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’.

Message from 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.

48135 Sgt Clifford W Jarman
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.

Lt T J Buckley

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.

Capt Andrew Woodroffe Anderson

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

Shelters along the Canal Bank at Boesinghe, just north of Ypres 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.

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