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Remembered Today:

Killed by Enemy Aircraft


alanh
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Have the following on DTI's War memorial:

209658 Pioneer Sigil T A Abdul Ali Royal Engineers Special Brigade

Killed 1 October 1917 by enemy aircraft whilst in hospital, buried Louguenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery. As he is not listed by the Board of Trade as serving until 1917, I presume he was a conscript.

He was with the SB Depot, so presumably based at Helfaut. St Omer was a fair distance behind the lines, so his death as a result of enemy aircraft action while in hospital is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps, someone would know what was going on in that sector on 1.10.17?

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I don't know of anything specific at St Omer on 1 October 1917, but the town was a significant centre for British operations on the northern part of the Western Front, with various headquarters, stores depots and the like, and therefore would have been an obvious target for German night bombers. Nocturnal bombing raids by AEG, Friedrichshafen and Gotha twin-engined aircraft, as well as smaller types, were a common feature of life in the last two years of the War. Inevitably, some bombs fell on hospitals, though not specifically aimed at them.

Gareth

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Alan

This comes from the official unit war diary of the Matron-in-Chief, B.E.F., dated 1st October 1917. She had gone in the morning to visit 8 Casualty Clearing Station, and the entry continues:

While here I received a telephone message saying that there had been a severe bombing raid at St. Omer, when 58 General Hospital has suffered considerably, one Staff Nurse and 2 V.A.D.’s having been killed as well as 16 patients. One Staff Nurse had been seriously wounded and 2 slightly wounded as well as 67 seriously wounded patients. In consequence, I telephoned to the D.M.S. 3rd Army letting him know that it would not be possible for me to continue my work in the Army for the present.

Left for St. Omer immediately after lunch arriving about 4 p.m. Reported to the A.D.M.S. office and then proceeded to 58 General Hospital, where I met the A/Principal Matron and the Matron, and where I found Surgeon General Macpherson had already arrived. The whole unit seemed shocked and dazed. Everyone spoke of the wonderful courage of the women. The raid lasted for some hours and the casualties occurred in the hospital where everyone was on duty. A tremendous lot of damage had been done, several marquees being blown to atoms and some of the Sisters’ quarters in process of erection simply perforated with shrapnel. A large German camp quite close to this unit with 500 prisoners escaped without any damage whatever. The same night, 4 Stationary Hospital, which is non-sisters’ unit, was also bombed and the Sergeant Major and 5 men were killed. All the stretcher cases were transferred to the buildings at 10 Stationary Hospital and 59 General Hospitals, only walking cases being left in the hospital, and the nursing staff were divided into two, one lot being accommodated at 10 Stationary Hospital quarters and the other at 59 General Hospital. Both these units have solid cellars.

Sue

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This is great stuff, many thanks

Great stuff, indeed — and, Alan, as you may have seen on another thread, a forum pal has also just agreed to get a photo of Abdul-Ali's headstone in Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery.

I wonder whether the records of the two hospitals bombed that night have survived, perhaps including the names of the patients killed, and thus identifying which of them A-A was in?

A bombing raid on that scale, and lasting for several hours, must also have been documented on the German side. Can one of our aviation specialists perhaps 'reverse-engineer' this raid and tell us where it is likely to have originated from, which units would have carried it out, and what its intended target was?

Mick

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A bombing raid on that scale, and lasting for several hours, must also have been documented on the German side.

In fact it was quite a bombing offensive, over a rather a longer period, as it continued, in one area or another over the next few nights. Having had the staff transferred to other hospitals, the Matron-in-Chief then joined them, staying the night of the 1st October at 10 Stationary Hospital, while the bombing continued. The account continues:

I stayed the night at 10 Stationary Hospital and most of the night was spent in the cellars, in consequence of air-raids. Two bombs dropped so near the building that a large number of windows were broken. The whole of the staff were particularly quiet and self-contained and there was no evidence of any alarm whatever. During the night the Annex belonging to 59 General Hospital where only a week or two ago the staff of 59 General were accommodated, was absolutely destroyed. Fortunately the patients were all walking cases and had already been accommodated in the cellars. The telephone orderly who was on duty was killed and the building itself entirely destroyed, doors off their hinges, cupboards smashed, windows broken and most of the beds smashed to the ground. This condition I saw when I visited the spot with the A.D.M.S. in the morning.

At 10 o’clock, left for Headquarters, 2nd Army, where I saw the D.M.S. and where I received instructions with regard to the new units opening in the area and increase of staff wanted for certain C.C.S. in consequence of the push which was expected to start that day.

Returned to St. Omer – had lunch at 10 Stationary Hospital, and afterwards went to the funeral of the 3 sisters and 16 men killed in the raid. It was an enormous gathering which lasted over 2 hours – the walks up to the graveside from the gate were lined with walking patients from 58 General Hospital. Overhead aeroplanes were hovering all through the service.

The medical units bombed are detailed in the diary at the end of the month, and the beginning of October is as follows, although it seems to me that the first bombing of St. Omer actually took place on the night of 31st September-1st October, and not as noted:

Units bombed

36 C.C.S. Night of 1st - 2nd October - No casualties amongst Nursing staff

11 C.C.S. Night of 2nd October - No casualties amongst Nursing staff

St. Omer Night of 1st – 2nd October and subsequent nights -1 sister, 2 V.A.D.’s killed 3 sisters wounded, a number of patients killed and wounded, at 58 General Hospital.

Boulogne Night of 2nd October - No serious damage, no casualties.

33 C.C.S. Night of 2nd October - No casualties amongst nursing staff.

44 C.C.S. Night of 1st, 2nd and 3rd October - No casualties amongst nursing staff.

Sue

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  • 9 years later...

Not sure if resurrecting an old thread is the optimum approach - but it does, at least, save me from repeating info about the early Oct bombings.

Arthur Stevens from Newbury died in a hospital (unknown) in St Omer on 4 Nov 17, of wounds received when his hospital was bombed. He is buried in Longuenesse.

I guess it could be the bombing of 58 Hosp on 1 Oct that gave him the wounds and he subsequently died (of sepsis perhaps).

However. I was wondering if there was a further air raid closer to his date of death?

But I can't see any mention in the diary Sue quotes above (and has put on her superb ScarletFinders site) of any more bombing in St Omer (as far as I can tell 37 & 61 CCSs though bombed were not at St Omer).

EDIT: Stevens died 4 OCTOBER not November - so his being wounded in the bombing on the night of 30 Sep/1 Oct makes complete sense.

My apologies for any inconvenience!

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German Nachrichtenblatt for 1 October 1917:

"Bombenangriffe: (...)

K.G. 1 griff Stadt und Flughafen St. Omer und umliegende Orte mit 9400 kg an; in St. Omer ein großer Brand. K.G. 4 bewarf Flughäfen der feindlichen Bombergeschwader und Armeeflugpark Longueneß mit fast 20 000 kg; zahlreiche Brände und Explosionen."

"Bombing attacks: (...)

K.G. 1 attacked city and airfield St. Omer and surrounding locations with 9400 kg; ine big fire in St. Omer. K.G. 4 dropped nearly 20 000 kg (bombs) on enemy bomber wings and Army Flight Park Longueness; numerous fires and explosions."

[i added bolt font.]

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Nice to see the other angle - thanks.

Phil

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am going to try and get a copy of the 1918 nachrichteblatts. So if anyone has and dates when hospitals ect got bombed I may be able to identify the unit that did it if you post the dates.

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Thanks for the thought, but Jasta72s posted the nachrichblatts for the night in question 1 Oct 17 in post #9.

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  • 1 month later...

I have now discovered that a second name from the Newbury war memorial died in the air raid of 30 Sep/1 Oct - Sgt Maj F H Jones, RAMC. Quite a coincidence.

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  • 1 year later...

One more thought - does anyone know what aircraft were used in this raid?  What were KG1 & KG4 flying at the time?

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