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Remembered Today:

Identity of RAMC from Newspaper article 1915


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I thought it might be interesting to share a newspaper article from the ‘Methodist Recorder’ written by Reverend O S Watkins, Chaplain of the 14 Field Ambulance. This records the experience of the FA during the battle for Hill 60, April 1915. I have identified most of the RAMC officers that are mentioned apart from Captain Lindsay. Any help in finding more details about would be appreciated. 












Edited by David_Blanchard
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Is this any use to you David? RAMC at Hill 60.

Has received the following letter from, his son, Thomas, who has been at the front with the R.A.M.C., since the commencement of the war, and recounts in his letter the effects of the poisonous gases used by the Germans where they were driven from hill 60;--4th May, 1915. Dear Parents—I received your very welcome letter and was delighted to hear that all at home are well. I am in pretty good health, than God. In your last letter you remarked that all at home were wondering how I stuck it out so well; to tell you nothing but the truth, I believe it is the prayers of all at home that are giving is all the strength to be able for the very arduous duties we have time to perform, and these have been pretty hard for the past fortnight. Your are no doubt aware by now of the battle for Hill 60, and the glorious deeds that have been performed by our troops in the taking of that ever to be remembered place. I have had the honour to do my little share on taking the wounded from there for conveyance to the base and other hospitals. The Germans held this hill and had it so completely entrenched that they were under the impression it was absolutely impregnable and could not by force of arms be taken from them, but it was, and according to the reports from their headquarters they say that they recaptured it and hold it again, but they are liars. You have also, I am sure, heard about them poisoning our troops by some sort of deadly gas. Well I am very sorry to say such is the case. He Germans are so exasperated at losing the Hill and being unable to take Ypres that they are using this poisonous gas. On Saturday night last we retired for a little well-earned rest and were scarcely lying down when the Orderly Sergeant awoke us and informed us that the Germans were after shelling our trenches with poisonous gases; we were out of our dug-outs in a jiffy, and our officer, who worked very hard I must say, told us that it lay in our hands to save a lot of lives. We went to work with a will greater that we ever did before. We were well accustomed to carrying wounded men—after nine weary months—but none of us ever imagined we would have the painful duty of carrying poisoned men. The sights that met our eyes this memorable May morning shall never leave our memories. There were heaps of our brave fellows dead and dying; they could not defend themselves against the damnable instrument of destruction used by the Germans, and it is shocking to think that when they couldn’t meet our fellows in fair fighting they poisoned them. It is a foul and loathsome crime and I think the worst class of savages would perpetrate such an act, but the cowardly and brutal act has been done, and we all pray that a day of reckoning is near at hand for this cowardly crew. A few mornings ago for the first time I saw the gallant Connaughts on their way to the trenches ad I need no tell you how delighted I was when I heard some of my old town boys bidding me “good morning” and a few moments after I grasped many of them by the hand. I was on the look out for the familiar faces, and in the distance I heard a familiar voice and told a chum I knew the voice, and who should it be but my bold John McLoughlin, of Shambles Street. They were all in the best of spirits, some singing, some whistling a haunting Irish air and others passing jokes, and a little further down the road I heard a tin whistle, and the tune the musician was playing was none other than the “Boys of Wexford.” Shortly after another regiment swung into view and we were all under the impression that it was another one, but they were the Manchester’s, and really, if it is not an Irish regiment there is an Irish element about it that makes one believe that all Irishmen with the colours are not in Irish regiments, and indicates that those who enlist in Ireland alone cannot be taken as a basis to calculate the number of the Irish serving at the front and in the army in England. The reason I mention it is because I saw in the papers that the Orangemen allege that Irish nationalists and National Volunteers are not toeing the line as they (the Orangemen) are, but when everything is reckoned up I am sure we nationalists and Catholics will be in the majority. This is more than ever I said before about my career out here, as I didn’t wish to be bumming, however, a fellow cannot pass over such incidents without referring to them in some little way or another, and if ever there was such a place as “hell upon earth,” then I have passed through it, and although I was in many a tight corner since I came out here and I never experienced anything so terrible and deadly as what occurred during the past couple of weeks. Our work after the poison bombs at Hill 60 was ghastly in the extreme, still after that and all the shot and shell I have passed through I am happy to say, thanks to God, His Virgin Mother and your prayers, I came out of it all without a scratch, I had a letter from my brother, Dan, a few days ago, I am glad he is not in his grave out here. He got his won baptism of fire here, and I am glad to know he has got over his wounds, and that he is again fit for active service and anxiously awaiting the day when he can get another crack at the murderous Huns. Get a Thanksgiving Mass offered up for us. We should be very grateful to God for the way He has preserved us. I am not one bit afraid, I was never so brave in all my life and I feel God is deserving of all our homage for His goodness to us. With love to all at home, I remain your affectionate son, Thomas.

Captain Ernest Lee. How He Won Promotion, At Hill 60. Narrative by Methodist Chaplain. A graphic story is told in the “Methodist Recorder” of the gallantry of Lieutenant Ernest Lee, now Captain Lee, of the 14th Field Ambulance, 5th Division, opf the Expeditionary Force in France, in the great fight for Hill 60, which, by the way, has, under the concentrated fire of German and British artillery, since practically disappeared. The writer of the story is the Rev. Owen Spencer Watkins, the Methodist Chaplain with the troops.

  Lieutenant Lee is the son of Mr Edward Lee, of Bellevue, Blackrock, and his brother, Lieutenant J B Lee, it will be recalled, was killed at the Dardanelles, while another brother, Lieutenant Tennyson Lee, has been wounded. Since the letter was written Lieutenant Ernest Lee has been promoted to be Captain, as the result of his gallantry on the occasion. The Rev. O.S. Watkins says;-Probably the best method of conveying to you the sort of work that was done, and the conditions under which it was performed, would be to describe my own experience during those days-but be it understood that my experiences were child’s play beside those of Major Hannafin, and his gallant band. Just after dark on the Saturday night I went out with Lieutenant Lee, R.A.M.C., taking a number of motor ambulances with us, our instructions being to try and get in touch with major Hannafin. Having reached the farm which was to be used as loading point, we left the motors and proceeded on foot. What a walk!

“Zip! Zip! Zip!”

  The noise of the fight rolling above us, the zip, zip, zip of bullets-overthrows from the fight-falling all around us. Where the track was very exposed we crouched low and ran our hardest. Twice shells hit the path a few yards in front of us, but in the providence of God did not explode. If they had, as one put it later, “we should now be searching for small souvenirs or a parson and a doctor.” At last we reached Blaune Poort Farm, where the Norfolk Regiment had a dressing station and where Lieutenant Brownson, the medical officer, was already crowded out with wounded, who were pouring in in a continual stream, though the regiment was only on the edge of the fight. He wanted bearers, so Lieutenant Lee got on the field telephone and ordered up all that were available, whilst I made myself busy with the dying, and felt my journey was not in vain. The house rocked with the concussion of bursting shell, bullets beat on the roof; every moment we expected to be swept off the face of the earth.

Medical Officer’s Baptism.

  The two medical officers were fine. Both had only recently joined us, and were receiving their baptism of fire, but neither gave any sign that conditions were unusual or the danger great. Calmly, with hands that were perfectly steady, they tied up arteries, bandaged shattered limbs, and, with the dim light of a candle, or, in more critical cases, by the light of my electric torch, performed such operations as were needed for the saving of life or the stopping of haemorrhage. At last the bearers came, nut there were too many cases for them to be carried in one journey, and they left with instructions to return again immediately. They were, however, so long in returning that again we had recourse to the field telephone, only to learn that the need for them had been greater elsewhere, and they had been sent up through the railway cutting to join Major Hannafin.

The Dug-Outs.

  He, we were informed, had his dug-outs already over-crowded with wounded. No more could be got in, and all who remained outside were hit and hit again by bursting shrapnel, We, therefore, decided to start back and try to get more bearers. As we left the shelter of the farm we met it-rifle fire which took our breath away. Bending double, we raced for the shelter of a bark, and, crouching close against the wall, listened to the bullets beating on the ground two yards away. It was a “close call.” At the moment we left the house the Germans had started a fresh counter-attack, and we were getting the “over-throws” from the fight.

Lieutenant Lee’s Plunge.

  By and By there was a lull, and we made a dash for the plank by which the stream was bridged at this point. I got it, but Lieutenant Lee missed it, and plunged head over heels into the water. For a dreadful moment I though he was ‘hit,’but he was out almost as soon as he was in and as we travelled over the rough track at our top speed-bullets seeming to come from all directions-he assured me he was not hurt. Still ill-luck pursued him. Whilst we had been in Blaune Poort Farm a high explosive shell had burst right on the path, tearing a great hole in which you could have buried a horse. Lieutenant Lee, running his hardest, failed to see it in the darkness, took a sickening header into it, and emerged bruised and shaken but still game. When we reached the place where we had left the motors we found it already full to over-flowing with wounded-house, barns, stables, garden, and also by the roadside they lay. The motor ambulances if the British Red cross had arrived, so I took charge of the loading, whilst Lieutenant Lee, the water still running out of him from his plunge in the stream, settled down to dress wounds and do what he might for the comfort of his patients. When all the cars were loaded I rode in on the step of one of them, in order to try and get more bearers, and, if possible, more medical officers.

Collecting the Wounded.

  I met with a measure of success, for Captain Beddows had just returned from “collecting” in another part of the line, and he was able to return with me, bringing his bearers with him. He now took command of the dressing station, working amongst the wounded, himself leading the bearers when they went again to Blaume Poort Farm and the deadly railway cutting. Later he was needed at the asylum, where the wounded were now gathered in great numbers and Captain Lindsay was drawn in from his station on the hill. All through the night the ghastly stream poured in. I will not attempt to picture that dressing station-blood, horror, shrieks and groans. I wish I could forget it myself, and do not desire that anybody else should have to carry the burden of that memory.

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Capture of Hill 60.

Stirring Description by Officer “Eye Witness.”

Germans in Shirt Sleeves.

Heroism of Infantry Under Storm of Shell.

  “Eye-Witness,” in the appended despatch, writes much more like the old fashioned war correspondent than he has been doing up to present. It is one of the best accounts of a fight that has come from the front.

Press Bureau, London.

Sunday Afternoon.

  The following descriptive account, which has been communicated by an “Eye-Witness” present with the General Headquarters, continues an supplements the narrative published on the 22nd inst. Of the movements of the British Force and the French Army in immediate touch with it;-

23rd April, 1915.

  During the last few days the area south east of Ypres has continued to be the centre of interest; and the narrative of the fighting there will be given up to the night of Wednesday, 21st.

What the “Hill” is Like.

  In order to make the story clear it is necessary, at the risk of some repetition, to go back to the evening of 17th April, when the attack on Hill 60 took place. Our line in this neighbourhood runs roughly from south west to north east. The railway from Ypres to Comines crosses it in a deep cutting dug through a long ridge, the highest point of which is Hill 60, immediately north of the railway. “Hill” is a misleading term, for it is little more than a gentle swell in the ground. At this point there is an open space of plough land, but it is surrounded on all sides by woods. Our trenches ran over the northern slopes to the little village of Zwarteleen, which is within our line, leaving the highest part of the ridge in the hands of the enemy. From here overlooks the greater part of the low ground south east of Ypres. It was, therefore, of great value to the enemy for purposes of artillery observation. For this reason it has formed the scene of desperate fighting in the past. British, French and German soldiers having all contested it. Throughout November, December and January this section of the Allied front held by the French, and during that time the hill changed hands more than once, but the final result, when the line was again occupied by us early in February, was that the Germans still held the crest.

A Transformation Scene.

  The whole ridge was here seamed with innumerable trenches and saps. Latterly also both we and the Germans have been engaged in mining, and, our operations having proceeded more rapidly, we fore-stalled the enemy.

  At 7 p.m. on 7th April, seven mines were fired simultaneously under the German trenches. The interval that elapsed before our assault took place was, to use the words of one soldier, “like a transformation scene.” Trenches, parapets, sandbags disappeared, and the whole surface of the ground assumed strange shapes, here torn into huge craters, there forming mounds of fallen debris. As the reports of the explosions died away, and while dense columns of dust and smoke still hung in the air, our men, led by their officer, sprang from the trenches and rushed across the intervening space of some forty to sixty yards lying between our line and the gaping craters before them, the front covered by the attack being only some 250 yards in length.

  Where the mines had actually exploded nothing was left of the occupants of the hostile line; but in the neighbouring trenches our assaulting infantry witnessed an extraordinary scene. Many of the Germans soldiers, possibly owing to the fact that they were working, were surprised in their shirt sleeves, without equipments. Stunned by the violence of the explosion, bewildered and suddenly subjected to a rain of hand grenades thrown by our bombing parties, they gave way to panic. Cursing and shouting, they were falling over one another and fighting in their hurry to gain the exits into the communication trenches, and some of those in the rear, maddened by terror, were driving their bayonets into the bodies of their comrades in front.

  Of all this our infantry had but a momentary glimpse before they fell upon the enemy with the bayonet, burst through the maze of trenches, poured into the craters, and pressed on down the communication trenches until at last they were stopped by barricades defended by bomb-throwers.

Germans Recover From Surprise.

  The first line of trenches over the front assaulted was captured in a few minutes with difficulty, and fifteen prisoners fell into our hands; but it was then that the real struggle began, for the Germans quickly recovered from their surprise.

  From our line the hill is a salient exposed to fire from three sides, and it was only a few moments before the German Gunners took advantage of this fact and opened fire. Soon the whole position became obscured in the smoke of bursting shells. Meanwhile our batteries had begun to support the attack, and a terrific artillery fire was maintained far into the night.

  As darkness fell the scene was grand in the extreme. From many points along our line to the north and south of Hill 60 could be seen the flashes of the shells, while those of the guns were so continuous as to resemble the effect of musketry. Under this fire our men had to work throwing up parapets towards the enemy, blocking their communications and generally rendering the position defendable.

  Nor were the enemy’s infantry idle. Advancing up the communication trenches they threw hand grenades over the barricades and also into the mine crater on the crumbling sides of which our men were clinging in the endeavour to obtain a foot-hold. Throughout the night the fighting continued, culminating early in the morning of the 18th in two massed attacks by the enemy. These were beaten off principally by the fire of machine guns, some of which had been rushed up on sidecars.

Hillside Filled With Dead.

  Nevertheless, in spite of his heavy losses, which left the hillside piled with dead, the enemy continued his pressure during the whole of Sunday until we were gradually driven upon the southern edge of the hill. At 6 p.m. help reached our front line in the form of reinforcements, who swept the Germans from the foothold they had gained. Before this the proximity of both sides to one another had led to a slackening of the bombardment, but it then broke out afresh with almost as great intensity as on the preceding evening. Our position, however, was now more secure, and although the shelling and bomb-throwing never ceased altogether, the night may be said to have passed in comparative quiet. On Monday, the 19th, a severe cannonade was maintained by both sides, but not further infantry attack was attempted, though at 5 30 p.m. a severe gun and rifle fire seemed to herald a fresh assault.

  In the course of the day we captured 35 more prisoners. The enemy did not confine his attention to Hill 60, for the whole area round Ypres was heavily shelled as well as the town itself.

Little Children Killed at Play.

  On the 20th the lull was broke. The Germans had by now unmasked a formidable concentration of artillery, and hour by hour the fire grew heavier. Ypres itself was bombarded by pieces of 42-c.m. and 35-c.m. calibre, in spite of which not many casualties were sustained except by the civilian element, among whom were fifteen children who were killed while playing in the street.

  As evening approached the fire against Hill 60 grew hotter, and at 6 30 p.m. the hostile infantry once more advanced to the assault. If they thought, however, the spirit of our men had been broken by their explosives they were soon to discover their mistake. Again did our machine guns do tremendous execution, and the attack was beaten off, another at 8 p.m. suffering the same fate.

  Still the Germans would not yet admit defeat, and all night long parties of them, armed with hand grenades, made repeated efforts to drive us off the hill, their attacks alternating with bombardment from artillery of all kinds and trench mortars.

  What exactly happened in the course of these hand-to-hand combats it is impossible to say. Those present knew only what was occurring in the few yards around them, for the fighting took place in the labyrinth of winding trenches surrounding the craters which formed a kind of landmark as the struggle surged backwards and forwards.

  When the morning of Wednesday, the 21st, came the position was still in our hands, except at one point, where the enemy had established himself. From this he was driven by a counter attack, and by 3 p.m. the only Germans left on the hill were a few bomb throwers, who still clung to the north eastern edge.

 The bombardment of the hill continued throughout the morning and afternoon, and from three directions high explosives shells and projectiles filled with asphyxiating gasses rained down upon the defenders. By now the Germans had brought up field guns to within close range of our position. As evening wore on the cannonade diminished and our infantry entrenched themselves firmly on the captured position.

A Splendid Exploit.

  The attack and defence of Hill 60, a mere episode on the British operations and a very minor occurrence in the whole of the front held by the Allies, will nevertheless go down in history amongst the finest exploits performed by British troops during the war. Officers who experienced the bombardment prior to the attack of the Prussian Guards on the 10th December and also underwent that directed on Hill 60 state, indeed, that the latter was by far the worse of the two. What our troops withstood can by some degree be realised if it be remembered that the space fought over on the four and a half days between the 17th and 21st April was only about 250 yards in length by about 200 in depth. On to that small area the enemy for hours on end hurled tons of metal and high explosives, and at times the hill-top was wreathed in poisonous fumes. And yet our gallant infantry did not give way. They stood firm under a fire which swept away whole sections at a time, filling the trenches with dead bodies, and so encumbered the approaches to the front lines that reinforcements could not reach it without having to climb over the prostrate forms of their fallen comrades.

  In the circumstances the losses have naturally been heavy. Nevertheless they have not depressed the men, who are all, including the wounded, extremely cheerful, for they know that the fight for Hill 60 has cost the Germans far more than it has us.

Sir John French’s Message.

  The following telegram was sent by the Commander-in –Chief to the Army Commander after the action;-“I heartily congratulate you and all concerned on your successful action at Hill 60. I consider a very valuable object has been attained. The operation has been skilfully planned and conducted and the troops behaved with their customary courage, endurance and tenacity.”

  It is noteworthy that the Germans have adopted much the same policy with regard to this reverse as they did in the case of the unsuccessful attack on St Eloi-a policy of direct falsehood, and it impossible that the desperate efforts made to retake the hill were inspired not only by the intrinsic value of the position, but by the fear of personal consequences to the Generals concerned if they failed to hold it.

  The fate of the Bavarian Generals responsible for the unsuccessful action at St Eloi supports this view. The Corps Commander and both the Divisional Commanders were on that occasion placed on the retired list.

  The troops opposed to us at Hill 60 were composed partly of Saxons and partly of new recruited men form all over Germany.

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On the 19th day of April as the dawn was breaking clear.

The roaring of the heavy guns afar off we did hear.

Then said one to the other “The foe is coming near;

We’re bound to get it hot to-day” but none of us knew fear.


Tho ’sore and heavy with the fight, our hearts were loyal and true

“If we-re attacked this blessed morn, we’ll show what we can do.”

And then the guns pealed out once more, the foe our range had found.

And soon I saw my comrades brave, lying dead upon the ground.


Our officer was with us there, quite brave, and staunch and bold;

The blood was rising in his heart, though the dawn was sharp and cold.

He cried “My boys, stand to; one charge for fame and fair renown.”

My chums and I cleared O’er the ridge to cut the Germans down.


When we reached the German trench, all living there had fled.

But the woods behind and all around were covered with their dead.

Our glorious artillery had done they gory work and brave

To seek revenge for each dear pal, then lying in the grave.


So accursed now be Kaiser Bill, for this he yet will perish

E’er we return to Ireland these glorious deeds to cherish

We’ve fought for King and Country, we’ve answered well the call

We’ll fight on to the bitter end, and may God protect us all.


So come now fighting Irishmen, who were never known to yield

‘Mid the brave, hard-pressed, ye are the best, upon the battlefield

At St Eloi, Ypres and Neuve Chapelle as Britain knows right well

We fought and did our best,

and God have mercy on the souls, of the men now gone to rest


When Irish eyes are smiling, may memory give an ear,

To Irish soldiers fighting, such great battles over here.

As I stood upon Hill 60, I much regret to say

I saw the life-blood ebbing fast, of him now passed away.

And as they lay in hundreds, my chum my hand did clasp

And said “Good-bye now, dear old Jim, my hour has come at last.”

The Barbaric “Gas” Death.

   A officer sends the following harrowing description of what he saw;--

   “Yesterday and the day before I went to see some of the men in hospital who were “gassed” yesterday and the day before on Hill 60. The whole of England and the civilised world ought to have the truth fully brought before them in vivid detail and not wrapped up as a present. When we got to the hospital we had no difficulty in finding out in which ward the men were, as the noise of the poor devils trying to get breath was sufficient to direct us. There were about 20 of the worst cases in the ward on mattresses, all more or less in a sitting position, propped up against the walls. Their faces, arms, hands were of a shiny, grey black colour, with mouths open, and lead glazed eyes. All swaying slightly back and forwards trying to get breath. It was the most appalling sight, all those poor black faces; struggling for life, what with the groaning and noise of the efforts fro breath. Colonel----, who, as everyone knows, has had as wide an experience as anyone all over the savage parts of Africa, told me today that he never felt so sick as he did after the scene in the these cases. There is practically nothing to be done for them, except to give them salt and water to try and make them sick. The effect the gas has is to fill the lungs with a watery, frothy matter, which gradually increases and rises till it fills up the whole lungs, and comes up to the mouth then they die. It is suffocation; slow drowning taking in some cases one or two days. Eight died last night out of twenty I saw, and most of the others I saw will die; whilst those who get over the gas invariably develop acute pneumonia. It is without doubt the most awful for of scientific torture. Not one of the men I saw in hospital had a scratch or wound. The nurses and doctors were all working their utmost against this terror; but one could see from the tension and nerves that it was like fighting a hidden danger which was overtaking everyone. The gas is in a cylinder, from which when they sent it out, it is propelled a distance of 100 yards. It then spreads. The Germans have given out that it is a rapid painless death. The liars!!”

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Many thanks for all the help. Additional questions: was the 14 Field Ambulance- part of the 5 Division raised in Ireland? it would appear that a number of the RAMC officers have Irish ancestry, for example Major Hanafin ( any more details regarding him would be appreciated) 

Also using the article as a guide I am also trying to work out the casualty evacuation chain from Hill 60 in April 1915. Blauwepoort Farm and the Railway Cutting are mentioned as aid posts, but having trouble placing the stream that Lieutenant Lee fell in and the ambulance stopping place up the track from Blauwepoort Farm- I would like this to be Railway Dugouts- Transport Farm but I don’t think it is. 



Edited by David_Blanchard
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The following names appear upon the official list of the " Wounded " :—Lieut.-Colonel Patrick J. Hanafin, D.S.O., R.A.M.C. (Clongowes); Major the Hon. Gilbert C. Nugent, R.F.A. (Oratory) ; Lieut. D. R. J. O’Connor, Royal West Surrey Regiment ; Captain and Adjutant Vivian F. Samuelson, Royal West Surrey Regiment (Ramsgate and Oratory); Captain Kevin J. Keegan, M.C., Newfoundland Regiment ; Lieut. R. J. Fleming, York and Lancaster Regiment ; and Captain William Ewart Hallinan, R.A.M.C., attached to Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Mount St. Mary's).


Bar to D.S.O. Major (T./Lt-Col.) P J Hanafin, R.A.M.C., who for nine days was continuously under heavy shell fire while supervising the evacuation of the wounded in most severe circumstances. Finally, although wounded in passing through a heavy barrage, he continued on duty until the last man had been brought in. he is a son of the late Dr Hanafin, Milltown, Kerry, and was educated at Clongowes. He was promoted Captain in 1907, Major in 1915, and Lieutenant Colonel in 1916. besides obtaining the D.S.O., he has been also mentioned in despatches.

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