would be if you had to return to Australia alone. We are both alive and well, and have had the most exciting and thrilling time of our lives. The descriptions in the papers of the fate of Antwerp are fairly accurate. Now for our own individual experiences. On Wednesday midnight exactly the first shell came whizzing over our heads. In three minutes we were dressed, and all hands rushed to carry the patients to the cellars. We had only two stretchers, so many were carried on screens. All who could move, or help themselves, did so, and it is wonderful what strength fright will give. In half an hour we had them all (about 120) in the cellars. During the night many of the able-bodied ones (those with arm or head injuries) cleared, of their own accord. [sic] All that night and next day shells fell almost without intermission, and houses all around us were wrecked. A bomb fell in the garden 50 yards from the hospital. The noise was terrific. During Thursday we gradually got the patients away. A few we had to leave in another hospital and convent, their cellars being much safer than ours. One doctor and four nurses left about 2 o’clock with an ambulance load of wounded. By 5.30 pm all the patients were disposed of, and the remainder of the staff (about 20) had almost decided that escape that night was hopeless. In fact, Nurse Clifton and I had started to arrange mattresses in the cellar to sleep on, when we had a call from the gates that three motor buses were there and would only wait a minute. We were soon aboard. Never shall I forget that ride through the desolation of Antwerp – houses in flames and wrecked, telegraph wires across the street, fallen trees, and holes feet deep to be avoided. The city was deserted. We crossed the bridge of boats which was burned down about 9 o’clock. Our spirits sank again when the officer in charge ordered us out, saying he could do no more for us. He advised us to make for the Dutch frontier, 15 miles away; so we abandoned goods and chattels and took to the road – a melancholy lot. We had walked only about half a mile when we came to a Belgian Red Cross transport. Mrs Stobbard found the commander, and, joy unspeakable, we were soon in motors, travelling to safety; also, he sent an ambulance to collect the luggage. We travelled until midnight. The Belgian Army was retreating by the same road, so progress was slow, and we got only 20 miles from Antwerp. Our leader advised a halt at a convent, where the good nuns made us hot coffee. Then we all lay on the floor. We were near a railway station, and the train was to leave about 5 am. At about 3.30 am we were aroused in alarm and told to hasten for our lives, each to go to the car we had travelled in, as quickly as possible. It was dark and cold, and the streets of the village were crowded with people hurrying away. We could not find the cause of alarm, but heard afterwards that the Germans were within two miles of us, and had torn up the railway line and cut telephone wires. The Red Cross motors took us to the station, and we joined a train full of British marines on the retreat. We travelled all that day, not knowing our destination until we got to Bruges (the famous belfry is still standing). Then we took it for granted we were bound for Ostend, but we were landed at Blankenbergh, and crossed to Ostend by steam tram, getting there about 8 pm. Could get no beds, but slept again for a few hours on the floor of an hotel. Early on Saturday morning we got on a boat for England, and arrived at Folkestone about 3pm, tired and dirty, wishing ourselves safe at home in our beloved Australia.”

Cheers, Frev

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