5th Week at War - 1st - 7th January 1916 - Calonne
The Unit began the new year still based at Calonne. B Section returned to Calonne from their training with the 57th Field Ambulance on the 2nd January and C Section consisting of 3 Officers, and 60 men, departed on foot the following day under the command of Capt A W Anderson to be attached to the 59th Field Ambulance at Locon.
On the 5th January, two horse drawn ambulances were detailed to follow the route march of the 10th and 15th Battalions, the Welsh Regiment to pick up stragglers. While at the 59th Field Ambulance at Locon, Sgt Davies reported in his diary that he was able to visit Bethune along with 48592 Sgt Thomas Price, 48118 Sgt Archibald Griffiths and S/Sgt Edgar Lewis on the 5th January.
B Section composed of 2 Officers and 61 other ranks under the command of Capt M Ffoulkes proceeded by route march on the 6th January to take over an Advanced Dressing Station (A.D.S.) at Green Barn ( Map 4 A ) located about a mile and a half north west of Neuve Chapelle.
On arrival, all transport with the exception of 2 motor ambulances, one water cart and one limbered wagon were sent back to Calonne. Six men with rations were detailed as bearers for 24 hours and were taken to the regimental aid posts at Ebenezer Farm (Map 4 B), Moggs Hole (Map 4 C) and Stirling Castle (Map 4 D). These bearers were relieved at 2pm daily. This was the first time the men of the Unit were in action on their own and by all accounts, acquitted themselves well as can be seen below on the 8th January.
Key to Map 4:- A = Green Barn A.D.S. (map sheet 36 M27d6.2), B = Ebenezer Farm R.A.P. (map sheet 36 M28d7.5) C = Moggs Hole R.A.P. (map sheet 36 M34d6.7), D = Stirling Castle R.A.P. (map sheet 36 S5a4.7) and X = Masplaux Farm see 8th Week at War.
With the departure of B Section, C Section still away with the 59th Field Ambulance and several of the remaining Medical Officers acting temporarily as Medical Officers (MOs) for Infantry Battalions of the Brigade, this left just Capt Andrew as the only Medical Officer at the Unit headquarters at Calonne but fortunately, Lt Burke returned from duty with the 14th Welsh later that day and Lt Anderson returned from C Section the following day
6th Week at War - 8th - 14th January 1916 - Calonne
Both 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips and 48119 Pte George Groves in their diaries and 48196 Geo Thomas in a letter to the Amman Valley Chronicle, record that on the 8th January, at Green Barn, B Section brought in wounded Royal Field Artillery (RFA) men under heavy shellfire and were complimented by the Major of the RFA battery for their coolness and pluck! Capt Ffoulkes records in a letter dated 17th January that "The men worked splendidly, particularly the stretcher bearers. It requires a good deal of nerve to carry wounded steadily and carefully over rough ground under shell fire but the men never hesitated once and I know they will always behave in the same splendid manner."
Neuve Chapelle much as it would have been when B section were manning the A.D.S at Green Barn. The regimental aid post at Stirling Castle (marked D on map 4 - map sheet 36 S5a4.7) was in the centre of Neuve Chapelle.
Late in the evening of the 8th January a telegram was received by the Unit instructing that the four Army Chaplains who had been attached to the Unit were to return to the 114th Brigade Headquarters at Laventie but before they departed the following morning, Capt J Allan Davies C.F. reported sick with colic and was evacuated to the Hospital for Officers at Robecq. The three other chaplains departed at 11.30 in accordance with instructions.
The A.D.M.S. 38th Division visited B Section at Green Barn on the 9th January and accompanied by Capt Ffoulkes, visited the R.A.P. at Ebenezer Farm which was at this time the headquarters of the 13th Battalion, Welsh Regiment.
C Section returned to Calonne from their time with 59th Field Ambulance on the 10th January. A 'rattling good supper' was had by all the boys in B Section on the 13th, made from the contents of various parcels from home records 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips in his diary. 'Best feed since leaving England'. On Friday 14th, B Section under the command of Capt M Ffoulkes returned having handed over the A.D.S. at Green Barn to a Section of the 131st Field Ambulance.
7th Week at War - 15th - 21st January 1916 - Calonne
The ADMS, 38th (Welsh) Division visited the hospital at Calonne on the 16th and the ADMS XI Corps visited the following day and expressed satisfaction with the hospital the Unit had established. On the 16th, 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips recorded that he received his 4th pay in France, 10 Francs and on the next day the men were issued new boots - 'and about time too, my socks were touching the ground' he reported.
On 18th the OC of the 59th Field Ambulance visited to discuss the exchange of hospital locations by the two Units and 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips was sent to the Officers' mess to relieve 48560 Pte Tom Oldham for the day were he 'had some good food incidentally'.
The 21st saw 2 men being severely punished for the wrong use of Green Envelopes (also know as honour envelopes - not to be opened or delayed by the censor) records 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips. These Green envelopes where introduced in March 1915 to reduce the burden on Unit censors and where generally not subjected to censorship. They rapidly become known as 'Honour envelopes' as they had to be signed by the writer, certifying that on their honour, the contents referred to nothing but private and family matters and where popular with the troops. The picture above is of a Version 2 Green envelope introduced in early 1916.
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 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 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.
9th Week at War - 29th January - 4th February - Mesplaux Farm
The D.D.M.S. 11th Corps accompanied by the A.D.M.S. 38th (Welsh) Division visited the hospital at Mesplaux Farm on the 29th January. For the remainder of the week, the men not employed on medical duties were on fatigue work, carrying out improvements on and around the hospital, making paths, levelling off the ground and whitewashing walls etc.
Remainder of week 9 continued in February