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Remembered Today:

Soldier's Rifle/Equipment & Hospital Admission Procedure


SteveE

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On 04/05/2021 at 03:46, Gunner Bailey said:

An interesting point is that the rules might say 'hospital' but in the British Army there were Aid posts, Field Ambulance stations, Dressing Stations and Casualty Clearing stations before anyone got to a hospital. Did the same rules apply to the less sophisticated medical positions? Is it likely that a soldier would be allowed to carry his rifle through the first three but not the fourth?

As a policy they were relieved of arms as soon as possible and as far forward as possible as previously mentioned.  The circumstances varied depending on when and where the wounding took place, but the principle remained the same.  I believe that all organised medical facilities from the RAP rearward fell under the same category as far as the convention was concerned.

 

It’s important to emphasise that circumstances differed widely and also that policy and procedure evolved during the war.  Many wounded men simply dropped their rifle on the battlefield when they were hit and bearers from the RAP had enough trouble getting the casualty to the RAP without worrying about his rifle.  Circumstances in routine defence would often differ from special procedures put in place as part of preparations for a major offensive.  This is what I meant when I said that there were a set of principles, but what actually happened varied.

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Just now, FROGSMILE said:

As a policy they were relieved of arms as soon as possible and as far forward as possible as previously mentioned.  The circumstances varied depending on when and where the wounding took place, but the principle remained the same.

 

Thanks for that. If a soldier just had a minor flesh wound I expect he would be reluctant to give up a rifle he knew well, had zero'd in and knew exactly how it worked. I expect quite a few would have tried to keep their rifles in those circumstances. Probably a few arguments occurred.

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On 04/05/2021 at 03:54, Gunner Bailey said:

 

Thanks for that. If a soldier just had a minor flesh wound I expect he would be reluctant to give up a rifle he knew well, had zero'd in and knew exactly how it worked. I expect quite a few would have tried to keep their rifles in those circumstances. Probably a few arguments occurred.

The key aspect was evacuation, as explained much earlier in the thread.  If a soldier was scratched (slight flesh wound) and patched up and returned to duty then he’d have kept his rifle, so hence the emphasis on the RAP.  If he was categorised as to be evacuated, either by ambulance or on foot (walking wounded) then he was labelled accordingly (invariably) and then relieved of his rifle.  Being near the RAP also meant that his rifle was whenever possible (i.e. as policy) returned to his unit.

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40 minutes ago, TEW said:

Would a CCS or Hospital have more trouble from an officer and his own purchase pistol?

TEW

Because officers kits were personal property, including side arms, they were categorised differently (kept separately) and if the officer was evacuated usually returned by the RAP (or other medical facility) to his unit for safekeeping by the quartermaster.  If he subsequently died his possessions were packed up, including his valise and then returned home to his family (along with the weapon).  This was generally a well run procedure and one familiar to the unit and supply systems.  Many families in WW2 were still in possession of the revolvers of deceased son’s who had been KIA.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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The facts, from RAMC Training 1911, paragraph 206. [my emboldening otherwise verbatim]

 

Ammunition will, when practicable, be taken from wounded men before they are sent to the rear, and will be disposed of under the orders of the divisional commander e.g.; taken over by parties detailed from units of the fighting troops.

Arms, accoutrements, and personal kit of sick and wounded men will be taken to hospital with the men; and thereafter collections of arms etc, not required for patients, will be periodically handed over to ordnance depots, this latter duty being usually carried out in medical units on the L of C.

 

Unless the rules and procedures changed before 1914 [my RAMC library does not have an interim volume] many of the statements above would seem to be wrong.

Edited by Muerrisch
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4 hours ago, Muerrisch said:

The facts, from RAMC Training 1911, paragraph 206. [my capitalisation, otherwise verbatim]

 

Ammunition will, when practicable, be taken from wounded men before they are sent to the rear, and will be disposed of under the orders of the divisional commander e.g.; taken over by parties detailed from units of the fighting troops.

Arms, accoutrements, and personal kit of sick and wounded men will be taken to hospital with the men; and thereafter collections of arms etc, not required for patients, will be periodically handed over to ordnance depots, this latter duty being usually carried out in medical units on the L of C.

 

Unless the rules and procedures changed before 1914 [my RAMC library does not have an interim volume] many of the statements above would seem to be wrong.

They’re out of date.  Look at the photos!  How many men walking rearward to be treated at Dressing Stations do you see carrying their arms and equipment?  How many men being carried on stretchers likewise?  “Facts” - of what occurred on the ground?  I think not.  1911 regulations for RAMC Training reflect practice from the 2nd Boer War, not 1914-1918.  Once labelled after triage and initial assessment a man was relieved of any field equipment and he moved rearward unhindered.

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On 03/05/2021 at 18:42, FROGSMILE said:

From a military perspective it would’ve been about keeping it simple. Easy to understand and easy to apply.

Absolutely - that makes perfect sense, especially thinking back to how long it took me to wade through the Convention!

The protocol adopted makes perfect sense too, given that, logically, if a man was not fit for active service, then he ought not to need any weapons if there was confidence that the Convention was going to be respected, and his not having weapons was perhaps the best means of ensuring that the Convention was respected.

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On 04/05/2021 at 23:24, A Lancashire Fusilier by Proxy said:

Absolutely - that makes perfect sense, especially thinking back to how long it took me to wade through the Convention!

The protocol adopted makes perfect sense too, given that, logically, if a man was not fit for active service, then he ought not to need any weapons if there was confidence that the Convention was going to be respected, and his not having weapons was perhaps the best means of ensuring that the Convention was respected.

Yes, it was also an attempt (in the ideal scenario, which was far from guaranteed) to keep the rifle and equipment with the unit.  Each battalion’s RAP was in principle slightly behind the companies in the line and within a shortish distance from the Bn HQ for the purposes of situational awareness.  The forward echelon (the part of the QM’s support, including reserve ammunition) was also not far away.  The idea was that when wounded were taken to the RAP if they could not be patched up and returned to duty, but had to be evacuated, then their rifle and equipment did not have to be moved far to be returned to store.  The situation varied of course, depending on how, when, and where the soldier was wounded, so it was not a precise art, but a series of principles.  
 

None of this is to say that there were no arms at a hospital whatsoever, there was usually a guard at base hospitals and medical officers were entitled to defend the wounded if attacked, but in reality of course most surgeons eschewed violence given that they spent every waking hour trying to preserve life.  The key aspect was that hospitals did not want piles of weapons and ammunition around in such a way that would leave them open to accusations of being actively participating in warfare and thus forfeiting their right to be considered non-combatants with a special status.  To achieve that it was simplest and easiest to have a very clear policy of no arms, just men who were manifestly hors-de-combat and unthreatening.

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13 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

They’re out of date.  Look at the photos!  How many men walking rearward to be treated at Dressing Stations do you see carrying their arms and equipment?  How many men being carried on stretchers likewise?  “Facts” - of what occurred on the ground?  I think not.  1911 regulations for RAMC Training reflect practice from the 2nd Boer War, not 1914-1918.  Once labelled after triage and initial assessment a man was relieved of any field equipment and he moved rearward unhindered.

 

More facts.

 

My edition of RAMC training 1911 is the 1914 reprint. I am informed by PM that the 1915 reprint uses identical wording re. the fate of arms and accoutrements.

Field Service Regulations 1909 reprinted and amended to 1913 reiterates the process.

 

RAMC Training 1925 [the next one in my collection] has a partial about-turn, in that arms and equipment are intended to get as far back as the MDS [via the RAP and the ADS]  and then:   paragraphs 239 to 241 draw the distinction at the MDS regarding officers' private property and  "soldiers' equipment, which is government property and is returned to ordnance".

 

RAMC Training 1935 paragraph 291 makes it even clearer that the MDS is where the soldier is parted from his arms and equipment. [in all cases his ammunition is to stay with the unit of course].

 

One way we can be sure of when and how doctrine evolved is by the scrutiny of Orders: probably General Orders, in that, even from the outset, it would be absurd for I Corps to have a different process from II Corps.

 

Somewhere, there will be chapter and verse: meantime all we have is lots of photographs of soldiers without weapons and accoutrements ...... we have no knowledge of the fate of the weapons.

 

Unfortunately I do not own The Official Medical History of the War, only the Casualties volume. One would expect to see the hard facts there. It would also be good for our RAMC experts to look at Fd Amb Diaries ......... I have found nothing yet in Army Orders or ACIs, and one would hope such a profound change of process to be documented, rather than the regulations being honoured in the breach.

 

The truth is out there, documented.

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Throughout the war period and dependant on the offensive ( or simply holding the line) the Corps & Division medical arrangements can vary enormously.

 

In many cases only the more serious cases went to a MDS, the others RAP-ADS-CCS. So, in this scenario there would have to be two ordnance collection points, one at MDS for a minority and one at ADS? Both could be a journey by motor or horse ambulance by either a FA or MAC, with personnel organising all the rifles?

 

I've never seen any mention of rifles in a FA diary. Grenades turn up in pockets quite often even back to CCS.

 

CCSs seem to me to make their own rules regarding arms & ordnance. I think I've seen some memos/orders from DMS level regarding an increase in the discovery of ordnance at CCS and suggest additional searches on admission. But as for any actual orders?

TEW

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14 minutes ago, TEW said:

Throughout the war period and dependant on the offensive ( or simply holding the line) the Corps & Division medical arrangements can vary enormously.

 

In many cases only the more serious cases went to a MDS, the others RAP-ADS-CCS. So, in this scenario there would have to be two ordnance collection points, one at MDS for a minority and one at ADS? Both could be a journey by motor or horse ambulance by either a FA or MAC, with personnel organising all the rifles?

 

I've never seen any mention of rifles in a FA diary. Grenades turn up in pockets quite often even back to CCS.

 

CCSs seem to me to make their own rules regarding arms & ordnance. I think I've seen some memos/orders from DMS level regarding an increase in the discovery of ordnance at CCS and suggest additional searches on admission. But as for any actual orders?

TEW

 

Thank you  very much for looking. It does seem as if everything except ammunition was intended to get several stages beyond the RAP, both in the pre-war, war time, and post-war regulations. My collection peters out as WW II begins: Napoleonic to 1940 is enough!

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I think the 1925 iteration of RAMC Training merely reflected the best practice that emerged from 1914-1918, i.e. what was happening on the ground.  Practice rather than theory.  That arms and equipment were taken from the labelled (FMC) wounded before they moved rearward is manifestly obvious to anyone who scrutinises the contemporary photos.  The practicality of hard pressed medical staff backloading said arms and equipment from the collection zone and passing them rearward (using what?), away from the unit that they belonged to speaks for itself.  
 

As mentioned, the circumstances of the wounded varied according to the vagaries of time and space and there could only be a set of principles that were then applied as the prevailing circumstances permitted.  It’s worth reiterating that collecting the weapons and ammunition was not the business of hospitals, which as I recall it is what this thread was about.  The experience recounted by John Lucy of the Royal Irish Rifles is a useful example in case.  Also, see the folowing for comprehensive stretcher bearer detail: http://unsworks.unsw.edu.au/fapi/datastream/unsworks:36833/SOURCE02?view=true

Edited by FROGSMILE
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The problem with slavish adherence to using  regulations  as" facts" is that it ignores the possibility that these facts can, and were, ignored. The actualité in action was very different. Research means looking beyond official documents and challenging orthodoxy where appropriate.

 

TR

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I've yet to trawl my diaries yet but will add it to the to do list. I'll see if I can find the CCS that had an on site arms store and any other references to arms.

 

I don't think the Malins' film of Minden Post exhibits any wounded with rifles but as Minden Post served numerous functions any arms or ordnance may have been removed immediately on arrival.

TEW

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1 hour ago, Terry_Reeves said:

The problem with slavish adherence to using  regulations  as" facts" is that it ignores the possibility that these facts can, and were, ignored. The actualité in action was very different. Research means looking beyond official documents and challenging orthodoxy where appropriate.

 

TR

 

Agreed. Especially helpful if the research gathers verifiable material. with references given. I look forward to seeing some that I can read.

 

There is a sharp contrast between a policy of leaving weapons and accoutrements at the unit RAP [as has been confidently claimed] and every official protocol that has been adduced so far. These were pre-war, war-time, and two examples inter-war. There is no suggestion anywhere that the wounded had to carry their rifles themselves, so all the photographs shown are not evidence. .

 

The Lucy example quoted does not support a practice of retention of rifles at the unit: the incident took place as far back as a hospital.

 

At this remove, as none of us were there, we have to rely on the printed word. At the moment we have none to support: statements such as:

"If a soldier was received at the RAP with his weapon and was to be evacuated further up the casualty chain then it would have been taken from him then and backloaded to the Battalion Transport and Rear Echelon"

 

Quite the converse.

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Muerrisch said:

 

Agreed. Especially helpful if the research gathers verifiable material. with references given. I look forward to seeing some that I can read.

 

There is a sharp contrast between a policy of leaving weapons and accoutrements at the unit RAP [as has been confidently claimed] and every official protocol that has been adduced so far. These were pre-war, war-time, and two examples inter-war. There is no suggestion anywhere that the wounded had to carry their rifles themselves, so all the photographs shown are not evidence. .

 

The Lucy example quoted does not support a practice of retention of rifles at the unit: the incident took place as far back as a hospital.

 

At this remove, as none of us were there, we have to rely on the printed word. At the moment we have none to support: statements such as:

"If a soldier was received at the RAP with his weapon and was to be evacuated further up the casualty chain then it would have been taken from him then and backloaded to the Battalion Transport and Rear Echelon"

 

Quite the converse.

 

 

 

 

You are seeming to relish in being argumentative as if for its own sake, unless it’s just my perception.  Let’s look at it from the other way around.  Infantry soldier wounded and collected as per training to the RAP, which as I have said was close behind the companies and as adjacent as possible to the battalion’s Tac HQ and forward echelon. Where does his rifle and equipment go given that he’s right next to his own unit’s infrastructure? In none of the photos of RAPs and DS or CCS are weapons piles (for backloading) visible, not in a single one, to somehow pretend that they in every case just happen to be out of sight in order to suit your argument is manifestly risible.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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On 05/05/2021 at 20:36, FROGSMILE said:

You are seeming to relish in being argumentative as if for its own sake, unless it’s just my perception.  Let’s look at it from the other way around.  Infantry soldier wounded and collected as per training to the RAP, which as I have said was close behind the companies and as adjacent as possible to the battalion’s Tac HQ and forward echelon. Where does his rifle and equipment go given that he’s right next to his own unit’s infrastructure? In none of the photos of RAPs and DS or CCS are weapons visible, not in a single one, to somehow pretend that they in every case just happen to be out of sight in order to suit your argument is manifestly risible.

 

The Forum is, or used to be, a place for informed debate, where people could disagree, without abuse, and where it was legitimate to question statements that were made without any evidence to support them.

 

Phrases such as the following do not belong here:

 

to somehow pretend

 

relish in being argumentative as if for its own sake,

 

to suit your argument is manifestly risible

 

I remain hopeful that other members may be keen to dig around for the truth of the matter. 

 

Meanwhile:

 

Respect for your fellow members

Discussion will be conducted in a civil manner at all times.

Members may not use language which is profane, aggressive or in any way abusive,

Members must respect the right of others to express their opinion.

 

 

Edited by Muerrisch
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On 05/05/2021 at 22:03, Muerrisch said:

I remain hopeful that other members may be keen to dig around for the truth of the matter. 

As I started this thread I should perhaps thank you all for your considered opinions on this matter and for pointing towards some documentary evidence as to the process.  As Muerrisch has suggested I've been encouraged to have a dig around to see what else I can find and, although I've found nothing definitive for the period concerned, the Field Service Regulations either side of it do tend to suggest that a soldiers weapon did make it back with him further than the R.A.P. and probably back as far as the Clearing Hospital/Station.

 

Field Service Regulations Part II: Organization and Administration 1909 Reprinted with Amendments 1913, Chapter XI, Section 90.3, Page 119...

"Ammunition will, when practicable, be taken from wounded men before they are sent to the rear, and will be disposed of under the order of the divisional commander.  Otherwise arms, ammunition, accoutrements, and personal kit of sick and wounded men will be taken to hospital* along with the men.  Arms, &c, not required for patients, will be periodically handed over by hospitals to ordnance depots." 

I assume from my reading/understanding of the Regulations that the term "hospital" is here applied to the Clearing Hospital, later Casualty Clearing Station.

 

By 1930 the process seems to be generally the same but instead of the Clearing Hospital/Station it's the Main Dressing Station that seems to be the point at which arms were removed from the sick and wounded.  

 

Field Service Regulations Volume 1: Organization and Administration 1930 Reprinted with Amendments (Nos.1-11) 1939, Chapter XV, Section 125.5, page 207...

"Arms, equipment, and personal kit of sick and wounded will be taken to the field ambulance with them.  Ammunition will invariably be taken from wounded men before they are sent to the rear.  Arms and equipment will be sent to M.D.S. and there collected and disposed of under divisional or corps arrangements."

 

All of which fits nicely with "my" man's diary entry, which prompted this post, as his original rifle and equipment would have been taken from him no later than the C.C.S. and, as he was returning to his unit from a hospital further down the evacuation chain, he then had to draw a new rifle and equipment from store.

 

Steve 

Edited by SteveE
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On 05/05/2021 at 17:32, Terry_Reeves said:

The problem with slavish adherence to using  regulations  as" facts" is that it ignores the possibility that these facts can, and were, ignored. The actualité in action was very different. Research means looking beyond official documents and challenging orthodoxy where appropriate.

 

TR

 

Wise words.

 

In my field of ordnance there are people who slavishly believe that every instruction to manufacturers, filling factories and test inspectors was followed to the letter.  It certainly wasn't and there are many instances with such items as the No 3 grenade and the Mills No 5 where instructions were not followed in factories or in the field.

 

In this case I suspect many of the medical staff were rather more concerned with their patients than with the ammo in their pockets. 

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2 hours ago, Gunner Bailey said:

 

Wise words.

 

In my field of ordnance there are people who slavishly believe that every instruction to manufacturers, filling factories and test inspectors was followed to the letter.  It certainly wasn't and there are many instances with such items as the No 3 grenade and the Mills No 5 where instructions were not followed in factories or in the field.

 

In this case I suspect many of the medical staff were rather more concerned with their patients than with the ammo in their pockets. 

 

Yes, of course.

 

But a lot of material on this thread claims, without any reference, that there was widespread and systematic disregard for regulations. 

 

Somebody saying so doesn't make it so. The study of history is based on evidence.

 

It may be that the scenario described was the way things were , I am totally open to receiving convincing demonstration of that.

It is precisely because I have an open mind that I continue digging through Army Orders, and because I have today re-checked Fourth Army Standing Orders 1918, a comprehensive volume detailing how the army, after four years of experience, was to go about just about every aspect of its  business.  I have checked the index thoroughly. There is a large section on MEDICAL, and very detailed instructions for the handling and disposal of the wounded. One looks in vain for mention of any departure from the regulations quoted. Not only do the rifles and accoutrements of the wounded fail to get a mention, the removal of their ammunition also is not covered.

 

This might be either because the Fourth Army expected the rules to be followed, or was totally relaxed about a substantially different method and could not be bothered to bless it.

 

I still think that the matter would be covered in The Official Medical History of the War.  If, as we are asked to believe, the army modified the disposal of arms etc during the war, why would it reinstate the regulations [albeit rewritten] in 1925 and again in 1935? 

Edited by Muerrisch
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17 hours ago, SteveE said:

As I started this thread I should perhaps thank you all for your considered opinions on this matter and for pointing towards some documentary evidence as to the process.  As Muerrisch has suggested I've been encouraged to have a dig around to see what else I can find and, although I've found nothing definitive for the period concerned, the Field Service Regulations either side of it do tend to suggest that a soldiers weapon did make it back with him further than the R.A.P. and probably back as far as the Clearing Hospital/Station.

 

Field Service Regulations Part II: Organization and Administration 1909 Reprinted with Amendments 1913, Chapter XI, Section 90.3, Page 119...

"Ammunition will, when practicable, be taken from wounded men before they are sent to the rear, and will be disposed of under the order of the divisional commander.  Otherwise arms, ammunition, accoutrements, and personal kit of sick and wounded men will be taken to hospital* along with the men.  Arms, &c, not required for patients, will be periodically handed over by hospitals to ordnance depots." 

I assume from my reading/understanding of the Regulations that the term "hospital" is here applied to the Clearing Hospital, later Casualty Clearing Station.

 

By 1930 the process seems to be generally the same but instead of the Clearing Hospital/Station it's the Main Dressing Station that seems to be the point at which arms were removed from the sick and wounded.  

 

Field Service Regulations Volume 1: Organization and Administration 1930 Reprinted with Amendments (Nos.1-11) 1939, Chapter XV, Section 125.5, page 207...

"Arms, equipment, and personal kit of sick and wounded will be taken to the field ambulance with them.  Ammunition will invariably be taken from wounded men before they are sent to the rear.  Arms and equipment will be sent to M.D.S. and there collected and disposed of under divisional or corps arrangements."

 

All of which fits nicely with "my" man's diary entry, which prompted this post, as his original rifle and equipment would have been taken from him at the C.C.S. and, as he was returning to his unit from a hospital further down the evacuation chain, he then had to draw a new rifle and equipment from store.

 

Steve 


Hello Steve,

 

I’m aware of the details laid down in the 1909-13 set of Field Service Regulations that you mention and have my own copies, but chose not to quote them because I don’t think that they reflected what actually happened in practice between 1914 and 1918.  I will make one last attempt at explaining this and then leave it up to individuals to form their own opinion, as it seems to have reached a stage where this thread has become about a personal axe to grind, rather than about the subject itself. 
 

Regulations can be useful and are the delight of bureaucrats everywhere, but they can be quite arid and often offer up more questions than they answer.  I prefer where possible to use my own words to explain procedures in a step-by-step way, with a view to painting a picture that will make things easier to understand for those many who post here without any direct experience of the British Army and its traditional ways of doing things.  


I have tried to do this in the preceding posts ever since you made your first inquiry, whilst at the same time emphasising that although there were a set of principles to follow, what actually happened depended on circumstances.  What I mean by that is that the process evolved throughout the course of the war.  A RAP and evacuation chain during the retreat to Mons was significantly different to one during the Somme in July 1916, Passchendaele in 1917, or the last hundred days in 1918, let alone in Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, or Salonika.  For that reason only principles tend to be laid down, and after that it’s adaptation by people on the ground.  Those who’ve soldiered instinctively understand that.  It can be more difficult for academics and theorists.

 

To understand what went on with weapons and equipment it’s important to reiterate the battle space in its medical context.  From the point at which a soldier received his wounds, rearward to the place where he first received assessment and treatment from a medical officer, was called the Collection Zone and it terminated at the Regimental Aid Post (RAP).  


It was within the Collection Zone that the wounded, and in theory their personal equipment were collected, and the bearer staff within the RAP, part of each infantry battalion’s establishment, were specifically intended for the medical role.  
 

Some wounded men literally crawled backwards from the point at which they were wounded, some were assisted, or carried by bearers, and others made their own way from shell hole to shell hole.  All of them aimed to end up at the RAP; some still had their arms and equipment, others had partial equipment, and some none (especially if stretchered in).
 

It’s well recorded that far more men made it out of the collection zone than did rifles, and so substantial was this differential that later in the war salvage companies were established with a raison d’etre of collecting arms and equipment that had been abandoned on the battlefield.  Even so, large numbers of rifles have been dug up since the war and continue to be so even today.

 

The space from the RAP to the base hospital was known as the Evacuation Zone and it had a number of way stations along its length.  It’s important to note that the RAP was at the boundary between the Collection Zone and the Evacuation Zone.  The Evacuation Zone was the space within which it was intended that the wounded soldier and his personal equipment were (separately) evacuated.  
 

Most wounded soldiers arrived at the RAP where they were seen by a Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) for assessment that later became known as Triage (adopted from French best practice) and usually it was at that point that weapons, equipment and ammunition would, if still in possession, be laid to one side (if RAPs were bypassed this might take place further rearwards).  The arms and equipment were sent rearward under unit and ordnance chain arrangements.
 

The soldier once assessed and given initial treatment might be returned to duty, or labelled (field medical card attached) for more extensive treatment at the next stage in the evacuation zone chain, the Advanced Dressing Station (ADS).  The labelled men were divided into two categories, those that could walk (walking wounded) and the stretcher borne, with the latter carried by bearers belonging to the Field Ambulance which operated the ADS.  Ergo these wounded men of both categories were now moving rearward from the RAP to the ADS without their weapons and equipment and this is seen in many of the photos shown previously in this thread.  
 

Once at the ADS further stabilisation could be carried out and men who might have bypassed the RAP be relieved of their equipment in a similar way, which was then also to be relayed rearward, as per with the RAP.  From the ADS the wounded were moved rearward to the next station in the Evacuation Zone, the Casualty Clearing Station (CCS).  When this was over a longer distance various bearer relay stations were set up where the wounded changed hands.  Again, no weapons, or equipment are seen in the photos where this movement is taking place.
 

On arrival at the CCS further stabilisation took place and, later on, it became policy to divide the wounded into serious categories like head wounds, limbs, etc. with a view to sending them to Main Dressing Stations (MDS) for the more serious cases.  As with the CCS any men who had arrived still with equipment were relieved of it, again to be backloaded.  CCS, and MDS and sometime separate, Walking Wounded Collection Points (WWCP) too, evacuated according to the need for priority movement, all their wounded to the Base Hospitals (BH) by motorised ambulances. It was at the BH that the Evacuation Zone terminated.  
 

Weapons and equipment backloaded separately from the Evacuation Zone  were sent to salvage and ordnance depots for assessment and refurbishment before preparation for reissue.  Ammunition returned to units at the earliest point in the chain possible.

 

I stand by all my earlier posts.  Weapons were taken from wounded soldiers at the earliest possible point within the Evacuation Zone, and this varied as I’ve consistently said according to the prevailing circumstances, and depending upon at which point in the evacuation chain a wounded man arrived.  The earliest point was the RAP, whilst others might arrive direct to a ADS, or CCS/MDS depending upon where they were when wounded.  As mentioned in my first reply to your query, the rifle was taken away from those wounded ‘evacuated’, backloaded through a well practiced ordnance chain, and then reissued to a soldier subsequently.
 

1.  Regulations lay down principles with broad brush strokes, what actually happens on the ground is determined by circumstances.  

 

2.  Contemporary, clear photographs are far better evidence than regulations.

 

 

 

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Would it be churlish to say that, in the modern battle space, arms ammunition and equipment is taken from the Casualty prior to transfer out of the battle space. The weaponry was issued by the Company CQMS via an issue form (GS1033 I recall) and as it was part of the Company TofE it 'belonged' to the Company and loss of it is reportable. These occurrences have developed out of past bureaucracy, built up due to practical considerations, as I found out to my cost when signing out equipment for my Platoon from the CQMS which wasn't actually taken on the exercise, my signature was on a withdrawal form but even as I hadn't actually taken possession of the items I was still responsible for them, for which a charge of cost would be raised against MY personal wages. Fortunately the CQMS was teaching me a valuable lesson and the items were still in the Store, so no pain was incurred by myself other than embarrassment. In an age when paperwork was vitally important and the Q Blokes tended to be sticklers for accounting for equipment, alongside correct paperwork, I would believe that most if not all arms ammunition and equipment wouldn't usually get past the Coy or Batt Aid Posts. Obviously there will be exceptions but broadly speaking I would expect that this was the norm, given the complexity of the Supply side of large scale operations in a foreign theatre, it seems logical so in an imperfect situation was in all probability the 'normal' practice, even with a lack of 'formal' evidence...hopefully this doesn't detract from this very interesting conversation...

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As I was the person to introduce reference to the John Lucy example, I think I should make sure that I have quoted the source accurately and completely, given that there seems to be a real difference of opinion between two regular contributors to this Forum as to what normal procedure was with regard to the weapons of the wounded.

Reading Lucy’s account, I am sure that he was recounting what he saw on a particular occasion to the best of his recollection, and the detail with which he describes it does suggest that his recollection was pretty good, so hopefully we can regard his account as the equivalent of a snapshot evidencing what occurred on at least that occasion, though whether that was in accordance with army regulations or (if different) what was normally done on the ground, I am not qualified to comment. Also, the situation may not have been entirely typical, as at this time (26 August 1914) the British army was in retreat, and being hard-pressed by the Germans.

On 05/05/2021 at 19:48, Muerrisch said:

The Lucy example quoted does not support a practice of retention of rifles at the unit: the incident took place as far back as a hospital.

Because of the retreat, to describe the Red Cross hospital in Caudry as being “far back” is not quite correct in this particular instance. It was in fact virtually on the front line, and was the very first port of call for Lucy’s comrade, the wounded Lance Corporal Letts. Letts’ wound had been suffered in the course of what seems to have been a rear guard action mounted by Lucy’s unit and others against the advancing Germans, so they were virtually at the rear of the retreat.

Lucy was told by a resident of the town that there was a “new hospital opened up” in the town, so it is possible that the hospital had right from its formation been on or near the front line. Even if it had at one time been further behind the front line, however, by 26 August 1914 it would definitely have realized that it could expect to be the first port of call for the wounded, and that the wounded would – or might - still have their weapons with them, whatever the truth about whether they normally would have done so or not (depending upon whether Muerrisch or Frogsmile is correct).

With regard to what Lucy actually says, it may be significant that he reports that the French doctor’s words on the arrival of himself and Letts at the hospital were: “No, no, monsieur. No arms in a hospital. It is forbidden. Put them outside”. That could be misreporting or a misunderstanding on the part of Lucy, or it could be a misunderstanding on the part of the doctor as to whether weapons were allowed in a hospital. If the words are correctly reported, it suggests that whether on the front line, or behind the front line, the doctor would have required the weapons to be left outside. Might it also suggest that he would not have expected to see weapons still with the wounded if they had been further back, since surely, if the weapons were routinely being collected at hospital, weapons would normally have been allowed into the hospital in order there to be correctly processed for onward transmission to the appropriate place? But maybe that would be consistent with the weapons being taken away from the wounded at the CCS, so never reaching the Red Cross hospital, which surely normally would have been further back? And anyway, even if there was normally a system of collection within the hospital, when the hospital was virtually on the front line, and about to be overrun by the Germans, and there being no likelihood in practical terms of the hospital being able to send any weapons on anywhere, it would not be surprising if any such “normal” system was abandoned in favour of the simpler and safer course of simply not allowing weapons into the hospital at all, so it may just be that the nuance of the words as reported by Lucy is not quite correct.

If there was normally a system of collection and onward transmission by a hospital, it would surely be evidenced somewhere in hospital regulations. To the lay person, it does actually seem quite a cumbersome system in practical terms, as Frogsmile says, if all equipment apart from ammunition - or as much as possible - had to be taken to a hospital before it could be returned to store, though this does seem to be what the regulations say.

I did wonder, in relation specifically to the Lucy example, whether different considerations might apply in the case of a Red Cross hospital to those applying to other hospitals, but I note that when my grandfather was treated at BRC No 2 he refers to the doctor as “Major”, so would the same set of regulations have covered both Red Cross and other hospitals?

One final point: I referred in my earlier post to Lucy referring to Letts as “pig-headed” because he was reluctant to abandon his weapons. When I look more closely at the book, I see that a page or so earlier, after describing bandaging Letts as best he could, and saying that, despite this, Letts still “bled profusely, and limped badly”, Lucy says:

Letts turned obstinate and would not part with his rifle and ammunition.

So clearly Lucy had expected Letts to part with his rifle and ammunition even before they got to the hospital. But it is impossible to say whether that was just because Letts clearly had no further use for it, and it was hampering their progress, so he was expecting the rifle and ammunition simply to be abandoned, or because he wanted Letts to hand over the rifle and ammunition to some other part of the retreating force to be returned to the unit as soon as possible.               

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1 hour ago, FROGSMILE said:


Hello Steve,

 

I’m aware of the details laid down in the 1909-13 set of Field Service Regulations that you mention and have my own copies, but chose not to quote them because I don’t think that they reflected what actually happened in practice between 1914 and 1918.  I will make one last attempt at explaining this and then leave it up to individuals to form their own opinion, as it seems to have reached a stage where this thread has become about a personal axe to grind, rather than about the subject itself. 
 

Regulations can be useful and are the delight of bureaucrats everywhere, but they can be quite arid and often offer up more questions than they answer.  I prefer where possible to use my own words to explain procedures in a step-by-step way, with a view to painting a picture that will make things easier to understand for those many who post here without any direct experience of the British Army and its traditional ways of doing things.  


I have tried to do this in the preceding posts ever since you made your first inquiry, whilst at the same time emphasising that although there were a set of principles to follow, what actually happened depended on circumstances.  What I mean by that is that the process evolved throughout the course of the war.  A RAP and evacuation chain during the retreat to Mons was significantly different to one during the Somme in July 1916, Passchendaele in 1917, or the last hundred days in 1918, let alone in Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, or Salonika.  For that reason only principles tend to be laid down, and after that it’s adaptation by people on the ground.  Those who’ve soldiered instinctively understand that.  It can be more difficult for academics and theorists.

 

To understand what went on with weapons and equipment it’s important to reiterate the battle space in its medical context.  From the point at which a soldier received his wounds, rearward to the place where he first received assessment and treatment from a medical officer, was called the Collection Zone and it terminated at the Regimental Aid Post (RAP).  


It was within the Collection Zone that the wounded, and in theory their personal equipment were collected, and the bearer staff within the RAP, part of each infantry battalion’s establishment, were specifically intended for the medical role.  
 

Some wounded men literally crawled backwards from the point at which they were wounded, some were assisted, or carried by bearers, and others made their own way from shell hole to shell hole.  All of them aimed to end up at the RAP; some still had their arms and equipment, others had partial equipment, and some none (especially if stretchered in).
 

It’s well recorded that far more men made it out of the collection zone than did rifles, and so substantial was this differential that later in the war salvage companies were established with a raison d’etre of collecting arms and equipment that had been abandoned on the battlefield.  Even so, large numbers of rifles have been dug up since the war and continue to be so even today.

 

The space from the RAP to the base hospital was known as the Evacuation Zone and it had a number of way stations along its length.  It’s important to note that the RAP was at the boundary between the Collection Zone and the Evacuation Zone.  The Evacuation Zone was the space within which it was intended that the wounded soldier and his personal equipment were (separately) evacuated.  
 

Most wounded soldiers arrived at the RAP where they were seen by a Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) for assessment that later became known as Triage (adopted from French best practice) and usually it was at that point that weapons, equipment and ammunition would, if still in possession, be laid to one side (if RAPs were bypassed this might take place further rearwards).  The arms and equipment were sent rearward under unit and ordnance chain arrangements.
 

The soldier once assessed and given initial treatment might be returned to duty, or labelled (field medical card attached) for more extensive treatment at the next stage in the evacuation zone chain, the Advanced Dressing Station (ADS).  The labelled men were divided into two categories, those that could walk (walking wounded) and the stretcher borne, with the latter carried by bearers belonging to the Field Ambulance which operated the ADS.  Ergo these wounded men of both categories were now moving rearward from the RAP to the ADS without their weapons and equipment and this is seen in many of the photos shown previously in this thread.  
 

Once at the ADS further stabilisation could be carried out and men who might have bypassed the RAP be relieved of their equipment in a similar way, which was then also to be relayed rearward, as per with the RAP.  From the ADS the wounded were moved rearward to the next station in the Evacuation Zone, the Casualty Clearing Station (CCS).  When this was over a longer distance various bearer relay stations were set up where the wounded changed hands.  Again, no weapons, or equipment are seen in the photos where this movement is taking place.
 

On arrival at the CCS further stabilisation took place and, later on, it became policy to divide the wounded into serious categories like head wounds, limbs, etc. with a view to sending them to Main Dressing Stations (MDS) for the more serious cases.  As with the CCS any men who had arrived still with equipment were relieved of it, again to be backloaded.  CCS, and MDS and sometime separate, Walking Wounded Collection Points (WWCP) too, evacuated according to the need for priority movement, all their wounded to the Base Hospitals (BH) by motorised ambulances. It was at the BH that the Evacuation Zone terminated.  
 

Weapons and equipment backloaded separately from the Evacuation Zone  were sent to salvage and ordnance depots for assessment and refurbishment before preparation for reissue.  Ammunition returned to units at the earliest point in the chain possible.

 

I stand by all my earlier posts.  Weapons were taken from wounded soldiers at the earliest possible point within the Evacuation Zone, and this varied as I’ve consistently said according to the prevailing circumstances, and depending upon at which point in the evacuation chain a wounded man arrived.  The earliest point was the RAP, whilst others might arrive direct to a ADS, or CCS/MDS depending upon where they were when wounded.  As mentioned in my first reply to your query, the rifle was taken away from those wounded ‘evacuated’, backloaded through a well practiced ordnance chain, and then reissued to a soldier subsequently.
 

1.  Regulations lay down principles with broad brush strokes, what actually happens on the ground is determined by circumstances.  

 

2.  Contemporary, clear photographs are far better evidence than regulations.

 

 

 

 

A lot of words, no evidence, and patronising.

 

The "I was in the army so I know what happened 110 years ago" card is wearisome.

 

Noting that this is Frogsmile's last attempt at explaining, this seems a good moment to draw a line under my contributions. 

 

 

 

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