January 1916 - Eighth Week at War

 

8th Week at War - 22nd - 28th January 1916 - Calonne

Up to now, the 38th (Welsh) Division had been in reserve but now they were to move into the front line, taking over the Neuve Chapelle sector from Picantin in the north to Givenchy in the south and here they were to remain until their move towards the Somme in June. Many of the men spent the 22nd packing up and preparing to move on the following day and on Sunday 23rd January, under instructions of the ADMS, Capt M Ffoulkes and B Section proceeded to Rue De Bois - Map sheet 36A X17.d6.5 (also know as Le Touret and now the site of the Le Touret Military Cemetery not to be confused with the Military Cemetery known as Rue du Bois which is near Fleurbaix east of Lavantie) to take over the ADS there from the 59th Field Ambulance. Capt Ffoulkes wrote home that the Unit was pleased to leave Calonne "We are glad to move out of this place as it is hopelessly dirty - almost as dirty as the rest camp in Havre where we spent the first night after landing on French soil. The weather has been fair on the whole lately burt there always seems to be tons of mud about here and it gets scattered all over the place by heavy motor traffic."

Map 3.Map of the Neuve Chappel sector showing the front line in spring 1916

Map 3 from 'The War Illustrated' 16th October 1915. A = Mesplaux Farm, B = ADS at Rue du Bois and C ADS at Festubert.

On the 24th, the remainder of the Unit proceeded by Route March to Mesplaux Map sheet 36A X14.a9.6 (also know as Mesplaux Farm - to take over the Field Hospital there from the 59th Field Ambulance arriving at 1.30pm. Mesplaux Farm is situated about 1.5 km south east of the village of Locon and is the same location where C Section under Capt A W Anderson were attached for instruction at the beginning of January. The A.D.S. at Rue de Bois (now a British Military Cemetery, 'Le Touret Military Cemetery") is about 3 km further to the East. In a letter home dated 29th January, Capt Ffoulkes described Mesplaux Farm as "a rambling old place built in 1715 - an old convent which I have not seen but which I am told is very interesting and dirty!" Sgt Davies described Mesplaux Farm as being left in a very dirty state but over the course of the following week that it was scrubbed out and white washed all over. The men at Mesplaux Farm spent the 25th doing fatigues and cleaning up the place as did the men at Rue de Bois. The first casualty arrived at the hospital at 7.45pm - a soldier from the 13th Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Unlike their stay at Green Barn earlier in the month, Capt Ffoulkes and the men with him had a much quieter time of it and according to 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips, apart for fatigues, football was played frequently. Capt Ffoulkes recorded in a letter home that the A.D.S. at Rue de Bois consisted of a farmhouse, the men sleeping in 3 fairly comfortable barns and a 4th barn being used as a dressing room for the wounded. While at the A.D.S., Capt Ffoulkes and Lieut Anderson had their mess on the first floor of a second rate estaminet but at least they were able to buy eggs and wine! On the 28th, Capt Ffoulkes wrote in a letter home that the Hun shelled the area around the A.D.S. very heavily and while the A.D.S. was not hit one man and a horse were killed in the neighbourhood. On the follow day he recorded that the dead horse was still lying in a field near the A.D.S. with his legs up in the air. "Nothing looks quite so dead as a dead horse." he commented. In the early hours of the 29th, Capt Ffoulkes was called to assist a pregnant women in labour who lived in a poor, shell damaged cottage in a road known as "Grub Street" some 3/4 mile away from the A.D.S. It was tricky for him to get there but he could not dream of refusing to go. He goes on to comment that the delivery was quite normal but it would have been awkward if forceps had been required. The first and possibly the only child, a girl, delivered by the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance! He returned and visited mother and child on the same evening and recorded that mother and daughter were doing well!

Major General Ivor Phillips DSO, the Commanding Officer of the 38th (Welsh) Division visited the hospital on the 28th January and was clearly impressed by what he saw as we will see later.

Locon church 

Locon Church before and after the war from an original photo-poastcard. Locon was only 1.5km north west of Malplaux farm and so must have been well known by the men of the Unit.