Diary from Inception

In the beginning
 
Training in Wales December 1914 to August 1915
The content for this section of the Unit's history has been lost during the malicious hacking attack of the original website and I will be attempting to revive this data over the next few days.
 
On the 12th December 1914 the Field Ambulance Unit raised by Mr Herbert Lewis (Deputy Commissioner of Number XI district, St John Ambulance Association, South Wales) was mobilised and handed over to the Welsh Army Corps at the St David's Centre in Cardiff.
 
St John men being attested at the St David Centre, Cardiff on Saturday 12th December 1914
St John men being attested at the St David Centre, Cardiff on Saturday 12th December 1914
The image above is reproduced here by kind permission of Media Wales Ltd and the Newport Community Learning and Libraries, South Wales.
 
After being attested, the men were entertained to dinner by the Lord Mayor at Park Hall, Cardiff and were inspected and addressed by Lord Plymouth. He said "I am glad to inspect the men of St David's Centre who are here to form a Field Ambulance of the Welsh Army Corps. As Ambulance Director, I am proud of the way in which the men have come forward and feel it an honour to inspect such a fine body of men and the General can feel proud of them."
 
The men of the new Field Ambulance Unit being entertained to luncheon at the Park Hall, Cardiff on Saturday 12th December 1914
The men of the new Field Ambulance Unit being entertained to luncheon at the Park Hall, Cardiff on Saturday 12th December 1914
The image above is reproduced here by kind permission of Media Wales Ltd and the Newport Community Learning and Libraries, South Wales.
 
The men were put through various drills and went on several route marches and were given six days leave over Christmas. The Glamorgan Gazette issue published on the 1st January 1915 (http://welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk) reported that on Christmas Eve in Ogmore Vale, a nine year old girl ran out into the street with her clothes on fire and 48177 Pte Albert W Reed with great promptitude immediatley wrapped a coat around her and extinguished the flames while both 48068 Sgt Frank J King and 48564 Pte Edward Pinkard also rendered assistance. Possibly the first casualty treated by the men as members of the Unit.
Herbert Lewis inspecting the men
Herbert Lewis inspecting the men
 
Lt Col Davies arrived in Cardiff on the 28th December and Mr Herbert Lewis handed over command of the Unit to him on the following day.
 
The Unit left Cardiff by special train on the 29th December 1914 to Porthcawl under the command of Lt Col J. E. H. Davies who was to command the Unit for the rest of the War. The only other officers with the Unit at this time were Major W. B. Edwards, Capt A.W. Anderson and Quarter Master (Hon Lieut) Thompson and possibly Lieut Fredric Samual Rowland (who, on arrival at Porthcawl and finding that the other Field Ambulance unit there did not have any medical officers, transferred to that unit).
 
R.A.M.C. recruiting poster
The poster above is reproduced here by kind permission of the Special Collections - University of Leeds (URI:http://digital.library.leeds.ac.uk/id/eprint/1708).

The papers related to the formation and early days of the Welsh Army Corps are available to view online at Cymru 1914 - The Welsh experience of the First World War (http://cymru1914.org/en/home) provide a fascinating insight to the difficulties of raising an Army Division from scratch. Firstly, there was some confusion as to the make up of a Field Ambulance Unit with both Mr Herbert Lewis and Mr Owen Owens (Secretary of the Welsh Army Corps) believing that the St John Ambulance Association were going to raise a Field Ambulance Unit of 10 officers and 223 other ranks. While this is the total strength of a Field Ambulance Unit, approximately 40 of the other ranks would be Army Service Corps men provided as attached personnel, not Royal Army Medical Corps. Secondly, in all correspondence in November and December both Mr Herbert Lewis and the members of the Welsh Army Corps referred to the Field Ambulane Unit being formed by the St John Ambulance Association as the 1st Field Ambulance, Welsh Army Corps. This caused confusion when the Unit arrived at Porthcawl on the 29th December 1914 where the other Field Ambulance unit there had already names itself the 1st Field Ambulance Unit of the Welsh Army Corps.

During the first few months of training, most of the Welsh Army Corps (later the 38th (Welsh) Division) were clothed in Brethyn Llwyd (Welsh cloth) with the exception of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance who wore their St John Ambulance uniforms, until sufficient army khaki uniforms arrived.

While the men who were attested at the St David Centre in Cardiff on 12th December 1914 were all St John men, as time passed, these men were added to by additional recruits, both St John men from outside Wales and men with no prior connection with the St John Ambulance Association such as 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption who joined later in December 1914. As the Unit's training progressed, a number of the recruits, both from the original St John men as well as the later recruits, were either found to be unfit for military service or transferred to other medical and non medical Units so that by the time the Unit sailed to France in December 1915, it was composed of a mixture of Welsh St John men, Non Welsh St John men and men with no prior St John connection but the majority of the R.A.M.C. men were still Welsh St John men.

While training both at Porthcawl, Porthmadoc, Criccieth and Prestatyn, the usual daily routine of the Unit was as follows; 07.30 Parade followed by physical exercise drill, the men then returned to their billets for breakfast to return for a further parade at 09.30. Following this second parade the men where trained in both Unit and Company marching drill or taken on a route march. Lunch was usually between 12.30 to 14.00 when there was another parade that was followed by further marching drill or a route march. This routine was followed six days a week and on Sunday, there was usually a parade at 09.30 followed by a church service after which the men were dismissed for the rest of the day. As time progressed, lectures in first aid, other medical and military topics where also included and as the necessary equipment arrived, training in stretcher drill was also added to the training programme.

Even by early January 1915, the boots of many of the men in the Unit were in a poor state and it was not until mid January that the men were issued with Army boots and socks. 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption records in his diary that he was issued with khaki puttees on the 23th January and that the Unit was issued with grey wool cardigans which were worn when going their physical exercise drill (see photograph below) which he describes as making the men look like little teddy bears.

Physical exercise for the men of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance in their grey wool cardigans (the Unit was still know at this time as the 2nd Field Ambulance of the Welsh Army Corps)
Physical exercise for the men of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance in their grey wool cardigans (the Unit was still know at this time as the 2nd Field Ambulance of the Welsh Army Corps)

The image above is by kind permission of Helen Cleaves - Granddaughter of 48542 Pte James Cleaves.

On Thursday 28th January 1915, the unit moved to Porthmadoc by train traveling via Neath, Carmarthen, Lampeter, Aberystwyth and Bargoed, arriving at Porthmadoc at about 4pm. 48554 Pte George Henry Jickells records in his diary that the Unit had a grand reception at Porthmadoc as they were the first lot of troops to arrive in the town. The Unit's daily routine continued in Porthmadoc with parades, physical exercise, marching drill and route marches. Col J. E. H. Davies, the commanding office also took part in the Unit's early morning physical exercise drill with 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption recording in his diary entry of 5th February 1915 that "there is no swank with him".

On the 6th February, 48071 William Stroud was made Sergeant Major for the Unit. The Units training gradually became more interesting with medical lectures being given by the Medical Officers such as one on typhoid given by Major William B Edwards after the 09.30 parade on 10th February and stretcher drill was also commenced about this time.

On the 12th February, the men of the Unit were finally issued with khaki overcoats and so could start to look vaguely military.

48192 L/Cpl Ernest Sweeting in Wales
48192 L/Cpl Ernest Sweeting in Wales

The photograph above is used with the kind permission of Eleanor, Granddaughter of 48192 Sgt Ernest Sweeting M.M and was probably taken in mid March 1915.

Rear row, L/Cpl Blackall, S/Sgt Williams, Sgt E T Owen and L/Cpl Sweeting.

Front row, Sgt Sumption, Pte Ll Jones, Pte C W Jarman and Ginger the mascot.

On the 17th February the Unit moved to Criccieth which was not popular with the men as they had been treated well by the people of Porthmadoc and further more, there was no gas or electric lighting in Criccieth! 48554 Pte George Henry Jickells records that the Unit marched the 5 miles from Porthmadoc to Criccieth on the 17th February 1915 where he was billeted in a house where the owner and landlady was the cousin of Mr David Lloyd George!

 

Map of Wales showing the Unit's locations in 1914/15
Map of Wales showing the Unit's locations in 1914/15

The men of the Unit were issued with Khaki shirts on the 20th February and new boots on the 23rd, the same day that 48072 Nursing Sergeant John Reeves Davies records an interesting incident that occurred while the unit was stationed at Criccieth (courtesy of the Welsh National Library) "A suspected spy was caught coming off a boat, which ran at full speed into the harbour, he was captured and placed under arrest in the George Hotel. Guard was placed over him for about 2 hours. Then he was given in charge of the Chief Constable of Caernarfon. Eventually he turned out to be one of the Secret Service Men (British)." The diary of 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption states that "Today a little sensation was caused by suspicions that a man who came off a little tug in the bay was a German spy. Our men formed a guard around his hotel and he was arrested and examined. The authorities were satisfied as to his identity - he was a secret naval official. But our men weren't satisfied, they wanted to give him a swipe very badly and one usually placid man had a piece of lead piping ready to give him a downer should he prove obstreperous". On the 27th February, 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption was finally issued with a hat!

On the 2nd March, all three Field Ambulance Units (129th, 130th & 131st) of the now named 38th (Welsh) Division moved to Prestatyn to continue their Field and Hospital training. The routine of parades, physical exercise, marching drill and route marches continued. Col Davies took the Unit on a route march on the 4th March and not for the first time, managed to get lost, as 48128 Sgt Francis Sumption. The Colonel was developing a reputation for not being very good at navigating!

By the 5th March, the Unit was about 228 strong and the process of inoculating the men against typhoid began with many of the men fainting when being injected!

The photograph below must have been taken after mid March as 48128 Sgt Francis Sumption records in his diary on the 11th that no tunics had yet been issued and the mens clothing was becoming very ragged. In fact, the uniforms for the men did not arrive until the 26th March.

 

Nine men of the Unit with their landladies in Prestatyn 1915
Nine men of the Unit with their landladies in Prestatyn 1915

The photograph above is reproduced from the origional held in the Army Medical Services Museum with a digital copy in the Welcome Library Collection. The landladies are two widowed sister - Mrs Evans and Mrs Schofield and the men of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance are, back row left to right, 48122 Pte William Haysum, 48092 LClp John Brennan, 48180 Pte Timothy Richards (later awarded the M.M.), 48109 Pte Herbert Dobbs, 48024 Pte Issac Beecham (later DoW) and front row left to right, 48205 Pte W J Watters and 48162 Pte Samual Maxworthy - all from Mountain Ash and then Cpl Jones and Pte Omery (?Emery) from Pontypridd (probably 48551 Hembry) from Pontypridd.

While stationed at Prestatyn, the officers were billeted at the Nant Hall Hotel, in front of which the Unit photographs (see Home page and Official Photos page) were taken.

Nant Hall Hotel Prestatyn 2014
Nant Hall Hotel Prestatyn 2014

The training of the Unit continued at Prestatyn but equipment was in short supply to the extent that a carpenter in the Unit was making temporary stretchers so that the stretcher drill could become more interesting.

On the 13th March Colonel Probyn was sent to the Unit to take over from Colonel Davies. There had apparently been a disagreement between Dr Lyn Thomas (Welsh Army Corps Committee) and Herbert Lewis (Deputy Commissioner of No. 11 District, St John Ambulance Association) regarding the appointment of Officers to the Unit and the War Office had sent Col Probyn to take over from Col. Davies and also a Quarter Master Lieutenant from Aldershot to take over from Lt P S Thompson. There were rumours that Capt. A W Anderson and Major Edwards (both St John Ambulance Association Surgeons) were going to leave on account of Col. Davies losing his position. Neither Col Davies or the other Officers of the Unit had yet been Gazetted nor had they received any pay to date.

On Monday 22nd March, no Officers turned up to the 09.30 parade so Col. Probyn attended and assigned duties but there was a lot of ill feeling in the ranks such that on the following day the men marched to the Nant Hall Hotel only to discover that Capt Anderson and Maj Edwards had gone to London.

Col. Davies, Maj. Edwards, Capt. Anderson and Lt Thompson were finally Gazetted on the 30th March.

A section of page 3112 of the London Gazette 30 March 1915
A section of page 3112 of the London Gazette 30 March 1915

On Thursday 1st April, all four of the newly gazetted officers returned to the Unit and were greeted with loud cheers. 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption recorded that "We are all very glad to see them back." Col Probyn was appointed as an instructor to the Unit while Col Davies resumed his command but on the 9th April, Col Probyn was appointed as Commanding officer of the 131st Field Ambulance and thus left Col. Davies to command the Unit. Sgt Sumption goes on to state that "Col. Davies is an extremely considerate sort of man although I think he is better as a doctor than as a Commanding Officer."

On the 8th April, 48135 Sgt C W Jarman had been sent to Cardiff to collect an ambulance car, a gift of the St John Ambulance Association and he returned with it on the 9th.

The ambulance from the St John Ambulance Association
The ambulance from the St John Ambulance Association

48071 Sgt Maj W Stroud standing to the left and 48135 Sgt C W Jarman to the right of the ambulance during a stretcher loading drill.

New recruits continued to report to the Unit and had to be processed by the orderly Sergeant and interviewed by the Colonel and then found billets. So even with the loss from the Unit of men who were found to be unfit for military service or were commissioned into other units (such as sergeant dispenser Arnold Collins from Swansea who was commissioned into the 10th Welsh on the 3rd April), the total strength of the Unit gradually increased to well above its war time establishment. On the evening of the 12th April, four new recruits from York turned up, two of were probably 48620 Pte Martin Haddakin and 48619 Fred Yates, members of the Rowntree factory Ambulance Team in York.

As well as continuing their medical and military training while based at Prestatyn, the Unit had to provide a sergeant dispenser and nine hospital orderlies to the assist the Medical Officers of the infantry battalions (1st & 2nd Rhonddas, Carmarthen Pals and Swansea Pals) based at Rhyl. 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption being tasked with this duty for two weeks starting on Saturday 17th April. During Sgt Sumption's first week in Rhyl both 48192 L/Cpl Ernest Sweeting and 48087 L/Cpl Claude Trelawny Blackall were promoted to corporals. While Ernest Sweeting served the entire war with the Unit, later being promoted to Sergeant and being awarded the Military Medal for his actions at Pilckem ridge in 1917, Claude T Blackall did not go to France with the Unit but transferred to the 22nd (County of London) Battalion The Queens and was commissioned into the 1st Momonmouthshire in 1917.

Also, during this week the Unit photographs (see home page and Official Photos page) were taken outside the Nant Hall Hotel. Both 48128 Sgt F B Sumption and 48064 S/Sgt L W Williams are absent from the Officers and Sergeants photograph, Sumption because he was on duty in Rhyl and Williams because he was on leave in Cardiff during which time he became engaged.

During May, the men attended lectures on first aid and practice in bandaging and on the 13th were all marched down to the town hall in Prestatyn where they each had an oral exam in first aid conducted in a small ante-room.

The next two images are with kind permission of David Ffoulkes, Grandson of Capt. Meredydd Ffoulkes who joined the Unit from the 16th (Service) Battalion of The Welsh Regiment (The Cardiff City Battalion) in June 1915.

Men of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance in Prestatyn 1915
Men of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance in Prestatyn 1915

Note the man third from the end of the line still wearing civilian clothes, probably a new recruit.

Capt M Ffoulkes sitting a tent entrance
Capt M Ffoulkes sitting a tent entrance

Capt. M Ffoulkes is seated at the entrance of the tent being handed a note by 48071 Sgt/Maj William Stroud.

On the 19th June, 48135 Sgt Clifford W Jarman, Sgt Evan Thomas Owen and 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption were in charge of a large group of the men to visit the anatomical museum in Liverpool. Sgt Sumption describes the museum as "most disgusting and almost turned my stomach".

With the coming of the longer days of summer, the first parade of the day had gradually been moved earlier and earlier and now took place at 6.30 am. With the arrival of ambulance wagons and the ambulance car the men's training continued but, as can be seen from the picture below, there was still time for some larking about.

Larking about in Prestatyn 1915
Larking about in Prestatyn 1915

Larking about. Pte James Cleaves (JC) and Pte Ridgeway (WR)"

Image by kind permission of Helen Cleaves - Granddaughter of 48542 Pte James Cleaves.

By early July, Lieut. (later Capt.) Alfred John Andrew had joined the Unit and, as many of the Officers could not ride, there was a riding school for officers which provided much amusement for the men. Some like Major William B Edwards were experienced riders but that did not stop him being thrown from his horse when it shied at a motor car in mid July. His broken leg sustained in the fall prevented him sailing to France with the Unit in December 1915 but he did eventually join the Unit again in late March 1916. When he was picked up Major Edwards apparently said "I don't care tuppence about a broken leg, but tumbling off a horse makes one look such a fool".

130th (St John) Field Ambulance cooking in the field - North Wales 1915
130th (St John) Field Ambulance cooking in the field - North Wales 1915

The photograph above is by kind permission of David Ffoulkes, Grandson of Capt. Meredydd Ffoulkes (arrowed). was probably taken in North Wales in June/July 1915. Does anyone have an idea as to what the men are doing in this photograph or can identify any of the other men or has other information, please do be in contact.

130th (St John) Field Ambulance resting during a route march to Tremeirchion Wales 1915
130th (St John) Field Ambulance resting during a route march to Tremeirchion Wales 1915

On the 26th July 1915 while still based at Prestatyn, the strength of the Unit was reported as total of 266 all ranks (R.A.M.C., 6 officers, 18 Warrant Officer & Sergeants, 3 Buglers, 229 other ranks; A.S.C., 1 Sergeant, 9 other ranks). By the 2nd August, Lt F A Anderson had joined the unit.

On Thursday 5th August the Unit had a field training day at Downing Hall near Mostyn (a march of about 12 miles from Prestatyn) and 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption was the NCO in charge of the hospital. The Unit arrived back in Prestatyn at 7.30pm having spent a long, tiring but enjoyable day.

On the 11th, the men of the Unit were issued with belts but according to 48128 Sgt F B Sumption, they were second hand and some of them were smeared with blood!

Stretcher loading drill in Prestatyn 1915
Stretcher loading drill in Prestatyn 1915

48135 Sgt Clifford W Jarman standing on the right at the front of the ambulance and 48068 Cpl Frank John King (later Sergeant and awarded the DCM for his actions at Pilckem Ridge in 1917) is standing immediately to the rear of the ambulance.

The Unit held a further field training day on Friday 13th August and returned from this in the pouring rain, arriving back in Prestatyn just in time for pay parade.

The Unit spent Wednesday 18th August moving out of their billets. The weather was glorious and they spent their time cleaning their belts with khaki blanco and laying them out on the grass of the field where they had previously practiced their stretch drill. At 8.30pm, they paraded at the Unit headquarters with all their belongings. A huge crowd of local people had gathered to wish the Unit farewell. Finally, the Unit marched to the station amid a blare of trumpets and boarded a train to Winchester via Chester, Shrewsbury and Birmingham.

 
 
Training in Hampshire and Wiltshire August to December 1915
 
Along with the rest of the 38th (Welsh) Division, the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance moved from North Wales to the Winchester area in Hampshire in mid August 1915. The overnight train journey from Prestatyn lasted 9 hours and the men were marched from Winchester station to Avington Park Camp where the Unit was placed under canvas co-located with the 129th Field Ambulance. Having to sleep in tents must have come as rather a shock for the men as up to this time, they had been billeted in houses and slept in normal beds where now they slept on wooden boards in circular 'bell' tents, 10 men to a tent ( the Sergeants being privileged with only 8 to a tent). By the time they left Wales for Winchester the Unit strength was 257 cap badged R.A.M.C. (7 officers and 250 NCOs and other ranks) with 11 cap badged A/S.C. (1 sergeant and 10 other ranks).
 
129th & 130th Fld Amb in tented camp at Avington Park Camp 1915
129th & 130th Fld Amb R.A.M.C. at Avington Park Camp 1915
 
The image above is my courtesy of Winchester City Council Arts and Museums Service
 
The day that the Unit arrived at Avington Park Camp, the men were left to sort themselves out bu, on the following day, training commenced again with reveille at 5.30am, drill from 6.30 to 7.45, further drill and instruction from 9.00am to 1.00pm and 2.00 to 4.30pm, after this the men were free with lights out at 10.00pm.
On Thursday 26th August a 38th (Welsh) Divisional Eisteddfod was held in the Y.M.C.A. tent and the Unit choir was competing but as they ascended the stage, it suddenly collapsed which put them off their stride and the prize was won by a choir from one of the other brigades.
 
On Friday 3rd September, Col Davies took the Unit on a 20 mile route march starting at 8.00am and not returning until 2.00pm. 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption remarked in his diary 'the colonel (as usual) lost his way'! The same thing happened on Friday the 17th September with Col Davies getting the Unit back near the starting point at 9.00am after marching only a few miles and so they had to set off again taking a different route.
 
New recruits continued to arrive from Wales and elsewhere, seeking admission to the Unit. The number of R.A.M.C. men in the Unit increased as did the number of A.S.C. men attached to the Unit and by 13th September, with the Unit now based in Winchester, the number of attached A.S.C. had risen to 1 sergeant and 17 other ranks. Lt T J Buckley reported for duty on 3rd September 1915, bringing the number of officers of the Unit to a total of 8 but by 29th November, this had further increased to 10. While based in the various camps around Winchester, once dismissed for the day, the men were able to travel into Winchester and even Southampton where they attended the cinema or theatre and very importantly obtain food to make a change from army cooking. To eat at a table off a plate with a knife and fork was much more pleasant than eating out of a mess tin squatting on the ground. A favourite dish amongst the men was sausage and mash, known as zeppelin on a cloud.

Towards the end of September, a number of men in the Unit were attached to serve in infantry battalions and artillery batteries of the Division on water duties, being responsible for the water cart and the purification etc of the drinking water for the unit to which they were attached. (This has caused difficulties in identifying these men who joined and trained with the Unit as these men sailed to France with the units to which they were attached and so arrived on dates other than 4th December 1915 so unless other information such as service/pension records or mentioned in private papers, we have not been able to identify them and so there are some men missing from the Unit's nominal roll.

On Friday, the Unit took part in a Divisional field day and as part of the attacking force, wore white bands around their hats. 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption did not go with the unit as he had to remain at headquarters indenting for medical supplies but he did record in his diary, "About 5 o'clock our Unit returned, they had been totally annihilated though getting right into the line of fire! I don't know what will become of us when we get abroad. The way we get on to the wrong track and get cut to pieces is too dreadful to contemplate."

On the 27th September, the Unit took part in a Divisional march prior to moving to Pitt Corner Camp a few miles away on the 28th September. A further Divisional route march was held on the 30th September with the various units of the 38th (Welsh) division converging from various directions to march past the General. The Unit marched behind the Pioneers whose mules caused many halts.

At the beginning of October, the men of the Unit moved from sleeping in tents to sheds which in the increasingly wet autumnal weather was a significant improvement for them. A Divisional Field Day was held on the 12th October and the Unit was complimented on their smartness and physique by General Sir Ivor Phillips.

There was an increasing shortage of skilled mechanics especially within the munitions industry and an appeal was made to the men of the Division who had such skills to volunteer for this work. On Monday 11th October, these skilled men were called out and marched off to be addressed by Mr A Shirley Benn M.P. and examined by an expert from the Board of Trade who took on only the very skilled workers. Those lost from the Unit in this way could help to explain the some of the numbers in the 48000 series with no medal index card or name.

In his diary, 48072 Sgt John Reeves Davies describes taking a squad of 8 men to the scene of an aeroplane accident near Flower Down Camp, Winchester on the 14th October and 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption recorded the same event thus; "We had a bit of excitement today; an aeroplane flew over our camp when suddenly it descended with a crash. A squad of our men rushed to the rescue and found the machine smashed to bits and the mechanic suffering badly from shock and concussion. The officer in charge however was not much hurt. We had to guard it during the evening so now the popular gag is 'Do you know anything about birds? Yes? Then fall out tonight and guard the aeroplane!'."

Saturday 16th October, the Unit moved to Flowedown camp where now all three of the Field Ambulance units (129th, 130th (St John) and the 131st) of the 38th (Welsh) Division where located and were under canvas again. C section of the Unit was sent to Rollestone Camp on Salisbury Plain (near Stonehenge) to form an observation Hospital for the 113rd & 115th Brigades of the 38th (Welsh) Division who were there for rifle practice. Here they were placed in canvas huts which Sgt Davies describes as being in a disgraceful state. They constructed a Hospital to accommodate 8 beds, with a Pack store, waiting and dispensary room and their arrangements were complimented by Col Russell RAMC. The 113rd Brigade left Salisbury Plain on the 24th October and were replaced by the 115th Brigade. By the 26th October , the Hospital was full but Lieut T J Buckley along with 48586 Cpl T J Jones, 48559 LCpl T J Nicholas, and 48560 Pte T J Oldham returned back to Winchester by motor car to play in a football match for the Divisional Cup tie (no result is given). Both Cpl Jones and LCpl Nicholas were later awarded the Military Medal (MM) for acts of gallantry performed during the Unit's time in France and Pte Oldham who subsequently transferred to the Royal Engineers was wounded in 1918.

 

Photograph by kind permission of Ray Maunder, son of 48160 L/Cpl William H F Maunder

 

As October progressed, the men were issued with active service clothes and an increasing number of men were granted short leave passes.

C section returned to Flower Down Camp near Winchester on the 4th November and the whole Unit was inspected on the 23rd November by Mr Herbert Lewis (the Deputy Commissioner of the St John Ambulance Association in Wales who had originally mobilised the Unit in 1914). A Divisional Bivouac on Crawley Warren was held on the 25th November and on the following day a Divisional March-past and inspection by General Sir Ivor Phillips took place.

130th (St John) Field Ambulance ready for war 1915
130th (St John) Field Ambulance ready for war 1915

The photograph above is by kind permission of Charles Young, Grandson of 48221 Pte Oliver Young M.M.. It was probably taken on the 26th November when there was a Divisional March Past in preparation for the Royal Inspection by Queen Mary on the 29th November 1915.

The entire 38th (Welsh) Division was inspected by Queen Mary on behalf of the King on a cold and wet 29th November and a short, silent move clip of this visit can be viewed on the

"http://www.britishpathe.com/video/queen-mary-inspects-troops-1/query/hampshire" target="_blank" title="Queen Mary inspects the 38th (Welsh) Division 29th November 1915" British Pathe website

48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption wrote of the day in a letter home. "The great day is over at last and a terrible time we had. We were up at 5.30am and were soon shaving and polishing up. After breakfast we paraded at 7.45am and started off for the parade ground at 8.00am. We wore our coats rolled around us bandolier fashion although it was raining. We reached the ground at 9 o'clock nearly drenched and stood there in the rain for about three hours and the rain got through to the skin. We were then told to put on our coats. When the Queen arrived we took off our coats, put on our equipment and commenced to move around the course past the Queen with our eyes going 'right' with 'a click' and then went back to our stand. We waited for 3/4 hour for our tea to be made and drank it from our mess tins together with a hunk of bread and cheese. I can tell you it went down very sweetly as we were all cold and ravenously hungry. Marched back through the slush into the deeper slush of the camp and tried our best to dry our clothes. Slept like a top and am only a little foot sore as a result of yesterday's performance.

It continued to rain almost non stop for several days before turning very cold and frosty, making life under canvas very unpleasant although it was a little better for the Sergeants who had a wooden hut as a Mess. Much time was spent is organising the mobilization equipment for the Unit. Everything from the large wicker hampers of medical equipment to horse harnesses. In fact everything that a Field Ambulance needed for active service.

130th (St John) Field Ambulance in camp before leaving for France 1915
130th (St John) Field Ambulance in camp before leaving for France 1915

The men of the Unit sanitary squad where becoming unhappy as they disliked being called the "shit wallopers" by the other men in the Unit.

On Monday 8th November, the men of the Unit were issued with their identity discs, small leather identity discs to wear around their necks with their name, number and religion stamped on them. The men referred to them as "death discs.

In mid November the men were granted their last leave, single men getting 3 days and married men 4. Not long to travel back to Wales to see their families, or even further afield for some in the Unit.

Not all the men who had originally joined the Unit back in December 1914 sailed to France with the Unit on the 3rd December 1915. Some were found unfit for military service (these are the Regimental Numbers with no medal index cards) and others such as 48231 Pte Thomas William Jones were sick and admitted to hospital. 48231 Pte Thomas William Jones was admitted to hospital on the 3rd November (the hand writing on his pension record is difficult to decipher but may read 'epididymitis (tuberculous)' and remained there until 10th March 1916 and was subsequently discharged from the Army on the 26th March 1916 and awarded a Silver War Badge.

On the 3rd December the Unit was up early with reveille at 3.30am, spent between 4.00 and 5.00am loading the wagons with their kit before having breakfast. With all their plates etc packed away they had to manage as best they could. At 6.00am the Unit commenced their march of some 18 miles to Southampton, in the pouring rain. There was a short stop midway when the men were served with tea at a house on the wayside and as they entered Southampton, cold and drenched, ladies from a Soldier's home gave the men hot coffee and sandwiches. They arrived at the dock at lunchtime but had to wait before finally boarding the SS Karnak (described by 48128 Sgt F B Sumption as a "filthy tramp steamer") at 4.10pm. The 130th (St John) Ambulance War Diary records that the Unit that sailed from Southampton to Le Havre consisted of 230 all ranks. The SS Karnak set sail at 5.00pm. The 130th (St John) Field Ambulance was off to war.

 

Early days in France  - December 1915 to June 1916

The 130th (St John) Field Ambulance arrived in France on Saturday 4th December 1915 and spent their first 6 months or so in Theatre on the Neuve Chapel sector of the Western Front as one of the Divisions of the XI Corps - 1st Army. The units of the 38th (Welsh) Division spent the first few weeks in France being instructed in the art of trench warfare by the more experienced units of XI corps but were soon thrown into the front line on their own.

For convenience, this part of the Unit's history has be divided into weeks.

The SS Karnak arrived at Harve at 6am on the Saturday 4th December 1915 after what, by all accounts was a rough and unpleasant voyage. Disembarkation was delayed because of a weak dockside crane which meant the wagons had to be unloaded before being lifted. At 12.30, the Unit left the docks and marched to No. 6 Dock Rest Camp for a night under canvas.

Le Harve harbour 1915
Le Harve harbour 1915

The following day, Sunday 5th December, the unit, along with a company of South Wales Borderers entrained into cattle trucks with Lt Col Davies acting as Officer Commanding (O.C.). 48554 Pte George Henry Jickells recorded in his diary that there were 24 men in each cattle truck or in the same sized trucks, 8 horses and two Army Service Corps (ASC) men. I can hardly have been a comfortable journey. The train and set off at 3.20pm on an all day and night journey to Aire sur La Lys arriving at 1pm the following day. Here the Unit, along with the rest of the 38th (Welsh) Division were to join XI Corps (part of the 1st Army)
who where holding the Neuve Chapelle sector of the Western Front. At this time XI Corps consisted of Guards Division, in line north of Neuve Chapelle and the 19th (Western) Division (new army) in line to the south with the 46th (North Midlands) Division (territorial) in reserve.

Map of the Western Front winter 1915/16

At a stop at St Omer, Lt Col Davies was supplied with a map and position of the village were the Unit was to be billeted on arrival at Aire sur La Lys but when they arrived, there was no one to meet them and they had no interpreter. Unloading the train was delayed due to the short platform and marched off from Aire
(Map 2 letter A) at 2.30pm in pouring rain and eventually arrived in pitch darkness at the village of Enguinegatte (Map 2 letter B) (population approximately 400) at 6pm, soaked to the skin having taken several wrong turns on the way.The "O.C. lost his way, (nothing unusual)" recorded 48554 Pte George
Henry Jickells. Although Lieut Anderson, along with a billeting party had been sent on ahead of the Unit, great difficulty was encountered in finding billets for both men and horses as the Wiltshire Yeomanry were already stationed in Enguinegatte. Eventually, with the assistance of the O.C. of the Wiltshire Yeomanry
and his interpreter, billets were finally found in barns etc. The schoolroom was used to make tea for the men but many slept without blankets, tired, wet and hungry. 

Aire-sur-La-Lys station
Aire-sur-La-Lys station

The following day was spent rearranging billets and fatigue duties and the unit was visited by the A.D.S.M. (Assistant Director of Medical Service) of the 38th (Welsh) Division - (at this time Col Morgan). Pte Ieuan Phillips 48563 reported in his diary that the men had a stew this day. Capt Ffoulkes and Capt Anderson
were billeted in a house from where Capt Ffoulkes wrote to his family (papers of Annie Ffoulkes held in Bangor University Archives) from the kitchen while the adjoining room was full of men of the unit chatting and drinking cafe au lait made by Madame. He describes the local people as very good to the men, doing
what they can for them but this is very little as they are so poor. describing the village as very scattered and composed mainly of small farms. "The people are happy but poor and dirty, and most of them never seem to have heard of a bath". The Unit received orders to move at 9am the next day to Glomenghem (Map 2
letter C), a larger village, just a few miles away.

In continued wet weather, the Unit marched out of Enguinegatte at 9am and arrived in Glomengham at 1pm. The men were billeted in barns and stables while the headquarters was established in a chateau. Lieut Douglas Charles Murray Page RAMC reported himself for duty and was taken on the strength of the unit.

The wet weather continued on the 9th December when the A.S.C. (Army Service Corps) motor transport reported for duty with 4 Sunbeam Ambulances, 2 Ford Ambulances and two motor cycles. It is not clear from the Unit War Diary if the drivers for these vehicles were already on the strength of the Unit or joined on this day. Interestingly, the War Diary of the 38th Division Field Ambulance Workshop Unit (WO95/2550/2) records that 7 ambulances were delivered to the Unit on the 8th December. Perhaps the was mistaken and the seventh ambulance could well have been a Wolseley as pictured below.

A Wolseley ambulance in Belgium 1916
A Wolseley ambulance in Belgium 1916

 

The Unit was ordered to collect the sick of the 113th and 114th Brigades and transport them to the hospital established by the 129th Field Ambulance at Clarques about 6 Km due west of the Units current location.

Also on the 9th December, 48615 Pte John H Roberts was examined and passed as a motorcyclist by the 38th Div Field Ambulance Workshop Unit.

On the 10th December, the Unit continued to collect the sick from the 113th and 114th Brigades and a route march was held. Capt Anderson had a difficult and frustrating task in obtaining the cash to pay the unit, attending the Brigade Headquarters at 10 am, then proceeding to Divisional Headquarters at Roquetoire and finally being sent to Merville, some 25 Km away and finally managed to obtain the cash for the Unit by 6pm!

Section of Map sheet 36A edition 6 1/40,000
Section of Map sheet 36A edition 6 1/40,000

A section of Map sheet 36A edition 6 (1916) showing the location of the Unit in Mid December 1915 - scale - each numbered square is 1000 yards square.


2nd Week at War - 11th - 17th December 1915


Saturday 11th December was again wet and miserable but the men did at least receive their 1st pay while on active service in France. 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips received 10 Francs but was unhappy as had no cigarettes!
On the 12th December, the Unit received instructions to open a hospital and a suitable site was found a few kilometres to the east in the village of Rincq (Map 2 letter D). A Section with Capt A J Andrews in command, were detailed to clean and establish the hospital and by 6 pm it was ready to receive patients. On
the following day, the tent sub-division of A Section were sent to the hospital for duty with the remainder of the Unit going on a route march or doing fatigues.

Tuesday the 14th December saw the men of the Unit continuing with fatigue duties, including laying roads for the motor ambulances at both the Headquarters
(Glomengham) and at the Hospital (Rincq) and this work continued on through the following day.  Lieut Elliott was sent on the 16th December, to take on the duties of Lieut Pennant (MO 13th Welsh) who had been sent to hospital. Instructions were received for A Section to proceed to the 9th Field Ambulance
for instructional purposes. This was common practice and companies/sections of all the Units of the 38th (Welsh) division were attached in rotation to equivalent Units of the more experienced and battle hardened divisions of the XI Corps to gain experience. B Section took over the Hospital, taking over from A Section who departed for Estaires by motor bus at 1.30pm under the command of the O.C. Lt Col Davies.Captain Andrew and Lieut Buckley where the other two officers of A Section. The acting O.C. he 9th Field Ambulance was Captain Fraser and the Unit had it's headquarters is Estaires, an Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) at Laventie and an Aid Post at Red House. Groups of 12 men under the command of a Officer were attached to ADS in rotation while the remainder of A Section were attached to their corresponding departments of the 9th Field Ambulance.


The official War Diary of the Unit state there was 'nothing to report' on Friday 17th December but 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips who as part of B Section was manning the Hospital at Rincq appeared pleased to report that he had roast meat for dinner.

 

3rd Week at War - 18th - 24th December 1915 - Calonne


The stretcher bearers of the Unit underwent a Gas test on the 18th and that evening orders were received from the A.D.M.S. to send forward on the following day, a party consisting of 1 Medical Officer and 12 men to take over the Field Hospital at Calonne which was the centre of the 38th (Welsh) Division rest area
at the time. On the 19th December, Lieut Elliott returned from duty with the 13th Welsh. Capt Ffoulkes led the advanced party which included 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips, which left Rincq by car and arrived at Calonne via Merville at 6.30pm to prepare to take over the Hospital.

 

Calonne sur La Lys pre war
Calonne sur La Lys pre war

The Unit marched out of Glomenghem at 7.30am on the 20th December and arrived at Calonne by 2.30pm, their journey being delayed by the 113rd Brigade who had taken the wrong road and so blocked the path of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance. The wagons had to be left on the road as no wagon park had been arranged for them at Calonne. The Unit received 31 patients into the hospital on the day they took it over. The Hospital was established in the village schoolroom and Capt Ffoulkes and Capt Anderson had rooms in the schoolmaster's house. The whole village was described by Capt Ffoulkes as being very dirty and the roads to be in a hopeless state. Troops and transport pass through the village continuously almost all day. Calonne was very much closer to the front line and the sound of shell fire could clearly be heard at the hospital. Over the next few days the hospital was gradually put in order, billets were found for the men and standing and a park was obtained for the horses and transport of the Unit. On Christmas Eve, A Section returned to Calonne and so the whole Unit was together for their first Christmas at war.

 

4th Week at War - 25th - 31st December 1915 - Calonne


The men of the Unit were permitted to observe but Christmas day and Boxing day as days of rest and recreation in so far as emergencies would allow. 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips records that Christmas day was "very enjoyable" and that they had a lovely meal and pudding. On Boxing Day, B Section handed over the running of the Hospital to C Section and departed at 9.30am for Vieille Chapelle to be attached to the 57th Field Ambulance for a weeks instruction. B Section consisted for 60 men under the command of Capt Ffoulkes along with Lieut J Burke and Lieut D C M Page. The three officers took it in turn to take a party of a dozen men or so up to the A.D.S. of the 57th Field Ambulance at St Vaast for 2 days. St Vaast is located about 3 km east south east of Vieille Chapelle and was about 2 km from the front line and is now the site of the St Vaast Post Military Cemetery. Capt Ffoulkes with his party relieved Lieut Burke on the 29th December. According to Capt Ffoulke' letters, the A.D.S. was located in an orchard about 300 meters from the communication trench and consisted of a semicircle of splendid dugouts one of which was especially large for the treatment of the wounded. On the morning of his arrival at the A.D.S., Capt Ffoulkes took six of the men into the trenches and records that they had quite an exciting time. They had to keep their heads low as they walked along the 1km zig-zag communication trench as if they stood erect, their heads and shoulders would show above the parapet and there was a German machine gun trained on the trench. Having reached the reserve trench, Capt Ffoulkes left the men with the Regimental Medical Officer of the 9th Welsh and went on to the front line trench. He recalls that "it was a strange to feel that you were within 100 yards of the Germans - it's the nearest I've been to them yet and I didn't want to get any nearer". He further records that British Field Artillery Batteries were posted all around the A.D.S. and kicked up an infernal din at times, especially a battery of 18 pounders situated about 80 meters behind the A.D.S. In the evening, they enjoyed sitting on the roof of their dugout, watching the British shells bursting over the German trenches until the German guns began to return fire when they felt it best to retreat into the safety of the dugout.

At the 9am parade on the 27th December, Lt Col Davies read out to the Unit at Calonne the Christmas Message to the Troops from His Majesty the King. Arrangements were made with the representative of the Mayor of Calonne, for the Unit to take over the remaining classroom of the school on the night of the 29th for a week.


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.
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. On arrival, all transport with the exception of 2 motor ambulances, one water cart and one limbered wagon
were sent back to Calonne. 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.

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."

Late in the evening of the 8th January a telegram was received by the Unit instruction 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.

C Section returned to Calonne from their time with 59th Field Ambulance on the 10th January and 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.

Also on Friday 14th January, two A.S.C. men were transferred to the Unit from the 38th Division Field Ambulance Workshop Unit, M2/047525 Pte E P Foley and M2/053713 Cecil Maurice Gardiner.

 

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 the men were issued with 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 worn use of Green Envelopes (also know as honour envelopes - not to be opened or delayed by the censor) records 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips.


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

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 a section of men (probably B Section) proceeded to Rue De Bois 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." On the 24th, the remainder of the Unit proceeded by Route March to Mesplaux (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 Rue de Bois (now a British Military Cemetery) is about 1 km further to the south East. In a letter home dated 29th January, Capt Ffoulkes described Mesplaux Farm as "a rambling old place build in 1715 - an old convent which I have not seen but which I am told is very interesting and dirty!"

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. 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 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 pre and post war
Locon church pre and post war

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 February. 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. At the A.D.S., things remained quiet, with football being played daily according to 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips until at 8.30pm on the 4th, the football field was shelled.


10th Week at War - 5th - 11th February - Mesplaux Farm

The ADMS and DADMS of the 38th (Welsh) Division along with the OC, Lt Col Davies visited and inspected the ADS and the Aid Post at Tube Station. On Tuesday 8th Feburary, the ADMS gave instructions, when he visited the Unit, that 4 men were to be posted at Tube Station Aid Post and 2 at the junction of Cadbury Corner and Princes Road but when it was discovered that there was no accommodation at Cadbury Corner, the two men were posted at Path House Post. On Wednesday, Capt Anderson, Capt Ffoulkes, Lieut Anderson and Lieut Elliott attended a Gas lecture at the recreation room at Lestrem.


11th Week at War - 12th - 18th February - Mesplaux Farm

Apart from the usual visits by the A.D.M.S., the early part of the week was quiet according to the War Diary but on Tuesday 15th, the hospital and A.D.S. were visited by Mr Owen Owen, Secretary of the Welsh Army Corps. In accordance with instructions from the A.D.M.S., the A.D.S. at Rue de Bois and the Aid Posts at Tube Station and Path House Post were handed over to a party from the 131st Field Ambulance on the 17th. On the 18th, Lt/Col Davies in company with Major Hayton D.A.D.M.S. of the 61st Division and also Major Mackie of the same Division visited the A.D.S. of the 5th Field Ambulance at Marais and also the Aid Post at Festubert.


12th Week at War - 19th - 25th February - Mesplaux Farm

The bridge between Mesplaux and Locon 2015
The bridge between Mesplaux and Locon 2015

On Saturday 19th, Capt Ffoulkes with 12 other ranks left at 08.30 am to take over the A.D.S. at Marais and on the following day, a further party of men left for the A.D.S. at Marais and later in the day, Lt/Col Davies visited both the A.D.S. at Marais and the Aid Post at Festubert (Map 3. C) situated in an estaminet, which was being heavily shelled at the time. Also on Sunday 20th, Lt Col Walton, Officer Commanding the 107th Field Ambulance, arrived with 3 officer and 55 other ranks who were attached to the Unit for instructional purposes. In just a few short months, the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance had gone from trainee to trainer!

On Monday the 21st, General Pike DMS inspected the Unit, the Hospital at Mesplaux Farm, and the Advanced Dressing Stations and congratulated Lt Col Davies stating that; "He had known this farm for a good many months and it had always appeared to him to be a hopeless place to convert into a Field Hospital but he could now state it was now one of the best, if not the best kept Field Ambulance in the 1st Army." High praise indeed and a testament to Lt Col Davies being a stickler for things being done properly and to the hard work of the men of the Unit.

 The following morning there was a heavy fall of snow and the weather continued to be very cold with intermittent snow falls into Wednesday when the Unit received further praise from both Col T J Morgan A.D.M.S. 38th (Welsh) Division as well as from Major General Ivor Phillips, the Commander of the 38th (Welsh) Division who wrote. "Will you please convey to all the Officers, NCOs and men of the three Field Ambulances and of the Sanitary Section and Bacteriological Laboratory my congratulations. I have watched their work since they have been in France with much interest and have noted their steady progress. I hope this satisfactory report will be an incentive to all ranks for further effort so that the Field Ambulances of the 38th Division may eventually be held as second to none in the Army."

On Friday 25th, the Unit was visited by a number of Staff Officers accompanying a group of American journalists.

 

13th Week at War - 26th February - 3rd March – Mesplaux Farm

Quite a number of patients were admitted on the night of 26th records 48563 Pte Iuean Phillips who was on night duty at the time. Lt Col Walton and C Section of the 107th Field Ambulance returned to their Unit on the 27th February and were replaced by A Section of the 105th Field Ambulance. On the 29th, Capt Anderson and Capt Ffoulkes departed for two weeks leave and Lieut Page proceeded to the 14th Welsh Regiment to act as RMO in place of Lieut McMillan who had been taken ill.

The Unit continued to improve the facilities in and around Mesplaux farm with a large number of men employed in making a new horse standing on the 1st March.

Road building and new horse standing - it was never just medical work for the men of this Unit
Road building and new horse standing - it was never just medical work for the men of this Unit
This area of the Western Front was relatively quiet at this time and little of note happened during the rest of the week although the weather did improve and in

spring sunshine, numerous aeroplane duels were visible overhead.

 

14th Week at War - 4th - 10th March - Mesplaux Farm

On Saturday the 4th March it snowed again. More space was obtained at Mesplaux Farm with permission being granted for the Unit to use a Granary as accommodation for 40 men. The weather remained cold and there was a further heavy fall of snow in the evening. A section of the 105th Field Ambulance departed from the Unit at 10am on the 5th having completed their week's instruction. Further improvements were made to the Hospital and headquarters at Mesplaux Farm with a joiners shop being erected on the 7th and work on the horse standing was proceeded with on the 9th. Lt Col Davies visited and inspected the advanced dressing station every few days.

Friday 10th was the 8th payday for the Unit and 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips received 10 francs.

Festubert in 1915 - much as the Unit would have found it
Festubert in 1915 - much as the Unit would have found it

 

15th Week at War - 11th - 17th March - Mesplaux Farm

A concert was held in the Barn on the evening of Saturday 11th with a Piano being acquired for the occasion. This was a huge success and very enjoyable records48563 Pte Iuean Phillips. During this week, the weather remained very changeable, varying from warm, fine days to very cold and snowing. On Monday 13th, instructions were received by the Unit to make arrangements at the Bearer Post at Festubert to dry the socks of the 2 Battalions in the trenches and to massage the feet of the men who required such treatment, with whale oil.

Trench foot inspection
Trench foot inspection

Strict attention to foot hygiene was essential in the wet conditions that the soldiers were forced to live and fight and regular inspections were a necessary duty to help prevent 'trench foot', a serious and debilitating condition caused by standing in cold wet mud/water for long periods but it can not have been the most pleasant task for the men of the Unit. On the following day, the Horse transport of the Unit was inspected by the Officer Commanding the 38th (Welsh) Divisional Train (Transport rather than steam engine) and stated that it was the best kept transport he had yet seen in the Division. More praise for the Unit's hard work.

The D.D.M.S. II Corps and the D.A.D.M.S. 38th (Welsh) Division visited the Hospital at Mesplaux Farm on Thursday and on the following day Lieut Elliott proceeded to the 13th Royal Welsh Fusiliers (RFW) to act as temporary Medical Officer (MO) and Lieut Burke proceeded to 232nd Company Royal Engineers (RE) for the same purpose.

 

16th Week at War - 18th - 24th March - Mesplaux Farm

The weather remained very cold all this week with further snow falls on Friday 24th which was also the Unit's 9th payday in France.

Biplane over the snow covered trenches
Biplane over the snow covered trenches

Things remained fairly quiet for the Unit with little reported in the War Diary for the week except for the regular visits to the Unit by the A.D.M.S. and D.A.D.M.S. and the O.C. visiting the Advanced Dressing Station (A.D.S.). On the 20th, Lieut Buckley proceeded to the 10th South Wales Borderers (S.W.B.) to act as temporary M.O.. This temporary attachment of the M.O.s of the Unit to other units in the Division was common. The infantry Battalions and other units only had a single M.O. and if they went on leave, were sick, wounded or killed, this left them with no medical cover so the Field Ambulances of the Division with 9 or more M.O.s would fill in for these M.O.s until they returned to duty or were replaced.

 

17th Week at War - 25th - 31st March - Mesplaux Farm

Major W Bickerton Edwards reported for duty on Sunday 26th March, his arrival from England having been delayed by ill health. His arrival was not welcomed by all, Capt Ffoulkes at the A.D.S. wrote in a letter to his family' "Major Edwards has returned to us too. he looks very well and has completely recovered but I don't think any of us are frightfully keen on having him back. He and Col Davies came to see me yesterday (27th/28th March) . I believe there is some discontent amongst the Officers at Headquarters already. Major Edwards is so bigheaded and it is a shame that he should come and upset everything when we have always been happy together without friction. It is a pity he was not kept at a home station."

On the following day, 96 men of the Unit were inoculated against typhoid and many of them may well have had an agonising night and been sore and unwell for several days as 48563 Pte Iuean Phillips did. Certainly, Capt Ffoulkes records that he felt "rather seedy" for a few days afterwards.

Having been with the Unit in France for less than a week, Major W Bickerton Edwards was attached to the 129th Field Ambulance and he was struck of the strength off the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance on the following day which 48563 Pte Phillips records as "Rough luck".

 

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
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

arimagnify La Gorgue map for webA.jpg" 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
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).

 

images/Laventie for web1.jpg"

title="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

arimagnify

images/Red House Aid Post for web.jpg

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.

images/Monro for web.jpg"

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.

For the next six weeks or so, the Unit's War Diary largely consists of lists of the number of sick and wounded Officer and men admitted and transferred i.e.. 5th May: Cases admitted 8am on 4/5/16 to 8am on 5/5/16 - Wounded 3 Officers, 4 Other Ranks: Sick 15 Other Ranks. I have not included these figures in the text of this history except where they help to illustrate the activity of the Unit during a particular day. During this time, while stationed at the Hospital, 48563 Pte Phillips records doing a week on night duty alternating with a week on day duty, the switch overs occurring on a Saturday. He recorded that the weather was "very warm again" on Saturday 29th April and that on the 30th he was "feeling in the pink of condition" and on the 1st May he went for a walk to Estaires and Sailly.

images/Red House 13th London Cemetery for web.jpg

On the 1st May, 48554 Pte G H Jickells recorded that he was one of a party (of men) to march back from the A.D.S. at Laventie to the Unit H.Q. at La Gorgue and further records that while back at H.Q., they had a good time. During his time back at La Gorgue, the weather was lovely and that they always had 2 men on duty at a certain place on the canal bank from 9am to 5pm for bathing parades.

On the 2nd of May, the Unit was visited by the D.A.D.M.S. in reference to the estimated 100 tons of old manure that had been left on the horse lines by the 19th Division and arrangements were made with a local farmer just outside La Gorgue, for this manure to be placed on his land. What an unpleasant fatigue for the men of the Unit!

The men of the Unit were inspected in full marching order by the A.D.M.S and the men's gas helmets, goggles, contents of valises and haversacks including their clothing and boots were examined and found to be most satisfactory.

Friday 5th May was the Unit's 13th pay day in France and 48563 Pte Phillips received 10 Francs.

 

23rd Week at War - 6th May - 12th May La Gorgue

The Hospital was inspected by the D.D.M.S. XI Corps in company with the A.D.M.S. 38th (Welsh) Division on the 6th May and 48563 Pte Phillips changed from day to night duty at La Gorgue and had a quiet night.

Time went by quickly records 48554 Pte G H Jickells in his diary,especially with us general duty stretcher bearers. Every three days we should be on guard, either at H.Q., the (Divisional) Laundry or the Corps Rest Station. All the above guards were for 24 hours, falling in at 9am properly dressed and clean and we were dismissed the following morning for the rest of the day. We were always detailed for guard, 3 men and an NCO and our beats were 2 hours on and 4 off. Not such a tough time!

On Monday 8th May, the Lt Col Davies carried out a clothing inspection of the men at the A.D.S. at Laventie and did the same for the men at the Unit HQ at La Gorgue on the following day.

 

24th Week at War - 13th May - 19th May La Gorgue

On Saturday 13th May, Lieut Thomas J Buckley returned from leave and reported for duty with the Unit and 48563 Pte Phillips changed from night to day duty and had a busy day.

 

images/Laventie Church 2 for web.jpg"

Laventie Church in 1914 and again in 1917 showing the destruction done by several years of war."

On the 15th May, Capt Anderson relieved Capt Ffoulkes at the A.D.S. at Laventie and Capt Ffoulkes proceeded to the 13th Battalion the Welsh Regiment (2nd Rhondda) to relieve their MO Lieut Reynolds who reported to duty for training with the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance at La Gorgue. Capt Ffoulkes described his time with the 13th Welsh in a letter home dated 26th May 1916. "<em>A great number of medical officers are now undergoing a course of instruction at Field Ambulances and we are put in regiments to replace them. I came to this battalion on my birthday - the day before they proceeded to the trenches. They were then completing 8 days rest at the town where the headquarters of our Field Ambulance is (La Gorgue). We came to the trenches for four days, then went into reserve for four days to the small town where the Advanced Dressing station is situated (Laventie). We came to the trenches again last night, remain here for 4 days, then in reserve for 4 days after which the battalion will go into rest for 8 days and then proceed to another part of the line but I shall probably not be with them then. The work is quite interesting but has the disadvantage that we are never settled long in the same place.

images/Red House 2015 for web.jpg Red House (rebuilt) 2015"

This photograph of the rebuilt Red House is taken looking east towards the front line, standing on the road back to Laventie. The Red House (13th London) Cemetery is a couple of hundred yards to the left.

Capt Ffoulkes letter continued. We had a moderately quiet time in the line and casualties have been few and only 3 or 4 fatal. I had a good deal of work to do the first few days - improving the sanitary conditions of our surroundings etc and things are now fairly well established. I am attached to battalion headquarters (when in the line - this was located at Red House where the Unit also had an Aid Post) which consist of the Colonel – Colonel Packe, Major Edwards, second in command, the adjutant, machine gun officer and I. We have quite a decent roomy dug out as a mess. I have a dug out close by as sleeping apartment and an adjoining one which serves as a dressing room. In this area the line is in splendid condition and at times it is difficult to realise that the Hun is only 300 yards away. His own parapet is also in good condition (we have occasional peeks at it through a periscope) but it looks a trifle lower than ours."

images/trench periscope for web.jpg

Viewing the German trenches with a periscope

 

German aeroplanes bombed La Gorgue and outskirts on the 16th but no men of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance were injured. On the same day, Lt Anderson proceeded on leave as did Lt Burke who had been on duty at the Labour Corps Hospital. Lt Burke was able to go on leave in place of Capt Anderson (MO of the 19th Pioneer Battalion, the Welsh Regiment) whose leave was cancelled due to an outbreak of small pox in their camp!

On the 17th a medical inspection of the men of the Unit was carried out and the summer horse standing was completed and put to use.

The Units 14th Pay day in France occurred on Friday the 19th and 48563 Pte Phillips received 20 Francs!

 

25th Week at War - 20th May - 26th May La Gorgue

On the 21st, 48563 Pte Phillips managed a trip to Hazebrouck and on the 23rd witnessed an aeroplane duel which he described in his diary as "Excitement intense."

The night of the 24th saw a large number of wounded being admitted to the Unit.

On Friday 26th, Lt Col D E Evans, the OC of the 2/3 Welsh Field Ambulance reported to the Unit and was shown by Lt Col Davies the Main Dressing Station (M.D.S.) at La Gorgue and also the Divisional Baths, Laundry and Labour Corps Hospital at La Gorgue, the Unit's A.D.S. at Laventie and the Units old M.D.S. at Mesplaux. He was also shown the new steel shelter, now completed with window and door, all thoroughly sandbagged at Laventie East Aid Post. All the work of the men of the Unit and also the Aid Posts at Red House and Hougemont, where the men of the Unit where constructing a further shelter.

 

26th Week at War - 27th May - 2nd June La Gorgue

48071 Sgt Maj William Stroud proceeded on leave in the evening of the 27th and Lt Col Davies visited the A.D.S. at Laventie and reported that the work of filling in the new shelter at Hougemont Post had started. Lieut Buckley was posted for temporary duty to the 119th Brigade R.F.A. on the 28th and the following day, Lieuts Anderson and Burke returned to the Unit from leave.

On the 31st, the M.D.S. at La Gorgue was visited by the G.O.C. 38th (Welsh) Division who expressed his satisfaction with the arrangements and work carried out by the Unit which he wished to be notified to the Officers and other ranks of the Unit.

26th Week at War is continued in June.

 

27th Week at War - 3rd June - 9th June La Gorgue

Men of the Unit had been employed in constructing a new steel shelter at the back of the MO's dugout at Hougamont. The engineers had supplied all the materials but the erection of the shelter was done entirely by the men of the Unit.

On Tuesday 6th June, the Unit headquarters at La Gorgue were visited by Lt Gen Sir R C B Hakling KCB, commander of XI Army Corps accompanied by the DDMS XI Army Corps and following this visit a message was received by the OC from the ADMS 38th (Welsh) Division stating "The Corps Commander has expressed himself very feel pleased with all he saw at your Field Ambulance on his inspection."

Capt Ffoulkes reported back for duty with the Unit on Thursday 8th June following his stint as acting MO for the 13th Welsh and Lieut Reynolds returned to duty as the 13th Welsh MO having completed his couse of instruction with the Unit.

 

To the Somme - June - July 1916

 

28th Week at War - 10th June - 16th June La Gorgue - Busnes - Auchel -Villers Chatel

On the 10th June, the 38th (Welsh) Division received orders to proceed south and over the 11th and 12th June, their positions in the Neuve Chapelle sector were taken over by the 61st Division. This marked the end of the Division being part of XI Corps. The initial phase of this move to the south was to take the Division to an area just east of St Pol (Saint Pol sur Ternoise) to be trained on a manoeuvre area lent by the French. The 130th (St John) Field Ambulance paraded at 1.30pm on Saturday 10th June and marched at the rear of the 114th Brigade (to pick up stragglers and the sick) via Merville, Calonne and Robecq to Busnes, arriving at 8.30pm where they were billeted on the Busnes-Robecq road. 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips states in his diary that after the 14 mile march he "slept in a motor car like a top". A small rear party was left at La Gorgue to hand over to the 2/1 South Midland Field Ambulance from the 61 Division.

The rear party left at La Gorgue and Laventie arrived in Busnes on the 11th and wagons were loaded and reloaded for instructional purposes but the Unit was still busy treating the sick of the 114th Brigade. On the following day, an advance party under the command of Lieut R A G Elliott left for Auchel at 7am and the

rest of the Unit paraded and marched via Lillers and Burbure to Auchel arriving at 2.30pm. The march was very wet and miserable. The OC recorded in the Unit War Diary that "very poor billets for Officers and men and bad standing for the horses". While Capt M Ffoulkes described the billets at Busnes as "most uncomfortable but as we only remained one night, it did not matter much", and those at Auchel as being "much more fortunate in the matter of billets". Later that day the OC visited Villers-Chatel

 

images/Auchel church for web.jpg" border="0"

alt="Auchel church" title="Auchel church"

 

On Tuesday 13th June, an advance party under the command of the OC left for Villers-Chatel at 7.15am and relieved the 76th Field Ambulance of the 25th Division at 1pm. There were 12 ordinary and 18 extraordinary beds for Officer and 40 ordinary and 56 extraordinary beds for other ranks at Chateau Villers-Chatel and 156 ordinary beds for other ranks at Mingoval. Lt Col Davies described these two locations as 'excellently situated spots for Field Ambulance, both the former containing ample accommodation for sick officers with a beautifully laid out park while the huts at Mingoval were spacious and of a French pattern. The billets for the Unit were in an untidy and dirty state, those at Mingoval were unfit for occupation and verminous and no certificate re billets was asked for or given'

 

By the time 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips arrived at Chateau Villers Chatel he records in his diary as being "fagged out completely". On the 15th June, the 38th (Welsh) division became part of XVII Corps (3rd Army) and began training for the offensive ahead. The divisional training programme which had been issued by GHQ some weeks earlier stipulated that divisions were not only to train to attack enemy trenches and strong points on a large scale but also to train to follow through once the enemy defences had been breached. The men of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance were not only to take part in these training exercises but had to continue to treat the sick and injured of the 114th Brigade.

 

29th Week at War - 17th June - 23rd June Villers Chatel -Mingoval

 

The hospital at Villers Chatel was situated in one wing of the Chateau. The Chateau was first used as a hospital by the French Army in 1914 and is famous for being the place that General Ernest Jacques Barbot, the commander of the

French 77th Alpine division, died from shrapnel wounds to his chest that he suffered during the 2nd battle of Artois on the 10th May 1915. General Barbot was initially buried in a small military cemetery in the ground of the Chateau Villers Chatel but was subsequently reinterred at the French Military Cemetery of Notre Dame de Lorette

 

images/Villers Chatel chateau for web.jpg"

Villers Chatel Chateau" title="Villers Chatel Chateau"

 

The owner of the Chateau, Madame La Countess de Florimond and two of her four daughters were still in residence in one wing of the Chateau while the Unit used the rest as a hospital. Capt M Ffoulkes, in a letter home dated 17th June 1916 wrote that "The Countess has an Irish lady - an old maid named Miss O'Donnell from Kerry, living with her. She acts as a sort of companion and has been with her about 15 years. I had a long chat with her this morning - she took me to see a cemetery for the French soldiers in the Park. The land was given by the Countess and the graves are beautifully kept. I came across some German soldiers buried there". The fact that this cemetery was well kept and contained the graves of French as well as German soldiers was also recorded by 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips

="images/Chateau Viller Chatel

today for web. The Chateau Villers Chatel 2015" title="The Chateau

Villers Chatel 2015"

 

The Chateau is currently owned by the Great Grandson of the Countess who was in residence when the Unit occupied it as a Hospital in June 1916 and lets out two of the bedrooms on a bed and breakfast basis. I stayed there in March 2015 and was most comfortably looked after and while the owner does not have any

photographs of the Chateau during the Great War (these were lost during the Nazi occupation in WW2), he was able to show me around the various rooms that were used as wards and operating theatres. Capt Ffoulkes describes the Chateau in a letter home "Our present abode is a most romantic place and we are very comfortable. It is an old chateau - a small castle in fact - situated on the side of a gentle hill in a beautiful old park". He goes on to say "It has turrets, winding staircases and beautiful oak paneled rooms. My bedroom is in one of the turrets and I have a luxurious old fashioned bed". I suspect that this may well have been the room I stayed in!

 

While stationed at Villers Chatel and Mingoval, the Units chief work consisted of field training with the Division. On Saturday 17th, the Unit was engaged with drill, physical exercise and fatigues although 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips

recorded that on this day he was kept busy with a great number of sick men to be seen.

 

On the following day, the hospital at Chateau Villers Chatel was visited and inspected by Brig General T. O. Marden C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., commanding officer of the 114th Brigade and a route march with stretchers was conducted under the command of Capt Ffoulkes.

 

On the 19th, the A.D.M.S. 38th (Welsh) Division visited the Hospital at Villers Chatel and conducted a medical board to examine men of the 10th,

13th, 14th and 15th Battalions of the Welsh Regiment who were considered unfit for forward duties (PB - permanently base) and the hospital was also visited by General Sir Charles Fergusson, Commander of XVII Corps.

 

images/Sir Charles Fergusson

for web.

General Sir Charles Fergusson in the 1920s"

title="General Sir Charles Fergusson in the 1920s"

 

A route march with stretchers was again undertaken with Capt Anderson and Capt Ffoulkes in command while Lieut R A G Elliott proceeded on leave. A further route march was held on the next day but while 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips

records that he had no route march on the 21st, the Unit War Diary records that there was a Unit route march with stretchers and also practice in loading and unloading stretchers, carrying wounded over difficult country and through woods. Lt Col Davies also carried out an examination of the stretcher bearers in first aid. Between 9am and 5pm, four medical officers along with a Sgt Maj R.A.M.C. and a Sgt Maj A.S.C. carried out a reconnaissance of the divisional training area.

 

30th Week at War - 24th June - 30th June Villers Chatel - Ransart – St Hilaire

On Saturday 24th, as the Unit took part in the 114th Brigade manoeuvres, the Battle of the Somme began with the commencement of the greatest bombardment the British Army had ever carried out. With 427 heavy guns, there was one heavy artillery piece per 58.5 yards of frontage. For the 38th (Welsh) Division, Divisional manoeuvres were conducted, the Unit's A.D.S. was located at Monchy-Breton under the command of Capt Anderson. During the afternoon, the A.D.S. was moved forward in the afternoon to Rocort. Six officers and 145 otherranks of the Unit bivouacked out for the night.

On the following day, Divisional manoeuvres were carried out. On this occasion, the A.D.S. at Monchy-Breton was under the command of Capt Ffoulkes while the main dressing station at Ostreville was under the command of Capt Anderson. Lt Col Davies visited the A.D.S. and the M.D.S. and then joined the Brigade Headquarters for the rest of the manoeuvres.

The three stretcher bearer sub divisions of the Unit under Capt A Jones, Lieut F A Anderson and Lieut Burke took part in the exercise alone with two of the three tent sub divisions. The third tent sub division remained at Viller-Chatel/Mingoval to care for the sick and injured there.

The Unit war diary records that the A.D.S. was opened at 9am and closed at 3.30pm while the M.D.S was opened at 9am and closed at 1.30pm. Subsidiary advanced dressing stations were formed during the day as an advance of the whole line took place.

The Unit worked over very heavy and hill ground carrying a large number of dummy 'wounded' on stretchers and wheeled stretchers and as the collecting ground was exposed (for the purpose of the exercise) to enemy fire, motor ambulances were only able to proceed a mile in front of the A.D.S. At the end of the manoeuvres, the men of the Unit marched the 10 miles back to Villers-Chatel arriving at 9pm with no men falling out.

On Monday 26th June, a foot inspection of the men of the Unit was carried out and fatigues were performed in preparation to closing both the hospitals at Chateau Villers-Chatel and at Mingoval and arrangements were made to evacuate all the cases remaining in the hospitals. Chateau Villers-Chatel was handed over to the 60th Division who were going to use it as their Divisional H.Q.

Having completed their training in the St Pol area, the 38th (Welsh) Division was now to start their final move to the Somme. An infantry division of some 18,000 men with their motor and horse drawn transport, artillery etc has a very large 'footprint' and took up a great deal of road when on the march. A field ambulance unit alone would occupy approximately 450 yards of road when on the march so it is easy to imagine the logistical nightmare that the Army H.Q. faced playing a very complex game of chess, moving new divisions into the correct location to exploit any breakthrough or even to replace battle worn divisions in the line while evacuating bloodied divisions away from the battle area and all the while, keeping the army supplied with food, water and ammunition.

At 5pm, the Unit paraded and marched with the 114th Brigade the 26 miles to Ransart, arriving at 4am! A billeting party had been sent ahead and on arrival, the men were accommodated in barns. The 197 men belonging to units of the 114th Brigade who were unable to march were transferred by motor vehicles and lorries to Ransart.

On the 27th, Lieut Elliott reported from leave. 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips records as sleeping until 10.30 am after the Units long night march but there was little time for rest and at 6pm, the Unit paraded and marched with the 114th Brigade to St Hilaire arriving at 3.15am! Once again, a billeting party had been sent on in advance and again the men were accommodated in barns. Again, the Unit was responsible for transferring the men who were unable to march but because of the scatted nature of the Brigades billets in the Ransart area, only 110 of 228 were transferred during the night of the 27th/28th June.

At 8am on the 28th, the 38th (Welsh) Division came under the command of IInd Corps and at 11am, Lt Col Davies reported to Brig. General T O Marden C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., the G.O.C. of the 114th Brigade that there were still men of the brigade that required collecting from the Ransart area but he was instructed to cease further transferring pending application for lorries.

A bathing parade and a further foot inspection was carried out and preparations were made during the day to march again in the evening but in the mid afternoon, orders were received to 'stand fast' and at 11.45pm further orders were receive by the Unit to continue to collect the men left behind in the Ransart area. Cars (ambulances) were immediately dispatched to collect 8 men of the 10th Welsh at Neuvillette, 50 of the 14th Welsh at Bouquemaison and 60 of the 15th Welsh at Barley but it was discovered that these men had moved and no information could be obtained as to their whereabouts.

Thursday the 29th must have been a pleasant rest for the men of the Unit with a parade being held at 9.30am followed by physical drill (exercise) for an hour and then yet another foot inspection. Lieut D C M Page reported from leave and only 4 other ranks were admitted sick. 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips records that the vehicle he was in, transferring the sick, had a breakdown and he had to walk for assistance, the vehicle being towed to Fienvillers at 4.30am. He had to wait until 11.30am for the vehicle to be repaired before returning to St Hilaire. He had dinner and then set out again for Beauval at 2.30pm, returning at 7.15pm to finally lay down in a barn for a rest as he was tired out. He was up again at 5.30am the next day and was out again on the 30th collecting and evacuating the sick of the Brigade again.

At 9am on the 30th, Lt Col Davies inspected the rifles of the A.S.C. men attached to the Unit (the only men in the Unit who carried weapons) and at 9.30am carried out an inspection of the entire Unit and their iron rations, gas helmets and goggles. This was followed at 10am by Capt Ffoulkes instructing the Unit on the method of wearing their gas helmets in front line trenches. At 5pm, the Unit had another night march from St Hilaire to Val de Maison, arriving at 3.15am. Another long night march at the end of a full day!

 

31st Week at War - 1st July - 7th July St Hilaire - Val De Maision - Puchevillers - Franvillers - Heilly – Morlancourt

The 1st July saw the start of the infantry assault on the Somme and the Unit spent the day at Val De Maision, opening a hospital for the sick of the 114th Brigade and also a Divisional Hospital to treat scabies cases. However, an order was received at around noon for the Unit to be prepared to move at six hours notice and at 6.15pm a further order was received to march east with the 114th Brigade at 7pm. The Unit quickly packed up and, within 45 minutes, all the wagons were packed, the canvas struck and hospital cases evacuated with the exception of the scabies cases who marched with the Unit. A billeting party was sent to the Brigade HQ and received orders to proceed to the billeting area at Puchevillers. The Unit was stood to from 7pm until 10pm when the order to march was received. On arrival at Puchevillers, the Unit relieved the 129th Field Ambulance, took over their billets and also 26 patients left there.

images/Puchevillers Route dAmiens for web.jpg"

Puchevillers Route d'Amiens"

48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips reported sleeping on a chair in a kitchen and waking at 3.30am as there was too much excitement to sleep. Wounded men were arriving at the CCS in their hundreds, British as well as Germans. The sick of the 38th (Welsh) division were being cleared to a Rest Station in readiness to go into action at any moment.

At 12.20pm on 2nd July, the OC of 3 Casualty Clearing Station, Lt Col Ray RAMC (T) called on the Unit requesting assistance as a large number of casualties were being admitted into his hospital situated near the railway head at Punchevillers. Col Davies along with five of the Medical Officers and Fifty men of the Unit proceeded to No. 3 CCS to help. There they found a large number of wounded men many with machine gun wounds of the limbs. No 3 CCS had dealt with approximately 1400 cases including about 15 German wounded in the 24 hours 1st - 2nd July. The Medical Officer and Men of the Unit assisting No.3 CCS were relieved by others from the Unit on the evening of the 2nd July while the Unit itself dealt with 3 sick officers and 66 other ranks.

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Puchevillers"

A further 5 Medical Officers and 55 other ranks from the Unit reported at mid day on the 3rd July to the OC No. 3 CCS with the offer from Col Davies that they be used to assist as a large number of casualties were still waiting in convoys of ambulances for admission. After the wounded men had been inspected by the Medical Officers of the Unit, they were given food and drink by the orderlies of the Unit. At 4pm the Unit received orders to move to Franvillers with the 114th Brigade that evening and they marched out of Puchevillers at 7.55pm and arrived at their new location at 1.05 on the 4th July, a delay being caused by a large column of artillery passing through Franvillers. The Unit War diary records that 037001 Driver Walter Alderson ASC from Caerphilly, attached to the Unit required evacuation to the CCS.

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British walking wounded

At Franvillers, the Unit was billeted in scattered barns and lofts and received orders to be prepared to move from 10.00am onwards. At 4.00pm, orders were received to send a billeting party to Heilly and Lieut Buckley was detailed for this duty. The Unit finally moved off at about 9pm and marched with the 114th Brigade behind the 14th Welsh, arriving at Heilly at 10.30pm where they were accommodated in a marshy wood in canvas huts. On the evening of the 4th, the Unit received orders from the A.D.M.S that it was to close as a hospital, the final preparation for the Battle ahead.

 

Battle of Mametz Wood 5th - 12th July 1916.

 

In this section of the Unit's history, I have concentrated on the casualty evacuation chain during the Battle of Mametz Wood and especially the role played by the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance and the men who served in it. I have not attempted to describe the Battle in detail except when this helps to clarify the work of the Unit. There are a number of excellent books about the Battle itself including, Mametz, Lloyd George's 'Welsh Army' at the Battle of the Somme by Colin Hughes, Mametz Wood by Michael Renshaw and Dr Jonathan Hicks' new book, published in April 2016 entitled The Welsh-Mametz-Wood-Somme- 1916 The Somme 1916' all of which a well worth reading to gain a fuller insight into the battle itself. The Battle of Mametz Woods was the baptism of fire for the 38th (Welsh) Division and saw the first fatalities of members of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance.

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38th (Welsh) Division Memorial at Mametz Wood"

38th (Welsh) Division Memorial at Mametz Wood situated at the north end of Caterpillar Wood looking across to the Hammer Head of Mametz Wood."

The Map below shows the situation into which the 38th (Welsh) Division were moving. The Front Line on the 1st July ran in a roughly north - south direction to the east of Albert before turning to run west - east south of Fricourt before turning to run north –south again at a point south of Montauban and it was into the area of the line running east - west that the Division was moving towards.

Map 1 - Battle of Mametz Wood

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Extract from The Fir Tree Aerial Map of the Somme used with permission from R. A. Chandler http://www.firtreemaps.com"

****warm and sunny day records Lieut D C M Page. At 11.30am on the 5th July, Lt Col Davies attended a conference at the A.D.M.S.'s office at Treux. The three Field Ambulance units of the 38th (Welsh) Division were now no longer attached to a Brigade each but were now under the direction of the A.D.M.S..The 129th Fld Amb was to be located at Morlancourt and was tasked with treating the sick of the Division, the 130th (St John) Fld Amb was to treat the walking wounded while the 21st Fld Amb (7th Division) was to remain at Morlancourt to treat the stretcher cases. The 131st Fld. Amb., reinforced with the stretcher subdivisions of the 129th and 130th (St John) Fld. Ambs. was to be based at Minden Post.

That evening, following the A.D.M.S.'s orders, the Unit proceeded to Morlancourt to take over from the 23rd Field Ambulance, the M.D.S. there situated in an old church and also the A.D.S. at Citadel. Capt Ffoulkes and Lieut Elliott with a small advance party proceeded to the Citadel while Capt Anderson and Lieut Anderson along with an interpreter and cook proceeded as the advance party of the Unit to the M.D.S. at Morlancourt. 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption also went by car with this advance party to take over the drug/medicine supply at the new M.D.S.. The three stretcher bearer subdivisions of the Unit under the command of Lieut Buckley and Lieut Page moved from Heilly at 5.15pm and Lt Col Davies, Capt Jones and Lt Burke left with one tent subdivision and the transport at 5.30pm. During their march from Heilly to Morlancourt, the Unit passed many troops coming back from Monday's battle. They were dead tired and dusty but full of beans. Many of them carried German helmets, caps and other souvenirs. They also passed a large number of German prisoners, for many in the Unit, this was their first sight of their enemies. It must be remembered that the capture of Mametz village by the 7th Division (XV Corps) and Montauban ridge and Montauban Village to the East by the 18th and 30th Divisions (XIII Corps) was one of the rare success stories of the initial phase of the Battle of the Somme. The forward edge of the ground captured by these Divisions was to be the jumping off point for the 38th (Welsh) Division's assault on Mametz Wood.

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The ruins of Montauban"

As the 23rd Fld Amb (7th Division) had not received orders to move, there were no billets for the Unit and the men spent the night in tents in a field close to the hospital. The Unit finally took over from the 23rd Field Ambulance at the A.D.S. at Citadel in the early morning of the 6th July and at the M.D.S. at Morlancourt at 9.30am. All casualties admitted by the 23rd Fld Amb except one had been evacuated prior to the take over.

The A.D.S.consisted of dug-outs built to form a good dressing room and with bunks for 20 cases. The M.D.S. at Morlancourt was in a derelict church dating from 1741. Lt Col Davies describes it as having been allowed to get into a neglected and dilapidated condition especially the roof - a greater part of the ceiling had fallen in from neglect.

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The church at Morlancourt" title="The church at Morlancourt

The church at Morlancourt used as the M.D.S. by the Unit during the Battle of Mametz Wood.

The church had two entrances, one on either side of the tower on the west side. The northern one was used as the entrance door for casualties, outside of which a cook house and pack store were erected. Wounded men on admission were met and their packs and steel helmets recorded and stored. They then entered the north aisle where their particulars were recorded and they sat on the pews in that aisle until their turn to be attended to. While they waited, they were fed with hot beef tea, cocoa, tea, bread and jam, butter, cheese etc. The chancel of the church was screened off and used as an operating and dispensing room. Three dressing tables were laid out, each being manned by a Medical Officer and two dressers. The Sgt Dispenser on duty was in charge of anti Tetanus inoculation and marked the wrists of the patients once treated. The Vestry was used as a dispensary and a second Sgt Dispenser was posted there by day, making solutions, preparing dressings and lotions and was assisted by the carpenter of the Unit who shaped and cut splints for fractured limbs.

After having their wounds dressed, the patients passed on to the south aisle where the Staff Sgt in charge of the admissions and discharge book was posted and who took further details from the men who were then supplied with a blanket, food and cigarettes and evacuated through the door of the southern aisle or placed to lie on stretchers in the tower room.

The first casualty was admitted at 9.40am and by 9pm, a total of 36 casualties had been admitted, mostly suffering with gun shot wounds to the limbs.

The first day at the M.D.S. at Morlancourt (Thursday 6th July) is recorded by 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption as "The hospital is in a church. The patients walk up one aisle to the dressing room which is near the altar and when they are dressed (wounds treated) they walk down the other. We are all arrayed in white gowns and I should think look very neat” (this is the first mention of the men of the Unit wearing white gowns at the M.D.S.). “The tables are piled with bandages, wool, gauze and swabs. Scissors and iodine bottles are sprinkled about and in the centre of the room are the instruments. I sharpen the needle of the A.T. (anti tetanus) syringe and see that the razors are sharp and prepare for work. The Field Ambulance before us had 1000 through in one day so we I suppose can look out for squalls. But I am used to scenes of blood so a few more won't matter much."

When the wounded men left the dressing room they were given cocoa or beef tea and something to eat as they were very hungry, often not having had anything to eat for a day or more. Men who had jaw or facial injuries were fed with a feeding cup.

48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips was taken off duty during the day of the 6th July and told to rest as he was going to be on night duty starting at 8pm and so he slept all day. When he came on duty he recorded that there was still a heavy bombardment going on and a great number of wounded coming down. The wounded were sleeping in the pews in front of him, “poor chaps”

The Battle of Mametz Wood consisted of two separate assaults, the first carried out by the 115th Brigade on the morning of the 7th July 1916 which proved to be a costly failure and a second assault on the 10th/11th July by the 113th and 114th Brigades with the 115th Brigade in reserve which ultimately took the wood.

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Mametz Wood casuality evacuation chain" title="Mametz Wood casuality evacuation chain"

The hand drawn map above, reproduced here by kind permission of WW1 historian Trevor Tasker nicely shows the very long journey the wounded and the stretcher bearers had to make from the battle area around Mametz wood (top right corner of map) back to even the A.D.S at Minden Post and remember this journey was across the saturated, shell torn ground of the German front and reserve lines prior to the 1st July, the old no-mans land and the old British front line trenches! It is also important to remember that the wounds caused by high velocity missiles (rifle and machine gun bullets and shrapnel), known today as high energy transfer wounds, cause temporary cavitation along the wound tract sucking in fragments of clothing, mud and other debris. Thus all such wounds were contaminated and in this pre antibiotic era, infection rapidly set in (see - https://surgeryonline.wordpress.com/tag/missile-injuries/" title="Missile Injuries">surgeryonline.wordpress.com/tag/missile-injuries/</a> formore details). Furthermore, blood transfusion, a lifesaving treatment in modern trauma surgery, was in its infancy and the ability to store blood by use of sodium citrate and refrigeration had only been discovered a few years earlier and it was not until early 1917 that transfusion with stored blood was introduced at Casualty Clearing Stations.

arimagnify activeType="singleimage" src="/images/Mametz casevac map 1a1.jpg

The basic plan for the medical support of the 38th (Welsh) Division's assault on Mametz wood was that the 129th Field Ambulance would treat the sick of the Division at its M.D.S at Morlancourt, the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance would treat the walking wounded at its M.D.S. also at Morlancourt and the 21st Field Ambulance would treat the stretcher cases at Morlancourt. The 131st would man what in effect was a Divisional A.D.S. at Minden Post (<strong>MP</strong>) and be responsible for the clearing of casualties from the field of battle supported by the stretcher bearer subdivisions of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance. The 129th Field Ambulance was also to supply Officers and men to man the Divisional Collecting Station (D.C.S.) just north of Bray and use many of its stretcher bearers to transport the wounded along a horse drawn tramline running from near Minden post, via the Citadel back to the D.C.S.. The 77th Sanitary section were to establish a Divisional Rest Station (D.R.S.) at the cross roads just north of Carnoy (CXS)***** (know in the War Diary of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance but not by anyone else as Sapper Corner).

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Casevac map for the battle of Mametz Wood"

The line of the assault on the morning of the 7th July is indicated by the bold red arrow on the map above and again in the photograph below.

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title="Mametz Wood assault 7th July 1916

This photograph is reproduced here with the kind permission of the WW1 historian Trevor Tasker. The red arrow marks the line of assault by the 10th S.W.B. and the 16th Welsh on the 7th July 1916.

Friday 7th July was a miserable cold and wet day. The three stretcher bearer subdivisions along with four MOs were ordered to report to the OC 131st Fld Amb at Minden Post (MP). At 6am on the morning of 7th July, 2 officers (Capt Jones, and Lieut Burke) and about 70 other ranks left the HQ at Morlancourt in lorries at 6am taking with them rations, stretchers, wheeled stretchers and cooking utensils while Lieut Page and 5 men left on foot at the same time to relieve Capt Ffoulkes and Lieut Elliott and the 30 men already at the Citadel arriving at 7.30, where Lieut Page had to treat sick and wounded while up to his knees in liquid mud and the mess-room being flooded out. Capt Ffoulkes and Lieut Jones and the 30 men (including 48554 Pte George H Jickells) relieved at Citadel then marched to Minden Post where they met up with Capt Jones and Lieut Burke and the 70 bearers from Mourlancourt. Capt Ffoulkes reported to the OC 131st Field Ambulance to come under his command, at 9.30. Six motor ambulances under the charge of the MT ASC Sergt of the Unit also reported to the OC 131st Fld Amb at the same time. Three horse drawn ambulances from the Unit were sent to report to the OC 129th Fld Amb at the D.C.S. north of Bray.

The OC 131st Fld Amb ordered Capt Ffoulkes to take the officers and men (of the Unit) under his command to occupy the Triangle (T) and to make contact with the RMO's of the 11th S.W.B. and 16th W who had their aid posts in Caterpillar Trench (CT) and to assist them evacuate the wounded back to the Triangle.

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The photograph above of Minden Post during the 1st week of July 1916 is courtesy of the Imperial War Museum ©IWM(Q65417).

The various accounts of the next 24 hours or so differ in the exact number of men of the Unit allotted to various locations and precise times vary so I have used my judgement to give the best approximation in the narrative below.

Thirty of the Unit's bearers were left at Minden Post while the remainder were divided up into 3 parties each under a section Sgt who proceeded up to the Triangle (T) where one party along with Lt Elliott and Lt Burke were posted and all the wheeled stretches were left here. The remaining two parties under Capt Foulkes and Capt Jones along with 48124 Sgt Hopkins and 48068 Sgt Frank J King went over open ground to Loop Trench (LT) and then proceeded alone to Caterpillar Trench (CT) to the Aid Posts of the 16th Welsh and 10th SWB.

The Officers and men of the Unit assisted in dressing a large number of wounded men, and while the walking wounded were directed back along Caterpillar Trench (CT) it was too narrow and crowded with troops coming forward for stretcher cases to be evacuated and so four German dugouts were found in a protected position on the slope of Caterpillar Wood and cleaned out and used to accommodate the serious cases on stretchers. By early afternoon, these dugouts were full and so other cases were cared for under bivouacs formed from the waterproof sheets belonging to the men of the Unit.

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A view along Caterpillar trench towards Caterpillar Wood 2016" title="A view along Caterpillar trench towards Caterpillar Wood 2016"

The photograph above taken in July 2016 of the course of Caterpillar Trench (blue arrow) looking towards the hollow (red arrow) where the trench met Caterpillar Wood.

By mid afternoon the need to find a way to evacuate the stretcher cases had become serious and Capt Ffoulkes called the section Sergeants together and explained that a way needed to be found. 48124 Sgt Thomas G Hopkins and 48068 Sgt Frank J King discovered a path through the bushes, parallel with Caterpillar Trench and so, the two Sergeants and 20 men began to evacuate 5 stretcher cases at a time, initially over open ground on the right of the narrow trench, along the path through the bushes parallel with Caterpillar Trench up a gradient all the way meaning that the men were exposed to enemy fire necessitating them to get back into Caterpillar Trench for 300-400 yards before going up back over open ground again to Loop Trench (LP) to the Triangle and then again over open ground to the Triangle (T) a distance of about 3 miles!

On a second trip back with stretcher cases, while crossing the open ground between Caterpillar and Loop Trenches, a shell struck 48217 LCpl William J West blowing off his head and fragments of the shell also wounded 48147 Pte William E Jones and 48067 Sgt Henry J Hill. 48554 Pte. George H Jickells records " LCpl West was killed by one of our shells falling short." and later records "By jove we were lucky in not losing nearly all the lot of us - up there it was like Hell let loose."

In the early evening, Capt Ffoulkes and Capt Jones led a party of walking wounded all the way back to Minden Post and reported to the A.D.M.S. who was there and obtained additional stretcher bearers and the two Captains then returned to the Triangle where they remained throughout the night, dressing the wounded and directing the stretcher bearers but due to the sodden ground and heavy shell and machine gun fire of the enemy, it was impossible to move all the wounded from Caterpillar Wood. The stretcher bearers of the Unit brought cases back from Caterpillar Wood to the Triangle while the bearers of the 77th Sanitary Section carried them from there back to Minden Post.

Back at the M.D.S. at Morlancourt, a total of 96 casualties were admitted between 6am and 9pm on the 7th July and where necessary after being treated and having their wounds dressed, were evacuated to 36 C.C.S. at Heilly. 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption records that "Rain out here means hell. The fellows are covered with mud, drenched to the skin and provisions are difficult to get up. It is a dreadful sight to see them being brought in here covered in mud, but the thought of Blighty takes off the edge. When they have been dressed and fed they fall asleep in all sorts of positions. Our hospital is in a church and when it is fine the fellows stretch out in the churchyard, on the grass and on tombstones, anywhere where they can lay their heads in fact."

During the day, 5 reinforcements reported for duty (106388 Pte J L Warn, 27937 Pte L Wix, 80512 Pte P Williams, 80232 Pte W G Webb and 80723 Pte S H Wilson) and in the evening they were sent up under 48077 LCpl Henry Arnold to the OC 131st Field Ambulance at Minden Post to assist.

At daylight on the 8th July, the men buried 48217 LCpl William J West in a hollow in the ground 40 yards to the right of Caterpillar trench and marked the site with a cross on which they had written his regimental number, rank, name, and Unit.

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German sniper position in Mametz Wood ©IWM (Q865)"

At 6am on the 8th July, with help from men of the 129th and 131st Fld Ambs, 48124 Sgt Thomas G Hopkins and his party evacuated a further 11 stretcher cases form Caterpillar Wood over open ground but immediately the first squad got into the open, 56231 Pte William Houston was shot by a sniper in the left eye. 48119 Pte George Groves recorded in his diary that he was talking to 56231 Pte William Houston when he was shot! The men dressed his wound and took him back to the 16th Welsh Aid Post where the MO redressed his wound and the men started to carry him back along Caterpillar trench, with the stretcher held over their heads because it was so narrow but he died while being evacuated and they had to bury him in a shell hole on the side of the trench as there was a very severe bombardment taking place and many injured for them to attend to that were hit in the trench they were in.

The 8th July saw a lull in the fighting by the 38th (Welsh) division but never the less a total of 119 casualties were admitted to the M.D.S. between 9pm on the 7th to 9pm on the 8th July. Even so, 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption records that they prepared for the rush that they knew was coming. "All the tables are set out properly, pads of cotton wool are cut, swabs are prepared also gauze. We now use plain white gauze dipped in a preparation called Eusol (Edinburgh University solution of lime which I can well remember using when I was a junior doctor not that many years ago). ‘It is a preparation made from chlorinated lime and acid Boric and is said to be the best thing for preventing sepsis."

At 9am on Saturday 8th July, Capt Ffoulkes and the other officers and men of the Unit were relieved by an Officer and men of the 131st Fld Amb leaving 3 bearers of the Unit to act as guides to the infantry detailed to clear Caterpillar Wood. One party of the Unit under Capt Jones returned to Morlancourt in lorries while the other, under Capt Ffoulkes returned to Citadel arriving at 5pm.

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German dead ©IWM (Q65442)"

During the day, Capt D C M Page records that the Unit's popular Roman Catholic Padre, Father Brown came up to Citadel and the two of them went over part of the ground where the fighting had occurred earlier in the week, inspecting the old British trenches and the German frontline trenches. "The harm wrought was terrific. The whole countryside was scarred with shellholes, large and small. No man's land was full of large craters and the German trenches were battered to pieces. The stench was awful, and the shell-holes were full of blood-stained water. There were still many German dead lying about - a pitiful sight."

Due to the failure of the Division's assault on Mametz Wood on the 7th July, Maj Gen Ivor Phillips was removed from his command on the 9th July and sent home and the 38th (Welsh) Division was temporarily placed under the command of Maj Gen Watts who immediately set about planning a full assault on Mametz Wood by the Division to commence the next day.

Between 9pm on the 8th and 9pm on the 9th July there were a total of 67 casualties admitted to the M.D.S. at Morlancourt. After little over 24 hours back at the M.D.S. the stretcher bearer sub-divisions were off again. At 9pm on the 9th, Capt Anderson, Lieut Anderson and Lieut Buckley with 69 other ranks left Mornalcourt and proceeded to Minden post where Capt Ffoulkes, Lieut Page and 5 other ranks from the Citadel also reported at 10pm. Capt Anderson was instructed to collect the wounded from the 114th Brigade who at 3.50am the following morning were making an attack on the front of Mametz Wood.

images/Somme Mametz 10th July.jpg"

Lines of advance on Mametz Wood 10th July"

Aerial Map of the Somme used with permission from R. A. Chandler "http://www.firtreemaps.com" with lines of advance arrows added by websiteauthor.

During the assault on Mametz Wood on the 10th July, the stretcher bearers of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance were to collect casualties from the 114th Brigade while those of the 131st Field Ambulance were to do the same for the 113th Brigade. The rendezvous for the stretcher bearers of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance was at the cross roads at the north end of Carnoy (known in the war diary of the Unit as Sapper Corner) where the 77th Sanitary Section had established a Divisional Rest Station were they were to take up position at 3am on the 10th July. From Sapper Corner, all the officers and bearers of the Unit proceeded to the Triangle where Lieut Page with 12 bearers were posted to act as a relay. Orders were received at 3.40am from the A.D.M.S. for one M.O. and 10 bearers to report to the 114th Brigade HQ at Pommiers Redoubt and Lieut Buckley was detailed with these bearers. Also at 3.40am, Capt Anderson detailed 1 NCO and 6 bearers to report to Capt Roberts, the MO of the 10th Welsh (1st Rhondda Batt) at his Aid Post near Beetle Alley (an old German trench just to the north of Pommiers Redoubt). There was some initial confusion as to the location of the Aid Posts of the 14th and 15th Welsh, which were initially thought to be in Caterpillar Trench but were actually located near Beetle Alley but eventually the Aid Posts of all the battalions of the 114th Brigade were located and supplemented with additional bearers from the Unit.

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At 5am, Lieut Buckley reported that he had established an Aid Post close to Pommiers Redoubt but due to the large number of wounded passing his post the had not come via an Aid Post, he required additional dressings, rations and water and these supplies were immediately sent up to him from the Triangle. Due to the large number of casualties, both Capt Ffoulkes and Lieut Anderson were kept busy assisting the MOs of the 10th, 14th and 15th Welsh and regulating the distribution of the bearers in their forward area while Capt Anderson maintained overall command of the bearers of the Unit.

The OC of the Unit (Lt Col Davies) rode over to the ADS at Minden Post at 6.30am on the 10th July and found things very lively with a large number of wounded officers and men awaiting attention including a number of Germans. Here, along with Maj Davies of the 131st Fld Amb he dressed a large number of the most serious cases including Lt Col P E Ricketts of the 10th Welsh. As he had only left 2 MOs back at Morlancourt, one of whom had been up all night, he returned from Minden Post at 2.30pm.

images/130th St John Field Ambulance M.D.S. at Morlancourt admissions during the Battle of Mametz Wood.jpg"

130th (St John) Field Ambulance M.D.S. admissions 6th - 12th July 1916" title="130th (St John) Field Ambulance M.D.S. admissions 6th - 12th July 1916"

The chart above shows the number of admissions to the M.D.S. at Morlancourt by 24 hour periods commencing at 9.00am on the 6th July. It was during the busiest day, the 10th July that the M.D.S. was manned by only two Medical Officers and approximately 60 other ranks (the nursing sub-divisions) for much of the time.

At 8am, Capt Anderson applied to the OC 131st Fld Amb for extra bearers as there were already 52 stretcher cases laying at the Triangle awaiting removal back to the ADS (Minden Post). This message was sent back in error to the 130th at Morlancourt where it was received by Capt Jones as the OC (Lt Col Davies) was at the time assisting at Minden Post. Capt Jones immediately paraded every man of those few left at the Unit's HQ at Morlancourt and asked for volunteers to go forward to assist Capt Anderson. Every single man volunteered including those who had been up all the previous night dressing wounded. Capt Jones selected 31 of those most fit and sent them up to Minden Post in empty ambulances and lorries from where they were sent forward to the Triangle.

At 12.30pm, Capt Williams (OC 77th Sanitary Section) offered further assistance to Capt Anderson and sent up 6 bearers to work between the Triangle and Sapper Corner. At 2pm, an officer from the 142nd Fld Amb whose advanced bearer post was situated in a dugout near the Triangle reported to Capt Anderson and offered to lend 39 stretchers and a compliment of bearers. These were employed to carry cases from the Triangle to Sapper Corner and rendered excellent service between 2pm and 5pm when they were withdrawn.

At 3.30pm 20 Army Service Corp (A.S.C.) Horse Transport men from the 131st Fld Amb reported to the Traingle and acted as stretcher bearers and worked until between 8-9pm that evening. The additional help supplied by the 77th Sanitary Section, 142nd Fld Amb and the ASC HT men of the 131st Fld Amb allowed Capt Anderson to rest about half (50) of the Units stretcher bearers for 3 hours.

Capt Ffoulkes and Lieut Anderson reported back at the Triangle at 4.30pm having been on duty at the Aid Posts of the 10th, 13th, 14th and 15th Welsh and the 19th Pioneers since the early hours of the morning and relieved Capt Anderson and Lieut Page who moved back to Sapper Corner. Capt Anderson and Lieut Page then relieved Capt Ffoulkes and Lieut Anderson at 6pm until 12midnight allowing them to rest back at Sapper Corner. They then took over at the Triangle at midnight unit 4am on the 11th July.

Back at the Unit's HQ at Morlancourt a total of 463 casualties were admitted between 9pm on the 9th July and 9pm on the 10th.

Having taken over again at the Triangle at 4am on the 11th July, Capt Anderson found the men of the Unit becoming extremely exhausted and reported to both the ADMS and the OC 131st Fld Amb to see if any assistance could be obtained but none was available so they were obliged to carry on until 5pm.

By 11am, information was received at the Triangle that all the cases from the Aid Post of the 14th Welsh had been cleared and only seven cases remained at the Aid Post of the 13th Welsh. By 4pm all the Battalion Aid Posts had been cleared of stretcher cases but there were reported still to be 45-50 stretcher cases at the Aid Post of the 19th (Pioneer) Welsh, in an isolated portion of the dugouts north of Caterpillar trench, with out water, rations and dressings, which could not be cleared due to heavy shelling.

images/Walking wounded Pommiers redoubt for web.jpg"

Walking wounded in Pommier Redoubt, after the attack on Mametz

Wood, 7th July 1916" title="Slightly wounded man returning after the attack on Mametz Wood

The image above is by kind permission of http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205278750" Imperial War Museum collection and shows a slightly wounded man returning via Pommier Redoubt after the attack on Mametz Wood on the 7th July 1916.

images/Somme German wounded for web.jpg

German prisoners - Somme 1916"

The stretcher bearer sub-divisions of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance were finally relieved during the evening of the 11th July and returned exhausted, to the M.D.S. at Morlancourt. The M.D.S. was taken over by 23rd Field ambulance at 9am on Wednesday 12th July and the transport of the Unit, under the command of Capt Jones was ordered to proceed by road while the nursing sub-divisions of the Unit marched out of Morlancourt at 4.30pm to Edge-Hill station where they entrained at 6.30pm, the officers and men all crowded into horse boxes and set off for Longpre. The stretcher bearer sub-divisions (105 men) along with Capt Ffoulkes, Lieuts Anderson, Buckley and Page were order to rest at Morlancourt and follow the Unit on foot the following day but they did not manage to rejoin the rest of the Unit until evening of the 15th July but more of this in the next section (Recovery after Mametz Wood Jul - August 1916).

Mametz Wood August 1916 IWM Q866.jpg"

Mametz Wood August 1916 ©IWM (Q866)"

"Mametz Wood in August 1916 ©IWM (Q866)"

 

Recovery after Mametz Wood Jul - Aug. 1916.

32nd Week at War continued 8th to 14th July, Morlancourt - Longpre - Gorenflos

On the evening of Tuesday 11th July the 38th (Welsh) Division were relieved by the 21st Division and began moving in a wide arc to the west of Albert to eventually take up position in the Serre sector at the northern end of the Somme battlefield. Here they were to become part of VIII Corps under the command of Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston. VIII Corps had suffered the worst casualties of the 1st July assault and had failed to capture any of their objectives. The Division relieved the 48th Division and took over the line just south of Hebuterne and Gommecourt opposite Serre on the 15th July.

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"images/Hebuterne map3 for web.jpg"}

On the morning of Wednesday 12th July, the Unit's Main Dressing Station at Morlancourt was handed over to the 23rd Field Ambulance. That afternoon, the Unit's transport under the command of Capt Jones left Morlancourt and proceeded by road towards Longpre while at 4.30pm the tent subsections minus one nursing subsection (just under half the RAMC strength of the Unit) marched from Morlancourt at 4.30pm under the command of the OC. Lt Col Davies towards Edge-Hill Station. Here they entrained at 6.30pm. Officers and men were crammed into cattle trucks and and spent a crowded and uncomfortable night as the train crawled slowly along, eventually arriving at Longpre at 1.30am.

images/Longpre 1914 for web.jpg

Longpre in 1914" title="Longpre in 1914"

Having disembarked at Longpre, the men managed to enjoy a cup of coffee in the Y.M.C.A. before being marched up a hill to Bellangourt where they arrived at 8am on Thursday 13th July where they were billeted in the grounds of a Chateau. The officers and men slept until late afternoon being completely worn out after their time at Mametz and subsequent long marches and sleepless nights. The Unit transport under Capt Jones arrived at 1am thefollowing day having traveled via Coisy (north of Amiens). Later on the morning of the 14th July, the Unit received orders to proceed with the 114th Brigade to Gorenflos. While on the march, Lt Col Davies was congratulated by the Brigadier of 114th for the work done by the men of the Unit at the Battle of Mametz and later on the march while passing Brigadier General C G Blackadder, commanding the 38th Welsh Division, Lt Col Davies was call out and introduced to him and the General stated that it had been reported to him that the men of the 130th (St John) field ambulance had done good work during the recent battle.

While Lt Col Davies with two Nursing sections and the Unit transport made their way from Morlancourt towards Thievres, Capt Ffolukes, Lt Anderson, Lt Buckley, Lt Page and the 105 other ranks (the stretcher bearers and one Nursing section of the Unit) who had been left to rest at Morlancourt on the 12th July, set off on foot on the 13th to Warloy. Lt Page recorded that they were very kindly treated by the Officers and men of the 23rd Filed Ambulance who had taken over the Unit's position at Morlancourt and welcomed the opportunity to wash and shave and rest. They were all dead beat!

These Officers and men left to rest at Morlancourt set off on foot on the morning of Thursday 13th July and marched via Ville, Buire, Lavieville, Henencourt arriving at Warloy at 10.30pm. Lt Page again records that having rested over night, they had a triumphal march with some of the men carrying captured German helmets, caps etc and in the villages they passed through the battalions turned out and gave them a great reception. When they arrived at Warloy they discovered that the Brigade had gone on in motor buses to an unknown destination. They were left behind, forgotten and uncared for! They managed to get hold of the town Mayor who found them billets and food. 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips M.M. recoded things somewhat differently. Having had his first wash and shave for 3 days as they rested at Morlancourt on the 12th July, rations were short and having waited around all day on the 13th for lorries which never turned up, they left at 7.30pm and arrived at Warloy at 11.30pm where there were no billets and no food and he ended up sleeping in a lousy barn. He then reports that they waited around again all day on the 14th for lorries that again did not turn up. However he did manage to buy some bread and had a good tea with sardines, jam, marmalade, biscuits and French bread and the men got up a sing song which was very enjoyable. 48554 Pte G H Jickells record is somewhat different again. He records that they were stranded in Warloy as they could not get in touch with the rest of the Unit and while they were unable to obtain any billets, they did very well for food and as the weather was nice and fine, they slept outside and were well looked after by Capt Ffoulkes

The following day, they received word from headquarters to proceed to Thievres where they finally managed to rejoin the Unit later the same day.

 

33rd week at War - 15th - 21st July, Gorenflos – Thievres

On Saturday 15th July, the horse transport under the command of Lt Elliott departed at 6.15am on their way to Thievres via Ribeaucourt, Bernaville, Candas, Beauval, Terramesnil and Sarton eventually arriving at Thievres at 10.15pm. 48128 Sgt. Francis Sumption described the country side through which they marched as glorious and the villages very picturesque and the weather as clear and bright. Clearly this area had yet to be ravaged by the war. The Unit Headquarters section departed from Gorenflos in three motor lorries at 9.30am and along with the

113th and 114th Brigades arrived at Authie at 2.00pm. Along the way they stopped at about 12 noon and the men were able to stretch their lima and eat lunch consisting of bread and cheese washed down with water from their water bottles. No billets could be obtained for the Unit at Authie so they moved on to Thievres where temporary billets were obtained and a school house was used as the Unit orderly room.

images/Thievres 1913 for web.jpg

Thievres in 1913" title

The school pictured above could well have been the one used as the Unit's M.D.S. during their time in Thievres.

At 9.00pm, Capt Ffoulkes along with Lt Anderson, Lt Buckley, Lt Page and the 105 other ranks finally managed to report back to the Unit!

On the morning of Sunday 16th July, one of the medical officers of the Unit along with 48128 Sgt. Sumption went to assist some local civilians who were ill and this was to become a regular and much appreciated event. The Unit took over positions from the 2nd Field Ambulance (48th Division).

There were two A.D.S., one located at Sailly (A on map below) which consisted of 3 huts that could accommodate a total of 150 lying and 50 sitting cases. Lt Anderson was posted here along with one chaplain and 30 other ranks. Co located with this A.D.S. was the Divisional baths which also came under Lt Anderson's command. These baths were staffed by an NCO and 5 men from the Unit who has also looked after the baths at La Gorgue earlier in the year. The other A.D.S. was at Colincamps (B on map below), which consisted of 5 steel shelters built in dug-outs which communicated with each other and could accommodate 100 lying and 50 sitting cases. Lt Burke with 16 other arks were posted here and there were also 3 officers and 8 other ranks attached to this A.D.S. for rations. There was also an Advanced Post know as Euston Post (E on map below) where Capt Jones was posted along with one chaplain and 21 other ranks. The men left at Thievres who had not gone to establish the Advanced Dressing Stations settled down in their lousy billets and according to 48128 Sgt. Francis Sumption, 'sat around on the grass catching vermin. There was a shout of glee when someone catches a Sergeant Major or a Colonel + I can tell you there are some big specimens crawling about.'

Also, on this day, QM and Honorary Lieutenant P S Thompson reported back to the Unit. Like Capt Ffoulkes and and the 105 stretcher bearers that had become separated from the Unit, so had the Quarter Master. 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption records that while the Quarter Master (a Cardiff man) was separated from the Unit, the men would jest, "Has anyone seen Lt Thompson?" and the answer would come "Yes, he was last seen at Cardiff docks selling water at a penny a glass." When the QM finally caught up with the Unit he declared that after the was he will write a book "Tours with a water cart in France."

At 10am on Monday 17th July, the Unit took over the site in Thievres occupied by the 131st Field Ambulance. This Main Dressing Station could accommodate 100 lying and 100 sitting cases. In total, the Unit had the capacity to care for 430 lying and 200 sitting cases, a total of 630 wounded cases in all. The taking over of this site involved the men having to pack up and cart their equipment to different billets further up the street but these were no less infested with beetles and mice. Fortunately, during there stay in this sector, things were mercifully quiet and they never needed to use anything but a small percentage of their capacity. Orders were received to open a hospital for scabies and other contagious skin diseases and a barn close by to the M.D.S. in Thievres was obtained for this purpose.

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The OC, Lt Col Davies accompanied by Capt Anderson visited the two A.D.S.s and the advanced post at Euston (marked F in map above) during the day and found the baths at Sailly to be in full working order and consisted of showers and tubs and were capable of bathing 100 men per hour. There were also two baths for officers. It was arranged to have the baths open from 8am to noon and 1pm to 5pm each day.

Later in the day, by order of the A.D.M.S., 48064 SSgt Lawrence W Williams reported to D.D.M.S. VIII Corps for duty.

According to the war diary, there was little to report for Tuesday 18th July except that one officers riding horse was evacuated to the mobile veterinary Section. However, accruing to the diary of 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips (Army Medical Services Museum), the ambulance in the photograph below arrived on this day.

images/Abertillery ambulance for web.jpg"

Abertillery ambulance" title="Abertillery ambulance"

He wrote "Surprise of my life when a presentation car (ambulance) bearing the Council Seal and 'presented by the inhabitants of Abertillery' on it was added to our strength. Finest car we have now and I am proud of all the subscribers". The driver appears to be wearing and Army Service Corps cap badge while the remainder of the men are all R.A.M.C..

From various sources, we believe the men in the photograph are:-

  1. Lt Col J E H Davies, 2. 48071 Sgt/Maj William Stroud, 3. 48603 Pte Lemuel Powell, 4. 48191 Pte Arthur Strickland, 5. 48093 Pte Gilbert Brain, 6. 48190 Pte William H Smith, 7. Pte Jenkins ?, 8. 48193 Pte Charles Taylor, 9. 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips, 10. 48560 Pte Thomas J Oldham, 11. 48096 Pte Thomas Cordey and 12. 48154 Pte Thomas G Lippitt.

A dentist from 29th C.C.S. based at Gezaincourt attended the M.D.S. at Theivres on Wednesday 19th July and treated 2 officers and 11 other ranks who were all then returned to their units. A total of 19 men were admitted to the Unit's scabies hospital up to 12 noon.

At 12.10am on the 20th, a very urgent order was received from the A.D.M.S. for one Officer and 50 other ranks from the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance, along with 30 men from the 131st Fld Amb and 20 men from the 129th Fld Amb to report to the O.C. 123rd Field Company R.E. near the A.D.S. at Sailly (A on map above) to be employed on hedge clipping! Lt Elliott was detailed for this job and paraded with the 50 men of the 130th Fld Amb at 6am.

At 5.45 that day, Brigadier General C G Blackadder DSO ADC commanding the 38th (Welsh) Division along with the A.D.M.S. visited the Unit's M.D.S. at Theivres.

Up to 12 noon, a total of 3 sick/wounded were admitted to the Unit and a further 6 skin cases and a further 20 cases over the next 24 hours.

During Friday 21st July, Lt Elliott and the 100 men under his command were employed in repairing roads near Sailly. One of the Unit's Ford ambulances broke its rear axle near Sailly au Bois and had to be pushed into a place of shelter as it could not be towed away.

During his rounds of the local civilian sick with one of the Medical officers, 48128 Sgt. Sumption was given a cigar as way of thanks after they had visited a patient at on of the cafe and he later smoked it 'like a plutocrat to the envy of all his comrades. At a farm where they had come to visit a sick child who was now recovering, as they left, the child's mother ran out and into the yard and collared a chicken and handed it to Sgt. Sumption with it squealing for all it was worth. She said it was for the kindness for coming to see her boy. Sgt. Sumption was worried that he would be arrested by the Military Police for stealing it so he asked her to kill it which the lady duly did in her kitchen and wrapped it up in paper for him. The next day Sgt Sumption and a few others had it for dinner in their Mess.'

 

34th week at War - 22nd - 28th July, Thievres

On Saturday 22nd, a dentist again visited the Unit from 29 CCS based at Gezaincourt and treated 5 Officers and 46 other ranks, all of whom returned to duty except one other rank who was transferred to the CCS.

4413 Cpl. P Clinton was transferred to the 131st Fld Amb and 48201 Pte. W J Thomas was transferred to 113rd M.G.C. ( Machine Gun Company) for water duties. Capt Ffoulkes was posted to the Advanced Post at Euston Post to relieve Capt Jones who returned to the M.D.S. at Thievres. The Unit's Ford ambulances with its broken rear axle near Sailly au Bois was hit by an enemy shell and 'material damage done'!

Little appears to have happened on Sunday 23rd July apart from one Ford Ambulance being transferred to D.D.M.S. VIII Corps for duty and the O.C. inspecting the rifles and clothing of the A.S.C. men attached to the Unit. Although the Unit was running several A.D.S.s which were shelled regularly, few casualties were being admitted and the Unit's ambulances were evacuating those wounded that did come in to another field ambulance so the men at the M.D.S. had little to do. 48128 Sgt Francis Sumption records that 'The country around here (Thievres) is very fine and in the evening we go for a walk up a hill nearby and watch the bombardment. We can hear the shells bursting and see the Very lights and the flash of the shrapnel. Afterwards we come back and have some coffee and biscuits at a cafe nearby and try our best to speak to the landlady'.

Acting on orders from the A.D.M.S. the O.C. Lt Col Davies proceeded from Thievres to Mailly-Maillet to take over from the 36 Fld. Amb., the Aid Post at the Sugar Factory (marked C in map above) and the Aid Post at K34C 4.8 (marked D in map above - possibly Sterling Street). From Mailly-Maillet, he and Lt. Burke proceeded to the A.D.S. at Colincamps (marked B in map above) and then by a trolly railway running in a trench parallel to the road to Euston Post (marked F in map above). This trolley line was in good working order and suitable for carrying stretcher cases. They arrived at Euston Post at 11am and inspected the work the men of the Unit had done improving the dug-outs and kitchens there. Lt Col Davies arrived back at Colincamps at 1.40pm while Lt Burke proceeded to Red Cottage, one of the A.D.S.s of the 36th Fld. Amb. (there is some confusion with the names and map references of the A.D.S.s and Aid Posted in the Unit's war diary. Lt Col Davies was not known for his map reading skills! I have referred to the war diaries of the 36th, 60th, 61st and 62nd Fld. Amb. and various 1:10,000 scale maps to arrive at my best estimation of the exact locations.).

images/Sugar Factory at Mailly-Maillet for web.jpg

Sugar Factory at Mailly-Maillet in 1915"

The A.D.S. at the Sugar factory (marked C in map above) in 1915. The A.D.S. here consisted of two communicating cellars capable of holding 20 sitting and 12 lying cases. These were natural cellars but where in the opinion of Lt Col Davies, not shell proof. This was an important issue as the Sugar Factory was frequently shelled.

images/Sugar Factory 2015 for web.jpg"

The Sugar Factory in 2015" title="

Following his tour of inspection, and the taking over of the various A.D.S.s and Aid Posts, Lt Col Davies reported to the A.D.M.S. at Couin and applied for and obtains permission to withdraw 1 NCO and 12 men of the Unit who were being employed in road mending and hedge clipping and these men were sent to Euston Post ( F). At the same time, 48064 SSgt. Lawrence W Williams returned from temporary duty at the D.D.M.S.'s office VIII Corps.

48128 Sgt Francis Sumption records an amusing happening at the Units scabies hospital, '

On Tuesday 25th July, the Q.M., Hon Lt. Thompson reported sick with a problem with his right knee while a health inspection of the men of the Unit at both the M.D.S. at Thievres and the A.D.S.s found all the men to be in a healthy condition. The following day the Q.M. Hon Lt Thompson was evacuated to the 129th Fld.Hosp. Once again, a dentist visited the M.D.S. from 29th C.C.S. at Gezaincourt and the Unit's skin hospital had 11 admissions of which 9 men were returned to duty.

Thursday saw the Unit visited by the D.D.M.S. VIII Corps alone with the D.A.D.M.S. XIV Coprs and an advance party of the 61st Fld. Amb. (20 Division) arrived at Thievres and were sent up to the A.D.S. at Colincamps while the O.C. 61 Fld. Amb took over the M.D.S. at Thievres.

On Friday 28th July, the Unit handed over the the A.D.S. at Sailly to the 60th Fld. Amb., and the baths at Sailly to the 20th Division sanitary section. The A.D.S. at Collincamps was handed over to the 61st Fld. Amb. while the Aid Posts at Euston, Sugar Factory (Sucrie), Sterling Street and Red Cottage were handed over to the 62nd Fld. Amb. Lt Elliott and the 38 men attached to the 124 Company R.E for road mending and hedge clipping. returned to the Unit's H.Q. at Thievres and by that night, all the officers and men from the various A.D.S.s and Aid Posts had also returned to Thievres.

 

35th week at War - 29th July - 4th August, Thievres - Volkerinckhove - Wormhoudt / Herzeele

As the Unit prepared to move to a new area, the O.C. received the A.D.M.S.'s secret R.A.M.C. order No. 18, a secret preliminary note on the new area they were moving to and also the Operation order No. 40, 114th Brigade to which the Unit was being attached for the move. The horse and motor ambulances of the Unit were detailed to follow the Brigade's route of march to the embarkment point to pick up men who fell out of the march and the motor ambulances were also to be used to convey men of the brigade who were unable to march.

The O.C. Lt Col Davies left Thievres at 1pm on Sunday 30th July for Authrie and along with Brigadier Gen. Marden at 1pm on Sunday 30th July with a second car carrying 2 N.C.O.s (one staff clerk and one nursing Sgt) and 3 other ranks with medical and surgical panniers and then along with Brigadier Gen. Marden travelled to Arques arriving at 7pm.

At about 8 am on Monday 31st July, the Unit under the command of Capt. Anderson marched out of Thievres on a 7 mile march to the west to Doullens south station and eventually entrained for the 45 mile trip due north to Arques near Saint Omer where they arrived at 6.30pm and then march the 10 miles north to Volckerinckhove where they finally arrived at 1.30am on the 1st August. A "nice little village this" was how 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips described Volckerinckhove. The advance party of the Unit (I officer and 2 other ranks and an interpreter arrived at Arques at 11.45 on the 31st July and proceeded to Volckerinckhove to arrange billets for the Unit while Capt Jones in command of the motor convoy arrived at Arques at 4.30am. The men were initially billeted in barns and the school house but later a canvas (tent) camp was erected in an orchard. One section of the Unit under canvas was placed apart from the rest and along with additional tents was employed for the treatment of scabies and other infectious skin diseases. The other section under canvas was used for the treatment of the sick of the 114th brigade. The 1st August was another very warm day and after breakfast at 9.00am, the Unit paraded at 11.30am.

Week 35 at War is continued in the next section 'Up to Ypres August 1916 - July 1917.

 

Up to Ypres August 1916 - July 1917.

This page is under construction. As I work through the Unit War Diary and those private diaries that have been kindly send to me, I will add content to this page. I am working through the history of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance in chronological order and will fill this page with full detail in due course.

 

Week 35 at War continued

At 5.30am on Wednesday 2nd August, B section under Capt Anderson march from the Unit's HQ at Volkerinckhove to relieve a party of a field ambulance unit of the 4th Division at Herzeele and also to take over the Divisional Rest Station and also the Divisional rest Station for Officers at Wormhoudt. Capt A Jones left at the same time to meet the OC Sanitary Section at Zeggerscappel. Lieut Burke and an interpreter reported to the Staff Captain at Herzeele to act as the billeting party. The rest of the Unit continues to pack up ready for the move the next day. The weather was described as champion and a number of the men enjoyed a dip in the river followed by a sing song.

The following day, another pleasant warm one, the remainder of the Unit paraded in full marching order at 5.30am and marched behind the 14th Welsh to Wormhoudt arriving at 10.30am. No men of the Unit fell out on the march. The D.R.S for Officers (subsequently referred to as the Corps Rest Station (C.R.S.) for officers) and the one for other ranks was handed over to Capt Anderson at 9.30am, there being only one officer and men as patients at the time. B and C sections of the Unit proceeded in the afternoon to Herzeele to establish the Unit's Main Dressing Station. A Divisional Rest Station (D.R.S.) was for for either officer or men who were likely to be fit for duty in 14 days or less. Those who's injuries or illness was likely to take longer to recover would be evacuated back further along the lines of evacuation and when fit again would be placed in the general reserve rather than returning to their original unit.

The Officers rest station was in a Chateau facing the square in Wormhoudt with good gardens and grounds to its rear. An anteroom, dining room and conservatory where used for the officers beds (total of 17 but this number could be increased) and there was also a good kitchen.

The D.R.S. for other ranks was located just to the east of Wormhoudt on the road to Esquelbecq and consisted of a well laid out camp of 10 wooden huts capable of holding 10-15 patients each. When the Unit took over this D.R.S., 8 of the huts where being used to accommodate patients, one being used as a dinning room and one as a reading room. There were also a number of bell tents. There were good cooking arrangements and ablutions for the Unit's personnel and patients had all been left in a tidy condition. There was an annexe to this D.R.S. adjacent to it that consisted of two school rooms able to accommodate 12 patients in each (increased to 15-20 if necessary), a dispensary and a couple of bell tents and a covered shed for a pack store.

The M.D.S. taken over by the Unit at Herzeele consisted of eleven bell tents which was supplemented by the Unit's own canvas, was used to form a 'Skin Depot (hospital)", around which a wire fence was erected to separate these cases from the rest of the camp. One of the Unit's operating tents was used as a bath house from which a system of drains were dug to filter pits to cleanse the water for reuse! A shelter was also erected for patients to use as a dinning room.

Lt Col Davies spends much time over the next few months describing, often in minute detail, his inspections of the sanitary arrangements at various camps, the construction of toilet facilities and methods of disposal of human waste. With so many thousands of men accommodated in make shift camps in the rear of the Ypres salient without access to running water or sewage systems it was essential that measures were taken to provide suitable temporary sanitary arrangements to prevent the contamination of water courses and the spread of disease. The work of the R.A.M.C. was not just to treat the sick and wounded but also to maintain the fighting efficiency of the troops and so vast was the task that it could not be left solely to the small divisional sanitary section.

As so often, Lt Col Davies set the Unit to improving the facilities at the M.D.S. and new kitchens were erected as well as fly-proof latrines for the officers and men of the Unit and separate latrines for the M.D.S. patients and also for the patients in the 'skin hospital'. A new incinerator was also built near the latrines.

At the morning parade on the 4th July, the 'Special order of the Day' of the Commander in Chief was read out and the rest of the day was spent with fatigues and improvements to both the M.D.S. and the 'skin hospital'.

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title="Douglas Haig 04/08/1916"

The Unit's Hospital for sick as well as the skin hospital at Herzeele and open for business. 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips describes the sick wards 1 and 2 as well as the Unit's offices being located in a fine Chateau which he calls a 'Nobly place' while the skin hospital in its tented compound 'looks very nice too'.

 

Week 36 at War - 5th - 11th August 1916, Wormhoudt - Herzeele

The fine weather continued as did work to improve the Unit's two facilities on the 5th with arrangements made to erect a new disinfector at Herseele and white washing of the mens billets at Wormhoudt. On the following day, Surgeon General Porter D.M.S. VIII Corps visited the Rest Stations for both Officers and men and the Units Hospital at Herzeele and on the 7th, Capt David Roberts Williams RAMC reported for duty and was placed on the strength of the Unit. In the evening a cricket match was held against the 4th Division Supply Column MT A.S.C. who won by 18 runs. A rematch was held on the following day and this time the Unit lost by only 1 run.

On the 9th, The A.D.M.S. visited the Unit and inspected men classified as P.B and T.U. at Herzeele. On the following day, Lt Col Davies records that he preformed a double lower limb amputation on a 2 1/2 year old child who's wound had become infected.

 

Week 37 at War 12th - 18th August 1916, Wormhoudt – Herzeele

On the 14th, the 114th Brigade moved into the forward area taking up positions in and around Poperinghe and Elverdinghe. Lt Col Davies was approached to act as Sanitary advisor to the Town Major at Wormhoudt and with him, he visited the butcher shops and abattoir where is detected a large number of sanitary defects.

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48135 Sgt Clifford W Jarman"

title="48135

Sgt Clifford W Jarman

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 title="48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption"

On the 15th, two of the Unit's three dispensers (Pharmacists) were temporally detached from the Unit. 48135 Sgt Clifford Jarman being sent to the G.H.Q. supply column and 48135 Sgt Francis Sumption to the Divisional baths at Couthove. 48563 Pte Ieuan Phillips was sent to Herzeele to take over from 48135 Sgt C Jarman to act as deputy Orderly Room Sergeant.

Lt Col Davies submitted his sanitary recommendations to the town Major of Wormhoudt and he also submitted to the A.D.M.S. a suggested scheme of winter improvements for the Unit's locations. On the following morning he attended a conference at the office of the D.D.M.S. at Couthove and also inspected the baths and laundry there. Three reinforcements arrived this day, one English, one Scottish and one Welsh but unfortunately their names are not recorded.

On the 17th, the good weather continued. The Corps Rest Station for Officers and the Divisional Rest Satation for the men as well as the Unit's Hospital at Herzeele was visited by the D.D.M.S. VIII Corps. Tetanus was reported in one of the Unit's H.D. (heavy draft) horses at Herzeele.

The Q.M. and Honorary Lieutenant Thompson reported back for duty this day following his treatment for a problem with his right knee.

By the 18th August, a large number of the improvements had been completed at Herzeele and a new incinerator was in the process of being constructed at Wormhoudt.

 

Week 38 at War 19th - 25th August 1916, Wormhoudt - Herzeele – Proven

Orders were received by the Unit to send an advanced party to take over the Divisional Rest Station at Proven from the 12th Fld Amb of the 4th Division but this order was later cancelled.

On the 20th, Capt D R Williams, who had only recently joined the Unit as posted for temporary duty to the Divisional Mining School at Volrerinkhove while Lieut F A Anderson, having completed his overseas contract returned to England and was taken off the strength of the Unit.

The H.D. grey gelding horse suffering from tetanus was destroyed by order of the A.D.V.S. and the carcass buried in a deep pit with lime.

Wednesday 23rd, 48128 Sgt Francis B Sumption returned to the Unit following his week of instruction at the water plant at Couthove. He had had a good time there and described being back at the Unit like 'Monday morning after the weekend or coming home from one's summer holiday'. That evening, having spent the day packing up the Unit's equipment for yet another move, he and his fellow dispenser, 48227 Sgt Louis C Cohen went to a cafe and had eggs and chips which was quite a treat for them.

At 1pm on the 24th, the main body of the Unit proceeded by road to Proven arriving at 5pm to relieve the 12th Fld. Amb. The Unit's new hospital (Map sheet 27 F7C 3.3) was composed of four classrooms of a Convent school , four Belgian hots made of mud and brushwood, three marques, a wooden dining hut and a number of bell tents capable of accommodating 100 patients in the school and slightly fewer than that in the huts and under canvas. With the addition of the Unit's own canvas, a total of 250-300 patients could be accommodated. The camp was clean but the latrines were not fly proof and Lt Col Davies decided once again that a number of structural improvements were required.

Captain Andrew Woodroffe Anderson and 12 men remained at Wormhoudt in charge of the C.R.S. for Officers and the D.R.S. for men, 3 men to act as billet wardens of the mens D.R.S. A further 3 men remained at Herzeele as billet wardens. One N.C.O. and one man were left to carry on with the baths and laundry at Wormhoudt under Capt Albert Jones and a further N.C.O. and 4 men remained at the baths at Couthove.

 

Week 39 at War, 26th August - 1st September 1916, Proven

Lt Col Davies continued with sanitary inspections on the 27th, and arranged for improvements at Couthove while he found the arrangements at the 333 Company A.S.C. to be most unsatisfactory especially their cook house and latrines!

On the 30th, the sanitary arrangements of the 330 Company A.S.C. were found to be as equally unsatisfactory.

images/Lt T J Buckley for web.jpg" Lt. Thomas Joseph Buckley" title

Lieut Thomas Joseph Buckley, having completed his 12 month contract, returned to England on the 31st August and was taken off the strength of the Unit.

The C.R.S. for officers and the D.R.S. for men at Wormhoudt were handed over to the 12th Fld. Amb. on the 1st September. Lt Col Davies, visited and inspected North Camp (10th Welsh) and also visited 46 C.C.S. this day.

 

Week 40 at War, 2nd - 8th September 1916, Proven

Lt Col Davies departed for special leave on Saturday 2nd September leaving Capt Andrew Woodroffe Anderson in charge

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Capt. Andrew Woodroffe Anderson" title="

The Unit personnel that had remained at the baths and laundry at Wormhoudt were transferred to the laundry at Couthove on the 3rd.

Lieut. J H Bankes and Lieut. Myles Colt reported for duty with the Unit and, in accordance with instructions from the A.D,M.S., Lieut. R A G elliott was sent to take charge of the 38th Divisional laundry and baths at Couthove.

On the 5th September, Capt D. R. Williams returned for duty with the Unit after his time at the Divisional mining school.

Capt A W Andreson continued with the sanitary inspections of the various units of the 38th (Welsh) Division, visiting the lines, kitchens and latrines of A and B batteries, 122nd Brigade R.F.A. on the 7th and those of C and D batteries on the 8th.

 

Week 41 at War, 9th - 15th September 1916, Proven

Lt Col Davies returned from his leave on Saturday 9th September and continued with inspections of the sanitary arrangements of various units of the 38th (Welch) Division. He visited the four A.S.C. companies of the Division on the 11th (330, 331, 332 and 333 Companies A.S.C.).

On Tuesday 12th September, the Unit was visited by Major-General C. G. Blackader the G.O.C. of the Division accompanied by the A.D.M.S. Col F. J. Morgan and later, the Lt. Col. Davies visited North Camp when the 10th Welsh (1st Rhondda Batt) where located.

Lt D. C. M. Page returned to the Unit having been acting M.O. for the 13th R. W. F. and Capt M Ffoulkes was posted for temporary duty as the M.O. for 119 R.F.A. while Capt D. R. Williams was transferred to the 14th Welsh (Swansea Batt) to be their M.O. and was struck off the strength of the Unit and replaced by Capt D. H. Griffith who had been the M.O. of the 14th Welsh.

 

Week 42 at War, 16th - 22nd September 1916, Proven

 

Week 43 at War, 23rd - 29th September 1916, Proven

 

Week 44 at War, 30th September - 6th October 1916, Proven

images/Boesinghe dugouts for web.jpg"

Shelters along the Canal bank north of Ypres" title="

Dugout shelters at Boesinghe, just north of Ypres from

an original photo-postcard. These were similar to the many shelters along the Canal Bank that the Unit occupied during the time before and during the battle of Pilckem Ridge in 1917.

 

Battle of Pilkem Ridge July - September 1917.

This page is under construction. As I work through the Unit War Diary and those private diaries that have been kindly send to me, I will add content to this page. I am working through the history of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance in chronological order and will fill this page with full detail in due course.

images/48221 Pte Oliver Youngs MM certificate.jpg"

48221 Pte Oliver Young's Military Medal Certificate" title

This photograph is by kind permission of Charles Young, Grandson of 48221 Pte Oliver Young M.M. This is the first example of a 38th (Welsh) Division Medal certificate we have ever seen and it is likely that all men in the Division (not just the men of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance, who were awarded medals in the field, would have been given such a certificate but so few seemed to have survived or come to light.

 

Armentiers September 1917 - March 1918.

This page is under construction. As I work through the Unit War Diary and those private diaries that have been kindly send to me, I will add content to this page. I am working through the history of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance in chronological order and will fill this page with full detail in due course

images/Armentiers for web.jpg"

Armentiers just after the war from an original photo-postcard.

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The St John Hospital Etaples after the bombing on 31st May/1st June 1918" title

In January 1918, 14 men from the St John Hospital at Etaples transferred to the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance while in exchange, 14 men from the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance transferred to the St John Hospital at Etaples.

 

Push to Victory March - November 1918.

 

After the War November 1918 - June 1919.

This page is under construction. As I work through the Unit War Diary and those private diaries that have been kindly send to me, I will add content to this page. I am working through the history of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance in chronological order and will fill this page with full detail in due course

After the Armistice, the medical work of the unit continues but was gradually depleted of men, especially the miners who were needed back in Wales.

While the Unit comprised only a tiny proportion for the 38th (Welsh) Division (232 all ranks out of approximately 18,000), they acquitted themselves very honourably, both on the field of battle as well as the sports field. Two men of the Unit went on to play in the 38th Division Rugby team that toured during the 1918-19 season. 48086 Pte William Batchelor (1) and 48559 L/Cpl Trevor Nicholas M.M. (2) both played in the Division team. 48086 Pte William Batchelor went on to captain the Pontyclun Rugby Football Club in 1919 while 48559 L/Clp Trevor Nicholas M.M. was caped fop Wales playing one match for the

national team in 1919.

images/38th Welsh Division Rugby Team 1918-19 for web.jpg"

38th (Welsh) Division Rugby Team 1918-19" title

The photograph above is by most kind courtesy of the Pontyclun Rugby Club and was presented to the club in 2009 by Malcolm Batchelor, grandson of 48086 Pte William (Bill) Batchelor.

The legend below the photograph is as below. If anyone can provide any further information about the other players we would be delighted to hear from them. Please do be in contact.

 

The following, very touching letter (reproduced by the very kind permission of Eleanor, Granddaughter of 48192 Sgt Ernest Sweeting M.M. gives an insight into Lt Col J E H Davies and the respect he had for the men who served in the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance. Wallace was Sgt Sweeting's son and would have been 7 or 8 years old in early 1919 and the letter is clearly written so it can be read by a child.

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Envelope to Wallace Sweeting from Lt Col Davies" title

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Wallace Sweeting letter page 1" title

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Wallace Sweeting letter page 2" title

Lt Col Davies handed over command of what was left of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance to Capt T W Melhuish on the 22nd April 1919 and left for home.

 

The Unit spent its' final few weeks based at La Motte Brebiere (Lamotte- Brebiere) just east of Amiens. The 129th and 131st Field Ambulances were finally disposed and ceased to exist on the 22nd of May 1919 while the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance was not finally disposed of until the 10th June 1919. The final few men of the RASC (Motor Transport) were transferred or Vert Garland (aerodrome near Amiens), the RASC (Horse Transport) to the 38th Divisional Train and the final RAMC men to No 4 Stationary Hospital. Thus, the Unit that in its' early weeks back in December 1914 was known as the 1st Field Ambulance, Welsh Army Corps, spent its' last few weeks as the last Field Ambulance in the 38th (Welsh) Division.

 

Life After the 130th.

At the end of November 1919 a reunion dinner was held in the Assembly Room of the City Hall in Cardiff which was attended by more than 200 past members of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance.

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Reunion menue card front 1919" title

< images/Reunion dinner 1 for web.jpg"

Reunion menu card inner 1919" title

images/reunion dinner for web.jpg"

Reunion dinner 1919 Cardiff" title=

The first reunion dinner of the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance, by kind permission of The Hospitaller's Club of Wales. These annual reunions continued until 1965 then the final meeting was held in Cardiff on 3rd July that year. Major Andrew Woodroffe Anderson, the then senior surfing member of the Unit was unable to attend this last meeting due to ill health and Major Louis Cohen presided in his absence.

images/Xmas card1 for web.jpg

Christmas card from Lt Col Davies"

images/Xmas card 2 for web.jpg"

A Christmas card that Lt Col Davies appears to have sent to all the men who served in the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance, by very kind permission of Eleanor, Granddaughter of 48192 Sgt Ernest Sweeting M.M.

The Order of St John - Priory for Wales subsequently approved and issued a Certificate of thanks to all them members of St John Ambulance who served in the 130th (St John) Field Ambulance.