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RegHannay

Regimental Medical Officers treating men under heavy enemy fire

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RegHannay
Posted (edited)

Last night I watched an online talk (Mud blood and bandages, the RAMC on the western front) by Andrew Robertshaw.

Mentioned was double VC holder Capt Noel Chavasse for treating casualties while under fire. This being a highly risky business not only for the MO but also for the battalion being left without medical cover if the MO was wounded or killed.

There is a number of entries in my grandfathers diary where he did the same (MID) and I was wondering if there was any official army orders sent out to discourage MO.s from putting themselves into  extra danger. There is an entry where the doctor is critical of some of his fellow medics, (or were they just following orders). If this was the case does a copy of such an order still exist ?.

Any info would be gratefully received.

Thanks

Dave 

Edited by RegHannay

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PhilB

Can’t help on the orders, Reg, but I would mention that, in those days, doctors would have taken a modern form of the Hippocratic Oath. In part, it would say something like “I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required,”

So whatever the official orders, you can imagine the dilemma for many doctors when wounded men are out there.

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petestarling

In October 1914 Colonel Arthur Lee was sent by Kitchener to France to report on the Medical Services. One of his comments was that Medical Officers are want to perform acts of Mistaken Gallantry and they should be dissuaded from this by an order. No order was actually given but I do have an order issued by a DMS to a Army Corps later in the war ordering MOs from going over the top because too many had been killed in previous days. 911 RAMC Officers were killed or died in the First World war, I have traced all of them. 

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RegHannay
Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, petestarling said:

In October 1914 Colonel Arthur Lee was sent by Kitchener to France to report on the Medical Services. One of his comments was that Medical Officers are want to perform acts of Mistaken Gallantry and they should be dissuaded from this by an order. No order was actually given but I do have an order issued by a DMS to a Army Corps later in the war ordering MOs from going over the top because too many had been killed in previous days. 911 RAMC Officers were killed or died in the First World war, I have traced all of them. 

Thank you Pete for this info.

The knowledge you guys have in your subjects is unbelievable. I am no researcher, actually pretty bad at it but have been very fortunate in owning my Grandfathers war diaries, transcribing them (nightmare) and adding snippets of information relevant to his story. 

The Doctor (as I knew him) was wounded 28th Aug 1916 while attached to the 134th F.A (39TH DIV?) while scouting with his sergeant for a suitable ADS at Mesnil with RAP at Knightsbridge ready for an expected push. Harris was to set up ADS at Cookers and RAP at Hamel

A few days later many RAMC men were killed or wounded. This is probably what prompted him to relinquish his commission in Jan 1917 having had time to think (At home) and come to the conclusion that perhaps his luck had been used up the day he was injured, (his Sergeant being killed on the 4th Sept. James Gardener).

With your permission I would like to add the information you have supplied to me in the diary

Many thanks

Dave

 

 

Edited by RegHannay

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John Gilinsky
Posted (edited)

Pete: of the 911 officers RAMC who lost their lives WW1 1914 1920 how many were Canadian?  If not too many  is it possible to alphabetically list these Canadians on gwf?

Tanks!

Johb

Edited by John Gilinsky

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petestarling

John

The 911 are just RAMC officers. I have not looked at the CAMC officers I am afraid.

 

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RegHannay
4 minutes ago, petestarling said:

John

The 911 are just RAMC officers. I have not looked at the CAMC officers I am afraid.

 

Pete, on 7/5/20 you mentioned that you had an order from a DMS ordering M.O's from going over the top because of the fatalities amongst them.

is there any chance that you could let me have a copy or a look at it please

In anticipation.

Dave

 

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John Gilinsky
1 hour ago, petestarling said:

John

The 911 are just RAMC officers. I have not looked at the CAMC officers I am afraid.

 

 

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John Gilinsky

WW1 may have seen a somewhat less ambitious program to the WW2 CANLOAN OFFICERS program (ww2 some 700 Canadian officers loaned to British combatant units).  Know for sure War Office early 1915 requested mmedical offs from Canada.  Don't know orders, names info gleaned from DND old  computer print out subject guide to massive dept contemporary correspondence.

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RegHannay
1 hour ago, John Gilinsky said:

WW1 may have seen a somewhat less ambitious program to the WW2 CANLOAN OFFICERS program (ww2 some 700 Canadian officers loaned to British combatant units).  Know for sure War Office early 1915 requested mmedical offs from Canada.  Don't know orders, names info gleaned from DND old  computer print out subject guide to massive dept contemporary correspondence.

John, there two mentions in my grandfathers diary of Canadian RAMC Officers... Captain George Gibson, 28th Jul 15. at Ploegstert. This officer was involved in the earlier parts of the war at Ypres. And an officer called Harris, (sorry no first name) 26th Aug 1916 in the trenches Mesnil ( RAP Knightsbridge).

Dave

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John Gilinsky
7 hours ago, petestarling said:

John

The 911 are just RAMC officers. I have not looked at the CAMC officers I am afraid.

 

Tx Dave for your 2 Canadian MO serving in British army mid-war.  In 1917 a major provincial medical Assn (I.e. an assn of doctors) complained to the govt that the CEF were danerously draining Canada of physicians for civilians in Canada.

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RegHannay
3 hours ago, John Gilinsky said:

Tx Dave for your 2 Canadian MO serving in British army mid-war.  In 1917 a major provincial medical Assn (I.e. an assn of doctors) complained to the govt that the CEF were danerously draining Canada of physicians for civilians in Canada.

Much the same in the U.K john...My grandfather mentions a number of times that his time would be better spent at home where his poorer patients needed him.. A shortage of doctors at home... He is very disparaging of M.O's who had the "cushy jobs behind the lines who never went close to the front line trenches,(to get a taste). At one stage a request was made for volunteers from the field ambulances  to fill M.O's  positions to the battalions.... not one person came forward. 

Please let me know if you find any info on the two Canadians, did they survive ? I hope so

Dave 

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A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy

After being wounded on 9 September 1916 during an attack on Guillemont, my grandfather was treated by a young Canadian doctor at the 2/5th LF ADS in York Alley. This was not many days after Dave's grandfather was wounded on 28 August 1916, and about 20 km away - maybe this was part of the "expected push"?

The young Canadian doctor who treated my grandfather was  Lieutenant Edgar Harold McVicker of the RAMC, who had been with the 2/1 Wessex Field Ambulance in the 55th Division since that Division was re-formed in January 1916, and was attached to the 2/5th LF as their MO for the attack in September 1916.

My grandfather gives a brief but telling description of having his wounds attended to by the young doctor, ending with, as he was stretchered away from the ADS, "McVicker ran out. “Got your helmet?” “Yes, do you want it?” “No fear – put that officer’s helmet on, the Boche are gas shelling down the road.”, thus in those few words conveying both the pressure that the young McVicker was working under, and his attention to detail in looking after the welfare of those under his care.

Unfortunately the ADS was blown in soon after my grandfather left, regrettably killing Lieutenant McVicker. The CWGC record shows that he was only 23 years old when he died, and that he was the only son of Mr and Mrs Samuel McVicker of 350, St Clair Avenue West,Toronto, Canada, The inscription on his headstone is more personal than most, and reads: “Our son died as he lived careless of self thoughtful for others”,which sentiment is amply illistrated by the short extract from my grandfather's diary quoted above.

At the date when I found this CWGC record my own son was a newly qualified doctor aged 25, thus forcefully bringing home both the huge challenge that Lieutenant McVicker was rising to in performing the tasks required of him, and the enormity of the loss that his parents back at home in Canada must have felt.

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John Gilinsky

Thanks so very much for so many reasons for taking the time alone for your thoughtful and sensitive posting related to your own family history.  Lt. Harold Edgar McVicker RAMC KIA 2/1st Wessex Field Anbulance, 55th Division, BEF from date of reformation of the 55th Divison BEF in January 1916 but who was attached in September 1916 to the 2/5 Lancashire Fusiliers when he was killed by shellfire blowing up the ADS.  I have lived in Toronto all my life and I am also an alumnus of U of T.  Please try to contact me directly if you can and let me know if you cannot do this.  TX so very much again.

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A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy
15 hours ago, John Gilinsky said:

I have lived in Toronto all my life and I am also an alumnus of U of T.  Please try to contact me directly if you can and let me know if you cannot do this. 

Hi John, you are welcome to message me through the profile page of the Forum if you wish - I think you can do that.

Incidentally, I think I should have said "RAP" rather than"ADS" in the above post - it was the very first port of call for my grandfather after being wounded, and McVicker was attached to the Battalion as their MO, so I think that that would have made it the RAP - apologies.

Also, I see, John, that you have written Harold Edgar McVicker, rather than Edgar Harold McVicker. The CWGC record definitely has the latter, but have they got it wrong?

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RegHannay

John, getting back to Harris, On the 28th/29th he was setting up his ADS at "The Cookers" with his RAP at Hamel. 

My grandfather to set up ADS at Mesnil with RAP at Knightsbridge. He was wounded (shrapnel shell) shattered left hand, four tendons severed while looking for a suitable place to set up his new ADS and RAP, ( his Staff Sergeant James Gardener was not wounded.) should an advance occur. He had planned to carry out any advance with Gardener leaving Lt Boyers in charge of dressings at the ADS and the evacuation of wounded. His diary reads-

 

"Thiepval is now surrounded by us, have just heard that our new push on this sector will take place in 48 hours and our field ambulance (134th) has to do all the evacuating as well as run the corps collecting station etc. Harris is running the Cookers and making it into an ADS on his side of the big wood which separates us. Went down to Acheux to see C.O, terrible weather, sheets of rain and roads flooded- very damp and wet."

 

I believe the attack took place on the 3rd Sept, (134th FA diary)the operations started about 5.00 am with casualties arriving at 8.30. Evacuation proceeded smoothly from both ADS with no congestion with temporary delay at Mesnil. During the 24hrs the CCS and LDS handled 1500 casualties. 

 

The ADMS wrote-

"The position occupied by our troops was one from which it was most difficult to evacuate owing to ground being exposed and the line of evacuation a lengthy one. The trenches were dominated on three sides, the aid posts small and inadequate and exposed to shell and machine gun fire. Added to I am informed by officers commanding bearers and others that enemy snipers were most active, picking off our bearers when collecting and wounding again the patients being carried on stretchers. Super added to which were weather conditions which turned the frontal surrounding, roads and pathways into a boggy state."

 

RAMC casualties were heavy, Officers killed 5...OR ranks 7 killed (one of which was James Gardener, age 21) and 76 wounded (*RAMC the Great War)

(It sounds like Harris earned his Kings shilling that day)

 

Regie was lucky to get out when he did, by this time he was in hospital in Chelsea. - "Dressed this morning in slacks and started out for walk but turned back because I found people too curious and it became obvious  that one was simply a sideshow. However, I found very nice grounds behind the college and slept there in the sun for an hour."

Dave

 

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EastSurrey
On 01/05/2020 at 12:30, RegHannay said:

Last night I watched an online talk (Mud blood and bandages, the RAMC on the western front) by Andrew Robertshaw.

Mentioned was double VC holder Capt Noel Chavasse for treating casualties while under fire. This being a highly risky business not only for the MO but also for the battalion being left without medical cover if the MO was wounded or killed.

There is a number of entries in my grandfathers diary where he did the same (MID) and I was wondering if there was any official army orders sent out to discourage MO.s from putting themselves into  extra danger. There is an entry where the doctor is critical of some of his fellow medics, (or were they just following orders). If this was the case does a copy of such an order still exist ?.

Any info would be gratefully received.

Thanks

Dave 

George Pirie, a South African doctor, served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, until killed in July 1917. Serving with the Hampshires  as their R.M.O.on Gallipoli in May 1915, he wrote in his diary that he was asked to see a wounded man in the front line trench.  'I didn't like the idea and then  it is against orders for us to go into the trenches, so I went to the Hants' Head Quarters and saw the Adjutant, he seemed nasty about it so I decided to go and risk it.' Pirie had to run across the open part of the way and managed to reach the man, but he was a hopeless case-shot through the brain. (Lucas 'Frontline Medic' pp50-1.) Pirie was under rifle, as well as shell fire on numerous occasions.

Michael

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RegHannay
1 hour ago, EastSurrey said:

George Pirie, a South African doctor, served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, until killed in July 1917. Serving with the Hampshires  as their R.M.O.on Gallipoli in May 1915, he wrote in his diary that he was asked to see a wounded man in the front line trench.  'I didn't like the idea and then  it is against orders for us to go into the trenches, so I went to the Hants' Head Quarters and saw the Adjutant, he seemed nasty about it so I decided to go and risk it.' Pirie had to run across the open part of the way and managed to reach the man, but he was a hopeless case-shot through the brain. (Lucas 'Frontline Medic' pp50-1.) Pirie was under rifle, as well as shell fire on numerous occasions.

Michael

Yes Michael, I guess it was all down to a special type of  individual, probably understand why there wasn't  too many volunteers from the F.A's for the regimental M.O's jobs. But then again it may well have been a one off that Regie wrote about. Who's to tell (entry 12) Thanks for pointing out that it was against orders, would be great to see a copy of that order.

Like your Tag, Regie was M.O to 7th battalion ESR for eight months Aug 15 thru Apr 16. GWF blog "Only With Honour" has some entries from that time 

Dave

 

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EastSurrey

Sorry I can't help with the actual order.

Pirie was RMO to 9th E. Surrey from December 1915 to July 1917, except for brief service with one of the Division's  Field Ambulances to get away from a detested temporary CO!

Michael

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RegHannay
21 minutes ago, EastSurrey said:

Sorry I can't help with the actual order.

Pirie was RMO to 9th E. Surrey from December 1915 to July 1917, except for brief service with one of the Division's  Field Ambulances to get away from a detested temporary CO!

Michael

Thanks for that Michael,

Regie worked hard on his ADMS to get a M.O.s job, he was disillusioned with the 36th F.As C.O a Colonel Dunn and the way the ambulance was set up. The C.O changed just before he went to the 7th. What did get under his skin was the way that F.A officers seemed to regularly get recognition, whereas the medics at the front seemed to get ignored for their efforts. Regie did at least receive M.I.D for treating men in the trenches under shell fire. He felt that every regimental M.O deserved at least that recognition. 

Dave

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RegHannay
On 05/07/2020 at 18:40, A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy said:

After being wounded on 9 September 1916 during an attack on Guillemont, my grandfather was treated by a young Canadian doctor at the 2/5th LF ADS in York Alley. This was not many days after Dave's grandfather was wounded on 28 August 1916, and about 20 km away - maybe this was part of the "expected push"?

The young Canadian doctor who treated my grandfather was  Lieutenant Edgar Harold McVicker of the RAMC, who had been with the 2/1 Wessex Field Ambulance in the 55th Division since that Division was re-formed in January 1916, and was attached to the 2/5th LF as their MO for the attack in September 1916.

My grandfather gives a brief but telling description of having his wounds attended to by the young doctor, ending with, as he was stretchered away from the ADS, "McVicker ran out. “Got your helmet?” “Yes, do you want it?” “No fear – put that officer’s helmet on, the Boche are gas shelling down the road.”, thus in those few words conveying both the pressure that the young McVicker was working under, and his attention to detail in looking after the welfare of those under his care.

Unfortunately the ADS was blown in soon after my grandfather left, regrettably killing Lieutenant McVicker. The CWGC record shows that he was only 23 years old when he died, and that he was the only son of Mr and Mrs Samuel McVicker of 350, St Clair Avenue West,Toronto, Canada, The inscription on his headstone is more personal than most, and reads: “Our son died as he lived careless of self thoughtful for others”,which sentiment is amply illistrated by the short extract from my grandfather's diary quoted above.

At the date when I found this CWGC record my own son was a newly qualified doctor aged 25, thus forcefully bringing home both the huge challenge that Lieutenant McVicker was rising to in performing the tasks required of him, and the enormity of the loss that his parents back at home in Canada must have felt.

Sorry ALFBP, Somehow missed this post! the general feeling of compassion from these medical men and women was total conviction to their profession. Things don't change.

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A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy
10 hours ago, RegHannay said:

Sorry ALFBP, Somehow missed this post!

No problem Dave, though I was just a little concerned that I might have unfairly hi-jacked the thread away from the main – very interesting – topic of whether MOs were under specific orders not to expose themselves on the front line. It just seemed appropriate to pay tribute to Lieutenant McVicker, given that the topic had veered to the loss of Canadian doctors, as well as the risks faced by front line medics.

I was holding back from raising another query in case of diverting the thread, but perhaps you won’t mind if I put it. It relates to whether your grandfather’s left hand recovered completely from his injury, or whether he always bore the scars. I assume that army MOs had to be reasonably competent surgeons, and can envisage that a less than dexterous hand, even if it was his left hand and he was right-handed, would not be ideal – just wondering if that contributed to him resigning his commission?

To return to the thread, I’m afraid that I can’t help with orders to MOs not to expose themselves on the front line, though that would certainly seem to be sensible in practice, though not very easy for caring MOs to abide by, and – assuming that there was a formal order in place – senior officers at the front appear to have had no appetite for enforcing it either, judging by # 17. If I come across anything relevant in my reading, I will post it here.

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EastSurrey
On 07/07/2020 at 10:52, RegHannay said:

Thanks for that Michael,

Regie worked hard on his ADMS to get a M.O.s job, he was disillusioned with the 36th F.As C.O a Colonel Dunn and the way the ambulance was set up. The C.O changed just before he went to the 7th. What did get under his skin was the way that F.A officers seemed to regularly get recognition, whereas the medics at the front seemed to get ignored for their efforts. Regie did at least receive M.I.D for treating men in the trenches under shell fire. He felt that every regimental M.O deserved at least that recognition. 

Dave

Dave, Pirie did get MiD for Gallipoli, and, posthumously, for the Western Front. He writes for 29 May that de la Fontaine, CO 9/E. Surrey  told him he was disappointed Pirie had not got an MC for his work on the Somme and if he, de La Fontaine, had not been badly wounded at Delville Wood, he would have ensured Pirie got one. He would recommend Pirie for an MC at the next opportunity. Unfortunately, Pirie was killed in July before the opening of the Passchendaele Offensive, a few weeks before de la Fontaine .

Michael

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RegHannay
20 hours ago, A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy said:

No problem Dave, though I was just a little concerned that I might have unfairly hi-jacked the thread away from the main – very interesting – topic of whether MOs were under specific orders not to expose themselves on the front line. It just seemed appropriate to pay tribute to Lieutenant McVicker, given that the topic had veered to the loss of Canadian doctors, as well as the risks faced by front line medics.

I was holding back from raising another query in case of diverting the thread, but perhaps you won’t mind if I put it. It relates to whether your grandfather’s left hand recovered completely from his injury, or whether he always bore the scars. I assume that army MOs had to be reasonably competent surgeons, and can envisage that a less than dexterous hand, even if it was his left hand and he was right-handed, would not be ideal – just wondering if that contributed to him resigning his commission?

To return to the thread, I’m afraid that I can’t help with orders to MOs not to expose themselves on the front line, though that would certainly seem to be sensible in practice, though not very easy for caring MOs to abide by, and – assuming that there was a formal order in place – senior officers at the front appear to have had no appetite for enforcing it either, judging by # 17. If I come across anything relevant in my reading, I will post it here.

Good evening. As far as I know Regie's disability from the injury did not cause him to much inconvenience in later life. He writes that he went back to the ADS then on to Acheux, where after basic dressing the ADMS asked him to stay on and give a hand in the office but Huggins strongly advised  him to go to the CCS . He first went to Conray but it was closed so went on to Puchevillers (No3 CCS)  where  Captain Hey operated and was also seen by Sir Anthony Bowlby. I dare say that if he had stayed as requested by the ADMS things would have turned out very differently (disability wise) By the 2nd Sept he was in the second London General, St Marks College, Chelsea and by the 8th went before the medical board and given 10 weeks sick leave.

The reason Regie was at the front is because by all accounts he came down one morning and found a white feather alongside his breakfast, put there as the story goes by his practice partners daughter after rejecting her advances. Lets just say that Reg was "not" wired that way!

 

Hence the corny name of my blog, on a couple of occasions he writes "wish I could get out of it with honour but must stick to it"....."God!! I would give something to get out of this with honour" And finally after two hospital admissions for probable trench fever, (one being severe) he wrote "I was on the Red Cross train before 8pm yesterday - honourably wounded this time instead of merely sick". So I imagine he realised that he had used his luck and did not renew his contract (yearly apparently). He had got what he needed and that was his honour.

Regie was my step grandfather, married my paternal grandmother( housekeeper) in 1945. 30 plus years  difference in age.

Dave

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A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy

Thanks Dave, I shall read your blog.

You have answered another question that was niggling me, as to how long RAMC men were committed for.

When my grandfather’s unit went to France in early May 1915 they had an MO called Thompsonn who remained with the Battalion until 08/03/16, when he returned to Britain, probably for good. He had been with them in France for.nearly a year, and presumably if you took into account time spent serving in Britain before they went to France that would make a full year, if that was the normal contract period.. .

Thompson's place was taken by a Captain Levine, but my grandfather does not say much about him, the next reference being to McVicker in July 1916, who he said then “had been with us as MO for a short time”. However when I look at the 2/1st Wessex Field Ambulance’s War Diary, there is reference to McVicker being sent hither and thither during the early part of 1916, but not specifically to the 2/5th LF until 02/09/16, just a week before his death. Prior to McVicker's attachment Captain Bennett, also of the 2/1st, had been attached to the 2/5th LF for just 5 days. Presumably 2/1st Wessex Field Ambulance men were being attached to the 2/5th for short periods to plug a gap caused by the difficulty in getting MOs to serve on the front with the Battalions on a longer term basis, and McVicker drew the short straw in being assigned to the 2/5th at a time when they were ordered to launch an attack.

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