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Remembered Today:

Field Ambulance Hospitals (1915). What were they?


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The attached is a WD page (December 1915) for the 2/2nd FA of the 50th (Northumberland) Division.

 

I'm probably missing something obvious here, but any ideas what type of facility is referred to as a hospital? Were they temporary facilities used before the sick/wounded could moved to a CCS or Divisional Rest Area? Another name for a dressing station (seems unlikely)? The 18th Dec entry implies that at least one of these hospitals was quite large.

 

I've looked at the relevant page of the LLT, but there doesn't seem to be a FA component that would correspond to a hospital.

 

Thanks

 

The National Archives' reference WO 95/2824/2 (Crown Copyright)

2-2nd NFA WD.jpg

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The ADMS of 50th Div. does not use the term hospital to describe the section of 2/2nd FA at that location on that date.

 

He refers to them having a dressing station there.

 

The division was becoming overwhelmed with scabies cases, upwards of 450 mid December.

 

I suppose the FA section might only have had scabies cases through the 'dressing station' that week. It would be the FA's HQ that kept the diary so someone ( CO or adjutant) felt 'hospital' was a better term?

TEW

 

 

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Good morning Kernel Panic

Just found your entry on F.A hospitals. In my grandfathers diary 36th F.A (Armentieres June July 1915) he talks of the 37th F.A setting up a hospital further down the lines as a convalescent hospital. and the 36th setting up hospital in a school house with wards, operating room etc. He soon becomes disillusioned with the set up feeling that as they pick up sick and wounded twice daily from the front using their splendid cars (motor ambulances Sunbeams and Fords)

 

29th June.

"Apart from some ordinary cases of sickness and very slight casualties there is really very little use for a field hospital run on the sames lines as this one.

Indeed, I consider  it to do more harm than good seeing as all casualties it evacuates from the trenches are brought to the hospital. If they arrive here in the evening they remain here until the following day at 10.00am then they are sent to the clearing hospital at Bailleul to be operated on.

Our F.A therefore defeats its own object, because instead of using its splendid cars to take wounded with all speed to the clearing hospital it merely acts as a blockhouse where cases are delayed 10-12 hours on their way to a properly equipped. It is very painful to see this sort of thing going on." 

 

Later he goes on to be M.O with 7th East Surrey Regt then 134th F.A  39th Div where he was wounded on the Somme on 28-29th August 1916.

I think he found it to mundane in the F.A so kept pushing for an M.O position. it is a fantastic insight into the life of a medical man at the front from the normal day to day living to the horrendous casualties and conditions at the front. (GWF blog "Only With Honour")

Dave

 

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Post #3 is a good example which cites that Casualty Clearing Stations were originally Casualty Clearing Hospitals.

 

The change in terminology came I think in early 1916 due to visitors, family (early war) and press etc who assumed a CCH would be a magnificent building with all amenities and all the latest medical equipment. 

 

I suspect there were some jaw-dropping looks as people left a muddy field full of bell tents.

 

If CCH changed to CCS to avoid the 'hospital' word then I doubt a FA would be encouraged to use the word either.

TEW

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4 minutes ago, TEW said:

Post #3 is a good example which cites that Casualty Clearing Stations were originally Casualty Clearing Hospitals.

 

The change in terminology came I think in early 1916 due to visitors, family (early war) and press etc who assumed a CCH would be a magnificent building with all amenities and all the latest medical equipment. 

 

I suspect there were some jaw-dropping looks as people left a muddy field full of bell tents.

 

If CCH changed to CCS to avoid the 'hospital' word then I doubt a FA would be encouraged to use the word either.

TEW

Tew, I will take a butchers into 1916 diary to see if Reg changes his terminology...................Found the first time he uses 1CCS is late March 1916 when he was hospitalised with i think trench fever or similar.

Dave

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I have seen an instruction, probably at DMS level which sends out a memo to all CCH parties to cease using 'hospital' and gives the reason.

 

Fairly sure it was early 1916 but it may have been from only one of the armies. Presumably the others did the same but at different times?

TEW

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The designation "Casualty Clearing Station" began to replace "Clearing Hospital" as early as the end of 1914, but the official change in War Establishments does not appear until September 1916. However, most such changes are put into effect some time before the official WE is changed.

 

Ron

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Thanks TEW, Dave, and Ron for the info.

 

I don’t think this an instance of the FA referring to a CCS as a CCH because the WD explicitly mentions 3 CCS in the entry I posted, and elsewhere. The ‘Hospital’ sounds more like a component of the FA itself. The December 17th entry above describes closing 'C' Section Hospital. The WDs of the two other Northumbrian FAs don’t seem to use ‘Hospital’ in the same context as the 2nd FA.

 

The reason I’m interested in this small detail is that my great grandfather was caught up in the major scabies outbreak in 50 Division in December 1915. During this time the Division was moving from the Armentieres area back to the Salient.

 

Triangulating from other sources, it’s possible my GGF was evacuated through the 1st or 2nd Northumbrian FAs December 15th - 18th. From there his route appears either to 50 CCS Hazebrouck (re. the 2nd FA WD page posted above about scabies cases on the 18th), or 3 CCS and/or the Divisional Rest Station both in Bailleul (mentioned in the 1st  FA WD on the 17th). He was then moved to 4 Stationary Hospital in Arques on the 23rd, and returned to the 50th Divisional Train on Jan 2nd. TEW gave me some info a while back where he thought the 3 CCS route was more likely. 

Edited by KernelPanic
correcting details
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The 50th Div. ADMS diary may be of interest regarding the scabies outbreak.

 

 

He claims that new drafts were infecting troops at the front.

 

Large number of cases from artillery brigades.

 

Scabies cases sent for treatment were leaving their blankets and other kit with their battalion (spreading it about). All kit was supposed to go with the man to CCS to be disinfected.

 

Concealing symptoms or failing to report sick could be tried under The Army Act.

 

Poor bathing and disinfection facilities available for division.

 

Poor sanitary conditions at divisional rest station.

 

TEW

 

 

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Thanks again TEW.

 

I have the Divisional ADMS WD. It's a fascinating read, and not just for this scabies outbreak. I also have the 2 and 5 Corps DDMS WDs, which I believe you pointed me towards a while ago. There's useful info there, including some interesting graphs in the 2 Corp DDMS WD tracking a variety of sicknesses during this period.

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At the risk of adding more confusion, perhaps I can add some information about the structure of field ambulances - which were in fact company-sized units of about 250 officers and men.

 

A FA was divided into three Sections, each capable of looking after 50 men. Each Section was further divided into a [stretcher] Bearer Sub-division and a Tent Sub-division. I think it is likely that the latter may have been referred to as the "hospital", since in the static warfare of the Western Front it was more usually housed in huts (or more permanent buildings) than in tents.

 

Each Corps would form a Main Dressing Station from one or more sections of its FAs, and the remainder would form Advance Dressing Stations for their divisions. One such is Essex Farm ADS near Boesinghe, famous as the place that Col John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields.

 

Ron

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Ron, you may be adding clarity rather than confusion.

 

I also came across reference to the tent divisions of FAs in the 'Chain of Evacuation' part of the RAMC's WW1 History webpage (attached), and wondered whether the might be the hospital reference in the 2nd FA WD, particularly as that refers to the 'C section Hospital'.  BTW, this part of their webpage unfortunately now appears to be inaccessible, at least to me.

  

FA organization.jpg

Tent section.jpg

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Good evening, Looked this up in the diaries today and thought you may find it of interest.

 

Composition of 36th F.A Jun 1915

Mules 18

Officers chargers 17

Heavy draft 27

RAMC men 181

Officers 13

ASC men 40

Mechanics transport 15

Interpreter 1

Motor ambulance 7

Horse ambulance and wagon.

 

23/08/1916 Mazieres 134th F.A

"The CO gave me the choice today of either remaining with the tent sub division or of taking charge of the bearers. For a moment I almost chose the easy and safe job of permanently joining the tent sub division but I am glad to say I chose the bearer post much to the discomfiture of my body which all the time wants to avoid danger and enjoy ease and comfort."

 

(CO.... Lt Col Hildreth)

Dave

Can I assume that the 27 heavy draft included horse and wagon ? (Either that or they did not have much trust in motors and needed tow)!!!

Edited by RegHannay
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Looks like we might have figured this out between us.

 

Here are a couple of paragraphs (pp276-277) and a diagram from 'Military Organization and Administration' by Major G.R.N. Collins (Hugh Rees Ltd., London, 1918). From this it seems very likely that the tent subdivision of a FA section was referred to as a hospital.

 

"Both Cavalry Field Ambulances and Field Ambulances are organized into sections which are complete in themselves, as far as transport, personnel, and equipment are concerned. Each of the sections is organized into two distinct parts, the Transport and the Tent Subdivisions.

 

The Tent Subdivisions are the hospitals proper, and carry the surgical and medical equipment and the necessary personnel for their use. The equipment carried is sufficient for a Field Hospital, each section having its own complete sets."

 

 

FAs.jpg.f8b86e161c9bad98c2adcbe46d2f85c6.jpg
 

Edited by KernelPanic
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Like a lot of things plans on paper are ideal but sometimes fail.

Few snippets from the diaries :- MO 7TH ESR 13/101915. RAP..."To meet a likely run of wounded a large dug out was erected by the road but owing to the lack of time was hardly covered to withstand large shells".....( prior to the attack the dugout took two hits on roof causing cave in but no casualties)

"From 2.30pm to 5.30am  I was continually dressing wounds with occasional five minutes rest"....

"During the action the field ambulance failed to lent much support despite an urgent message for ambulances to be sent up for our 100 wounded whom I had already dressed and waiting to go down. Eventually they sent up cars at odd intervals and we got the place nearly cleared by 5.30. after that the worst cases began to come in."... 

"Thank god no crumps hit our dugout, although at one period they  were falling all around our place when it was simply packed with wounded."...

 

The doctor was rather critical about lets say the enthusiasm on the response from FA

 

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The diagram in post#14 must surely date to pre-1915 as it refers to Casualty Clearing Hospitals. The text on the other hand clearly mentions 'hospital' in the context of FA tent section.

 

I can't say a hospital run by a FA is something you see often in diary records.

 

Going back to post#1 and the diary extract.

 

The 'C section hospital'. The same section, same date in the same location is called a dressing station by the ADMS

 

Could there not be a bit of 'bigging up our status' by the FA's diary keeper.

 

Even when a FA tent section is sent to assist at a CCS or set up a specific EG infectious centre they don't automatically start calling themselves a hospital.

TEW

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MrSwan would appear to have it correct.

 

The 2nd FA WD earlier in 1915 has a few entries saying that Tent Sub Divisions ran facilities that the WD writer called hospitals. For example:

 

  April 26th. BEAUVOORDE. C Section Tent Sub Division sent down to STEENVORDE to open a hospital there.
  May 30th. WIPPENHOEK. Commenced a hospital there, "A" Section Tent Sub-Division in charge.
  June 6th. HOOGGRAAF. "A" Section Tent Sub Division opened a hospital at BRABANT SCHOOL, HOOGGRAAF.

 

These hospital facilities were different from ADSs :

 

  June 1st. BRANDHOEK. "C" Section Tent Sub Division proceeded to BRANDHOEK and took over the School to utilise as an "Advanced Dressing Station".

 

The term 'Hospital' is used much less frequently by the WD writer after December 1915.
 

 

 

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Majority of medics at this time were straight out of civilian life and would still be using  words they were use to and not military jargon.  To them If it had beds it was a hospital for sick and injured. they were not into army terminology.

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Dave, 

Given that the 2/2nd FA first arrived in the Ypres area from England on April 22nd, what you describe would be consistent with these early entries in their WD.  

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Neil Mackenzie

Earlier this evening I watched Andy Robertshaw's webinar on the RAMC - one of the History from Home talks being done every Wednesday and Sunday evening ( https://www.danhillmilitaryhistorian.com/historyfromhome

 

Andy mentioned that the CCS were also known as Evacuation Hospitals.

 

Neil

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10 hours ago, Neil Mackenzie said:

Earlier this evening I watched Andy Robertshaw's webinar on the RAMC - one of the History from Home talks being done every Wednesday and Sunday evening ( https://www.danhillmilitaryhistorian.com/historyfromhome

 

Andy mentioned that the CCS were also known as Evacuation Hospitals.

 

Neil

Thank you Neil, I will enjoy watching it tonight.

Dave

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