Friday 18 July 2014

Notes on hospitals on the Western Front during WW1

Initially those wounded at the front were taken to Casualty Clearing Stations (CCS), staffed by the Royal Army Medical Corps assisted by men from the Royal Engineers and the Army Service Corps.  Casualty Clearing Stations were near railway lines or canals. 

They were then taken on to Base Hospitals situated some way away from front line fighting. Base Hospitals in France and Flanders were near a coastal port to allow for evacuation of the more severely wounded to Britain by sea on Hospital Ships. RAMC personnel were assisted in their work at Base Hospitals by men and women from voluntary organisations such as The Red Cross.    

Diaries kept by medical personnel who served on the Western Front at that time tell us about the conditions and patients that doctors and nurses would have encountered. According to Lt. Col. John McCrae, the Canadian poet and Boer War Veteran who was both Artillery Officer and doctor, medical units were “required to keep and treat any patient who could be cured in a period of three weeks; to guard against complications and do everything possible to save the lives of the wounded or seriously ill; and to send to England all who could not get well in three weeks but were fit enough to travel on stretchers.  Those who recovered within the given period convalesced as helpers in local camps.”  McCrae was also horrified to discover that “Belgian farmers used manure in large quantities, the soil was thus rich in nitrates, potash and bacteria.  If not sterilized immediately, wounds would become infected.”