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Ramsbottom Branch

Welcome to the Ramsbottom Branch of The Royal British Legion
The Treatment of Wounded and Sick Soldiers
The Great War 1914 - 18
The Evacuation Chain  

This page describes the main medical functions in a complex chain that processed the casualty from the front line back to hospitals at home. It is in a simplified format. Many men missed stages altogether, and of course many wounded soldiers were in no condition to know which of these units was caring for them.

     Regimental Aid Post
The 'dressing station' was probably a Regimental Aid Post. The picture on the right  is a RAP in open ground near Monchy le Preux in 1917. Front-line units, such as infantry battalions, were able to provide only the most superficial medical care. Located near the front line, often in a support or reserve trench, was their Regimental Aid Post, attended by the Battalion Medical Officer and his orderlies and stretcher bearers. A wounded man would either make his own way there if possible, or be carried there. The facilities were crude and often just sufficed to carry out light first aid, give the casualty a drink, or just pass him down the chain to the Advanced Dressing Station. The RAPs were manned by troops of the infantry or other unit. Casualties moving on to the ADS were moved by hand carriage, wheeled stretchers, trolley lines, etc as conditions permitted. Those wounded men who could walk, did so. From 1916, relay posts for stretcher bearers were established every 1000 yards or so. To avoid congestion, certain communication trenches were allocated for the removal of casualties.
  Regimental Aid Post
Stretcher Bearers
Field Ambulance
The Field Ambulance attached to the infantry brigade provided one or more Advanced Dressing Stations in reasonable proximity of the front lines. The ADS was better equipped than the RAP but could still only provide limited medical treatment. Mens wounds could be dressed and some emergency operations carried out. In times of heavy fighting, the ADS would be overwhelmed by the volume of casualties arriving. Often, wounded men had to lie in the open on stretchers for a considerable time. The wounded man would be passed on down the line to a CCS, often by the wagon transport of the Divisional Supply Column. Buses, charabancs, light and broad gauge railways were also used as conditions allowed. In addition to the ADS, the Field Ambulance was also responsible for the stretcher bearer relay posts, walking wounded collecting stations, sick collecting stations and rest stations. A larger version of the ADS, the Main Dressing Station, was often provided for the Division. The next stop for most casualties was the CCS. Field Ambulance
    Field Ambulance
Base Hospitals
    Once admitted to a Base Hospital, the Tommy stood a reasonable chance of survival. More than half were evacuated to the UK from a General or Stationary Hospital for further treatment or convalescence. The Stationary Hospitals, two per Division, could hold 400 casualties. The General Hospital could hold 1040 patients. They were located near the Army's principal bases at Boulogne, Le Havre, Rouen, Le Touquet and Etaples. The establishment of a General Hospital included 32 Medical Officers of the RAMC, 3 Chaplains, 73 female Nurses and 206 RAMC troops acting as orderlies, etc. The hospitals were enlarged in 1917, to as many as 2,500 beds. Base Hospital
Expansion of medical facilities and capacity
    The medical support for the Army was developed rapidly as the size of the army grew, and as the nature of the wounds, sickness and other ailments faced in this war became clear. The lessons learned in the early phases of the war included those concerning the need for speedy treatment of wounds. A casualty's chances of survival were much greater if he could be attended to quickly. Hospitals had to be built - and mant doctors and nurses recruited and trained.

Numbers of medical troops (Source: Official History)
                 August 1914                July 1916            Nov 1918
Officers           200                       10,669
Other Ranks   9,000                    114,939
Nurses            516                                                        6,394
Treatment in Blighty
    Casualties whose wounds permitted them to travel would often be moved back to the United Kingdom for treatment. This chance of seeing home and family was more attractive to many men than remaining unwounded in the trenches. Men would hope for a 'Blighty one'. A huge network of hospitals of all specialities and convalescent units were developed. One of the final destinations for a recovered wounded soldier was a Command Depot: last stop before the return to hell.

British Hospital

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