Recovery After Mametz Wood July-August 1916

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.

Map of Hebuterne area

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.

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.

Thievres in 1913

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.

Hebuterne anotated Map

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.

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.).

The 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.

The Sugar Factory in 2015

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.

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