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familyhistoryman

Henry Hacking: Chaplain - Mesopotamia Help Locating Area

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familyhistoryman

Revd Henry Hacking (1877 – 1963)

Henry was the son of Shepherd Hacking & Nancy Grimshaw and was born in Blackburn on 8 Dec 1877 and baptised at St Thomas’ Blackburn 3rd Feb 1787. The following article appeared in the Blackburn Weekly Telegraph on Saturday, March 10, 1917 in which Rev H Hacking describes his work as an Army chaplain in Mesopotamia. In the article he is only referred to as H Hacking but Harry Brook, Dave Owen and Maureene were able to identify him. The brother referred to in the article was John William Hacking.

From his description I wonder if anyone is able to identify where in Mesopotamia he was working?

Regards

Tony

Blackburn Weekly Telegraph, Saturday, March 10, 1917

 

The Chaplains Story

 

A Blackburn’s Experience in Mesopotamia

 

Writing to his brother, Mr J Hacking, of 456, Audley Range, Blackburn, Rev H Hacking, a former Knuzden boy, who, after rising from the loom to the pulpit, went out to India, ten or twelve years ago, and who is now a chaplain with HM forces in Mesopotamia tells the story of his experience at a large hospital camp. “The cold and the rain,” he says, “and the mud are awful beyond expression. You would open your eyes in amazement if you could only see the mud after a shower of rain, and you would wonder however we got through it. You would laugh too, to see, as occasionally happens, a man sit down in it through slipping. Most of the men wear ‘gun boots,’ a kind of Wellington boot, and every effective they are. The mud here beats all I have ever seen for sticking – it sticks like glue. Still, things are fairly comfortable for camp life."

 

" My work, he proceeds, "takes me over a large area, for I have three large hospitals in my charge, three church tents, two cemeteries, and  2 Royal Flying  Corps camp. One of my hospitals is five miles down the river, another a mile and a half; one of my cemeteries is three miles away, the other close to the camp which I make my headquarters. At the hospital we have accommodation for about 600 British soldiers. I have a lot of travelling in boats up and down the river - visiting the sick and the wounded in the tents, attending to calls to visit at once men described 'dangerously ill,' taking services and preaching, conducting funerals and seeing that the cemeteries are properly kept, graves properly marked with crosses bearing name, regiment, and date of burial, keeping cemetery registers correctly written up and - well, from what I have observed, it will be obvious I am kept very busy. Two of our men up at the front have won the VC, I hear. My application to be sent up to the firing line stands no chance whatever at present, so I am told, because of so many applications from men senior in service to me. Our men have been so eager to get up to the firing that it has been necessary, to use the Bishop London's words, ' to hold them back by the coat tails.' At the camps about here we get the casualties and sick down from the front, and see only the effects of actual warfare. The only shots we hear are from snipers at night, and they are rather annoying. During the last week three of our sentries have been shot, but in no case fatally, i am glad to say. In each case they have been hot near the knees. These snipers are mostly Arabs, and apparently their object seems to be to steal rifles and rob officers' tents. My predecessor had things stolen from his tent one night while he was sleeping. One officer was robbed of his boots and trousers one night. The next night another pair of boots and trousers were stolen from the same officer's tent, and he was then reduced to a pair of flannel trousers and a pair of slippers, and had to go about his duties in that rig-out. As he couldn't possibly afford to lose any more such necessary articles of clothing, report has it that on the third night he kept on his trousers when he went to bed! We are not told what means he employed to safeguard his slippers. The officers, doctors, and RAMC men attached to the camps I am working at are an exceptionally nice set of men, and it is a pleasure to work with them. Many of them I am glad to say, hail from Lancashire, and not a few from Blackburn. It is enjoyable to experience the kindly bond of fellowship that is at once established on active service when one meets men from home from one's native town or district. Of military matters in general there are many interesting and hopeful things I would write about, the censor forbids. This letter is getting over long, so I must close. I am as fit as ever I was, and never in all my life felt happier in my work. In spite of the awful conditions out here, I wouldn't have missed this for all the money in all the banks in Blackburn! The men are most appreciative and responsive in all that one tries to do for them, splendid fellows that they are. The spiritual results of our ministrations are in the hands of God. Even now evidence of real and lasting good are frequently apparent, and most encouraging they are."

Hacking Henry Revd.jpg

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seaJane

That sounds like the Basra[h] / Shatt al Arab area to me, but I can't be certain.

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PJS
27 minutes ago, seaJane said:

That sounds like the Basra[h] / Shatt al Arab area to me, but I can't be certain.

 

Excellent map of Basra[h] here from the Qatar Digital Library: https://www.qdl.qa/en/archive/81055/vdc_100039051745.0x000059

 

sJ may be right but it sounds to me like he might have been further up river. The letter was published in March 1917 so it "may" have been written around the time of the 2nd Battle of Kut which implies to me that he may have been camped "up river" perhaps somewhere between Basra and Kut. I will go through the ADMS Basra war diary and see if it yields any useful information about the hospitals (600 man British Hospital with another one 1.5 miles downstream and a further one 5 miles downstream).

 

Peter

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TEW

Medical Services; General History has a volume for Mesopotamia which must have details on the hospitals mentioned.

On phone at present so can't provide link. There are forum topics that provide links or search archive.org. They are downloadable and searchable.

TEW

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PJS
Posted (edited)
On 23/05/2019 at 17:29, TEW said:

Medical Services; General History has a volume for Mesopotamia which must have details on the hospitals mentioned.

On phone at present so can't provide link. There are forum topics that provide links or search archive.org. They are downloadable and searchable.

TEW

 

Medical Services General History Volume IV (Medical Services during the Operations on the Gallipoli peninsula, in Macedonia, in Mesopotamia and North-West Persia ; in East Africa; in the Aden Protectorate, and in North Russia), by Major-General Sir W. G. MACPHERSON

 

Peter

Edited by PJS
Wrong Volume originally posted

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familyhistoryman

Thanks everyone. I wonder who the 2 V Cs might have been

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PJS
9 hours ago, familyhistoryman said:

Thanks everyone. I wonder who the 2 V Cs might have been

 

If we assume that it took a minimum of at least 3 weeks from the date of the action to his letter being published in the newspaper then the two below seem to be the most likely candidates:

 

Edward Elers Delaval Henderson (25 January 1917):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Elers_Delaval_Henderson

 

Robert Edwin Phillips (25 January 1917):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Edwin_Phillips

 

Three more VCs were won in Mespot in late February 1917 (one by a Lancashire man) but I think any one of those would be pushing the logistics of mail delivery back to the UK, (although not impossible if he was actually camped at Basra).

 

He actually wrote "Two of our men up at the front have won the VC, I hear" and so it may be possible that one (or both) of the men he is referring to were put forward for the VC but may not have actually been awarded it.

 

Peter
 

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familyhistoryman

Thanks everyone for your help. Re the VCs it depend on what Henry means by “awarded”. Could he mean they were recommend for the VC or actually had been awarded the honour

Tony

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familyhistoryman
On 23/05/2019 at 23:29, PJS said:

 

Excellent map of Basra[h] here from the Qatar Digital Library: https://www.qdl.qa/en/archive/81055/vdc_100039051745.0x000059

 

sJ may be right but it sounds to me like he might have been further up river. The letter was published in March 1917 so it "may" have been written around the time of the 2nd Battle of Kut which implies to me that he may have been camped "up river" perhaps somewhere between Basra and Kut. I will go through the ADMS Basra war diary and see if it yields any useful information about the hospitals (600 man British Hospital with another one 1.5 miles downstream and a further one 5 miles downstream).

 

Peter

Peter

I wonder if you have had time to check the ADMs Basra war diaries for the possible locations of the hospitals?

Tony

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PJS

Tony,

 

I got half way through it yesterday and was sidetracked. I will complete it today. My feeling is that he was describing AMARA but I need to dig a little deeper.

 

Peter 

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familyhistoryman

Peter

Thanks for your help so far. I wait and see if you have completed the checking 

Tony 

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PJS

My feeling is still that the camp was based up river of Basra. Mainly because at this time (Jan/Feb 1917) I am not aware of Arab snipers being active in and around Basra. There are a number of possibilities for the camp location but the two most obvious ones would be Amara and Shaikh Saad. Looking through the ADMS Basra War Diary and Medical Services General History Volume IV shows that both places had more than enough activity and hospital bed capacity to match his description.

 

The ADMS Basra War Diary says that:
No 32 British General Hospital, No 18 Sanitary Section, and 1 Section of No 13 IFA left Basra for AMARA, July 10, 1916.

On October 29, 1916 No 31 British Stationary Hospital left Basra for Sheikh Saad.

 

Medical Services General History Volume IV says that:
Amara
At the end of 1915, at Amara the hospital accommodation had been increased by the addition of sections of No. 2 British General Hospital equipped for 200 beds, a section of No. 3 British General Hospital, equipped for 100 beds, the Bengal Stationary Hospital equipped for 300 beds and two sections of No. 9 Indian General Hospital equipped for 200 beds.

By the end of 1916 the hospitals, which were in buildings for the most part on the left bank and for which hutting was gradually being provided on the right bank, could accommodate 2,500 British and 3,000 Indians with adequate convalescent depot accommodation for 750 British and 750 Indians.

 

Shaikh Saad
At first the whole working of the medical arrangements on the lines of communication was simplified by massing all available casualty clearing stations at Shaikh Saad. As soon as transport became available a British stationary hospital was sent up the line and opened at Shaikh Saad to take British cases from the casualty clearing stations and diminish the number of cases being sent down river. An Indian stationary hospital was also opened and expanded at Shaikh Saad. By the middle of August the casualty clearing stations and stationary hospitals at Shaikh Saad could accommodate 500 British and 1,000 Indians in tents and by the end of November 1916 the capacity was 1,000 British & 1,500 Indian Beds.


On a separate note, his reference to a Royal Flying Corps camp is also a clue but I do not know enough about No 30 Sqdn RFC to know where all of their advanced camps were located.
 

So, in conclusion, I did not find anything definitive but my feeling is that Basra is excluded from his reference to Arab snipers and Amara would be the most likely place based on his description of medical infrastructure spread out over a number of miles.

 

Peter

 

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familyhistoryman

Peter

Many thanks for all the work you put into locating the possible site of Revd Henry Hacking’s camp

Tony

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