April 1916

18th Week at War - 1st - 7th April - Mesplaux Farm

The weather improved considerably this week becoming much warmer and dryer and there was plenty of aeroplane activity in the skies above the Unit.

Royal Flying Corps Biplanes

Captain A J Andrew departed from the Unit on the 1st April and was struck off the strength and on Monday 3rd, Lt Col Davies departed for leave ("I wish I was going too." records 48563 Pte Phillips) and Capt A W Anderson took over charge of the Unit in his absence. On the same day, Lieut Elliott returned to the Unit from the R.W.F. where he had been acting as R.M.O.

On Tuesday 4th, A Section of the 132nd Field Ambulance arrived for instruction and training while Lieut Buckley proceeded to the 10th S.W.B. to act as temporary M.O. while their M.O., Lieut Evans was attached to the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance for light duties.

By the 5th April the 38th (Welsh) Division was holding the front line between Festubert in the north and Givenchy in the south. The Divisional headquarters were based in Locon, the 114th Infantry Brigade was holding the left (north) sector, the 115th Infantry Brigade the right (south) sector and the 113rd Infantry Brigade was in reserve.

Post-graduate medical education continued even while the Unit was on active service and a clinical afternoon was held at the Unit on Thursday 6th April and a number of medical officers from the other units of the Division including the A.D.M.S. were present. Papers were presented by Capt Day on the work carried out at Aid Posts and another by Lieut Anderson on the treatment of wounds as carried out at the Unit's hospital. The War Diary states that these papers were followed by a most interesting discussion in which the views of different medical officers were expressed. Nothing much has changed in a 100 years!

The next day the D.D.V.S. (Deputy Director Veterinary Services) 1st Army inspected the horses of the Unit and expressed satisfaction on the condition they were in.

Friday the 7th April was the Unit's 11th payday in France.

 


 

19th Week at War - 8th - 14th April - Mesplaux Farm

This week began dry and fine but turned increasingly wet from Tuesday for the rest of the week. Lieut F A Anderson and Lieut Burke attended a lecture by the Clinical Adviser to the 1st Army at Aire sur La Lys. On Sunday, two church parades were held at the Unit, one at 9.15am for the Church of England and one at 11.15 am for the Nonconformists.

The 38th (Welsh) Division were ordered to relieve the 35th Division in the Fauquissart sector and the 19th Division in the Moated Grange sector between the 14th and 18th of April. By this time, the 113rd Infantry Brigade had replaced the 115th Infantry Brigade in the line.

Captain A W Anderson, on instructions from the A.D.M.S. 38th (Welsh) Division, visited the hospital of the 59th Field Ambulance at La Gorgue and the A.D.S. at La Flinque which the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance were shortly to take over.

On the following day the A.D.M.S. 39th Division and the A.D.M.S of the 38th (Welsh) Division visited and inspected the Unit's Hospital at Mesplaux Farm and Capt A M Payne delivered a lecture in the afternoon based on the lectures given by the Chemical Adviser. 

Lieut Page returned to the Unit from the 13th Welsh Regiment (W.R.) where he had been acting as M.O. in place of Lieut Watkins.

 


 

20th Week at War - 15th - 21st April - Mesplaux Farm - La Gorgue

Lt Col Davies returned from leave on the 15th April and the next day, a party under the command of Lt Buckley consisting of 2 Officers and 36 other ranks of C Section proceeded to Laventie Map sheet 36 G34. c7.3 at 8am to take over the A.D.S. there from the 105th Field Ambulance (35th Division), arriving at 12.30pm. At the same time, an advanced party of the 134th Field Ambulance (39th Division) took over the A.D.S. at Marais from a detachment of the Unit who returned to the Headquarters at Mesplaux Farm. On Monday 17th, a further party of the Unit, under the command of Capt Ffoulkes with Lieut Burke and 36 other ranks proceeded to La Flinque Map sheet 36 M10.c7.1 to take over the A.D.S. there from the 59th Field Ambulance. The Headquarters and Hospital at Mesplaux Farm were handed over to the 134th Field Ambulance on the 18th and the Unit proceeded by route march to La Gorgue and took over the Dressing Station Map sheet 36A L34.b6.2 there from the 59th Field Ambulance. 48135 Sgt C. W. Jarman and 48563 Pte Phillips stayed behind to hand over the Army Stationary equipment and the 15 patients remaining in the Hospital and left Mesplaux at 11am and arrived at the Unit's new location in La Gorgue at 12.30 to find the Unit had already arrived and were unpacking for all they were worth.

Map 6

A composite of Map sheet 36A and 36 (1:40,000 scale). A = Mesplaux Farm M.D.S., B = Laventie A.D.S., C = La Flinque A.D.S., & D = La Gorgue M.D.S. The front line trenches are marked by the black line running diagonally across the lower right corner of the map.

The Hospital at La Gorgue was located on the main road in the centre of La Gorgue and 48072 Sgt John Reeves Davies described it as a fair sized village and much better than there previous location. 48563 Pte Phillips records that the first few days at La Gorgue were very busy with quite a number of casualties being admitted and as well as the weather being wet and miserable, he suffered from a splitting headache and earache for several days.

Capt Ffoulkes described the A.D.S. at La Flinque as "situated in a very lonesome spot. There are no civilians about at all - our only companions are rats which infest wrecked houses about us." and the A.D.S. itself as "the usual old farmhouse on the roadside, but it is bad repair. The Germans have shelled the whole place fairly severely and there is a good deal to be done to make it moderately comfortable for the reception of wounded and for ourselves."

La Gorgue at the end of the war

As was Lt Col Davies's way, the following day men not on hospital duties were put to work cleaning up the Hospital and adjacent buildings. The O.C. as well as the A.D.M.S. and D.A.D.M.S. visited the A.D.S. at Laventie. Lt T B Evans who had been attached to the Unit for light duties on the 4th April was transferred to the 131st Field Ambulance this day.

On Good Friday, 21st April was the Units 12th payday in France and special church parades were held for the Church of England at 9.30am and for the nonconformists at 11.30am. A Divisional concert was also held. The O.C. visited and inspected the A.D.S. at Laventie and the Aid Post at Red House and Hougamont. 48554 Pte G H Jickells recorded in his diary that he spent Good Friday as one of the four stretcher bearers from the Unit, at Hougamont Aid Post and Easter Monday at Red House Aid Post.

 


 

21st Week at War - 22nd - 28th April - La Gorgue (Map sheet 36A L34.b6.2)

The weather during this week was recorded as 'perfect' by Capt Ffoulkes in a letter home but he went on to say that "infact it has been uncomfortably hot some days about midday but the warmth is so welcome. The only misfortune is that most of us still have our winter clothes which are not very comfortable nowadays". He requested that some lighter underclothing and light breeches be sent to him.

While the 38th (Welsh) Division was in this sector of the line, the Divisional headquarters were located at La Gorgue and the 129th Field Ambulance was based at La Gorgue (Map sheet 36A L35.b9.9) with their A.D.S. at Green Barn (Map sheet 36 M27.d5.2) and the 131st Field Ambulance was based at Regnier Le Clerc (Map sheet 36A K34.d8.8). The 129th Field Ambulance were responsible for the evacuation of casualties on the right of the Divisional sector and the 130th for the left and the 131st for the area west of La Gorgue.

The various field ambulance units of the Division were allocated specialist tasks by Col Morgan A.D.M.S. 38th (Welsh) Division. During this phase in the line, the 131st Field Hospital covered the rear area of the Divisional sector and one section was posted to man the Corps Rest Station (C.R.S.) at Merville (Map sheet 36A K29.d1.9) and deal with men with skin diseases and scabies, men in the forward area with such conditions were to be sent to the 129th Field Ambulance for transfer onward to the 131st Fld Amb. The 130th (St John) Field Ambulance was to be the location for dental treatment. Initially men with dental conditions in the forward area were to be sent to the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance at 6pm on Mondays and Fridays but this was changed on the 23rd April in an order from the A.D.M.S. to 9am on Fridays when a Dentist will attend the Unit to provide specialist dental care. Col Morgan pointed out in this order dated 23rd April 1916 (The National Archives WO 95/2543/1) that "It must be understood that although Dental Surgeons visit certain places, it does not relieve Medical Officers from doing extractions and dealing with urgent cases of this kind."

The Unit held it's own concert on the 22nd but 48563 Pte Phillips does not record any other details as he "still had a thumping ear(ache) which made him feel rotten all through" but has recovered by the early part of the next week. Although, at least the weather had improved and the week was warm, dry and sunny.

In compliance with orders from the A.D.M.S., the Unit handed over the A.D.S. at La Flinque to a section from the 129th Field Ambulance on the 22nd and Capt Ffoulkes and the men stationed there returned to the Unit's Headquarters at La Gorgue. The 130th (St John) Field Ambulance continued to man the A.D.S. at Laventie (Map sheet 36 G34.c7.3)

Laventie later in the war

On Easter Sunday, 23rd April, 48563 Pte Phillips records (incorrectly noted as Palm Sunday in his diary) that (even so close to the Front line) "the French people are out in their bloom today - quite a strange site."

As we have seen before, the O.C. always wanted to improve any location the Unit took over and La Gorgue was no exception. On Wednesday 26th work was commenced on building new latrines for the men and the casualty receiving room and dispensary were painted and whitewashed. As the horse lines were found to be in a very unsatisfactory condition when taken over by the Unit, a fatigue party was tasked with cleaning them up and removing the manure which had accumulated around the lines.

 Map 7

A = Red House Aid Post, B = A.D.S. Laventie, C = A.D.S La Flinque, D = Hougamont Aid Post, & E = Red House (13th London) Cemetery, F = Rotton Row (a communication trench leading back from the front line towards the Aid Post).

On the 27th, 48554 Pte G H Jickells recorded that he and his pal T J Jones (probably 48555 Pte Thomas J Jones), had a busy time as at 2am when on duty at Red House Aid Post, they were called to fetch a case (wounded) from Bicanton Trench. They brought the patient to the M.O. based at Red House and got his wounds properly dressed and took him to the the A.D.S. about 3 miles away. Ten minutes after they arrived back from the A.D.S., they were called out again to go and help the regimental stretcher bearers to bring out a dead man from the front line down Rotton Row. This man was likely to have been 20976 Pte Fred Coles from Abertillery, of the 10th Battalion, South Wales Borderers (S.W.B.), also know as the 1st Gwent. The 10th S.W.B. had been manning the front line trenches since the evening of the 23rd and were due to be relieved by the 11th S.W.B. (2nd Gwent) at 7pm on the 27th. 20976 Pte Fred Coles is buried in Red House (13th London) Cemetery which is situated a few hundred yards north of Red House on the opposite side of the road.

Both 48554 Pte G H Jickells and T J Jones were relieved at 2pm that afternoon (and returned to the A.D.S. at Laventie) and being so tired, went to bed at 8pm only to be woken at 11pm and ordered to dress and parade as they were expecting a gas attack. This was a new experience for the men of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance and they were stood to for 2 hours, in the meantime all the horses were galloped 5 miles behind the lines. This same gas attack was also recorded by Capt Ffoulkes who wrote in a letter home that there was a Gas alarm on the night of the 27th April and had all the men at the A.D.S. at Laventie "paraded in gas helmets and all the wagons harnessed up and sent back about a mile and a half. Luckily there was practically no gas at all - just a faint smell of chlorine in the air, but all night there was great activity in the line. The Cardiff City (battalion) had gone in (to the line) that night and about 5.30am, casualties started streaming in. They were mostly rifle grenade wounds".

On Friday 28th, work was continued on the men's latrines and horse lines and the Hospital was inspected by the A.D.M.S.

 

22nd Week at War - 29th April - 5th May La Gorgue (Map sheet 36A L34.b6.2)

On Sunday 30th, the A.D.M.S. instructed the Unit to arrange for an Officer and 30 men to parade near the Divisional Recreation Room at La Gorgue at 11.30am when General Sir Charles Monro presented medal ribbons to the Officers and men of the 38th (Welsh) Division who had been awarded decorations.

General Sir Charles Monro K.C.B., G.C.M.G.

Also on the 29th, 48554 Pte G H Jickells recorded in his diary that while on duty at Hougamont Post, he and 48144 Pte Llewellyn Jones got permission to have a walk down to the front line (by the communication trench that stretched from the Aid Post to the front line trenches) which were manned by the 16th Battalion Welsh Regiment (Cardiff City) as he wanted to see a couple of friends of his. The relief came down (to the Aid Post) at 2pm but the two men did not get back to the A.D.S. at Laventie until 6pm! Both men had to report to Capt Ffoulkes and give an explanation for their late return. 48554 Pte G H Jickells recorded that they both got a bit of a lecture from Capt Ffoulkes on their duties etc but avoided any further action as Capt Ffoulkes conceded that they had obtained permission from the M.O. of the Cardiff City Battalion.

Week 22 continued in May.