Official history of the canadian forces in the great war




НазваниеOfficial history of the canadian forces in the great war
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should be resting on stretchers, covered with blankets,

protected by serum, comforted with morphine, nourished


vin SOMME - VIM Y - PASSCH END ABLE 99


with food and drink, their wounds dressed; or that they

should be lying unattended on the cold field that snowy

night. He was recommended to seek further back for

the cause of delay.


Certainly, two roads, la Targette and Brunehaut were

declared impassable on quite insufficient evidence. In any

case, a casual telephone message from the front at 10 p.m.,

that these roads were available, quickly brought 80 cars

to the rescue. But this was an affair of the Corps and of

the Army, not of the Divisions. The medical director

of the Canadian Corps might have insisted more firmly

that he have ample motor convoy under his own control

to clear direct from the advanced dressing station at Aux

Rietz; or, alternatively, he should have been allowed to

move his main dressing station forward from les Quatre

Vents to Mont St. Eloy. This judgement, it must be borne

in mind, is merely one of those deliverances easy after the

event. Mont St. Eloy, Bois de Bray, Ecoivres, as possible

sites, were much crowded with other troops and were under

continuous enemy observation. In the event of failure,

or even of partial success which left the enemy guns in

position, all these areas would have been untenable. Once

the battle was joined and the issue probable a main dress

ing station should have been opened forward at Mont St.

Eloy.


In spite of these difficulties all the advanced dressing

stations were cleared by 2 a.m. on the morning following

the battle; and in those 22 hours 5,976 cases were either

safe in the casualty clearing stations or warmly housed at

les Quatre Vents. During the three days 9th-llth April,

1917, the casualties, wounded but exclusive of killed, were

7,350; the enemy casualties cared for were 706. The

stretcher cases were 4,265 and the walking cases 3,791. The


100 MEDICAL SERVICES CHAP.


usual ratio of stretcher cases to walking cases is as one to

three; in this battle the heavily wounded were the more

numerous.


After Vimy and before Passchendaele the only major

operation which required a change in medical arrangements

centred about Hill 70 on August 15, and 16, 1917.

The battle of Arleux was fought on April 28 and 29,

and the third battle of the Scarpe including the capture of

Fresnoy on May 3 and 4; but these require no especial

mention as the medical services operated by the customary

method. At Hill 70 three divisions were engaged, the 1st,

2nd, and 4th; and the medical arrangements were purely

divisional. The total number of wounded was 84 officers

and 2,581 other ranks; and of prisoners of war 8 officers

and 243 other ranks were relieved.


For the three divisions the main dressing stations were

at Noeux-les-Mines, Fosse 10, and " Toronto Junction "

respectively. Evacuation was by trench tramways, except on

the 1st Divisional front where the rails were early destroyed

by shell fire. On other fronts they were a complete success ;

trains carrying 42 wounded were dispatched continuously.

This action was one of the few in which unreserved praise

can be awarded to the weather; the warmth and dryness

and the ample transport made the task of evacuation easy;

the suffering of the wounded was kept within control. The

assault began at 4.25 a.m.; by four in the afternoon the

aid-posts were empty and the advanced stations reported

clear; by six o clock the evacuation was 66 officers and 2,055

other ranks. The area was not entirely devoid of inha

bitants, and arrangements were made for civilian casualties

in cellars and tents where 1,345 cases could be entertained.

Until October there was comparative ease for the medical

service.


vni SOMME - VIM Y - PASSCHENDAELE 101


PASSCHENDAELE


The Canadian Corps took over the battle line in front of

Passchendaele at 10 a.m. October 18, 1917, and delivered

the first attack on October 26. By this time a change in

the command of seven of the field ambulances had taken

place. The new commanding officers were Lieut.-Colonels

G. J. Boyee, No. 1; J. J. Eraser, No. 2; A. S. Donaldson,

No. 3; C. F. McGuffin, No. 4; D. P. Kappele, No. 5; E. R.

Selby, No. 8; C. W. Vipond, No. 9; T. M. Leask, No. 10;

and Major H. H. Moshier, No. 11.


The operation order for the medical service in the

battle of Passchendaele opens with an ominous note, from

the medical director of the Corps, which reads : " It is ex

pected that under the prevailing conditions, the evacuation

of the wounded will be a matter of extreme difficulty.

Owing to the almost complete absence of shelter of any

kind, it will be impossible to keep cases under cover; and

in consequence the wounded will suffer hardship if the

weather is bad. The evacuation from the forward area

can only be conducted during the day. At night stretcher

parties lose themselves, as there are no land marks. Added

to this, the deep soft mud, the number of shell holes, and

the absence of roads, render the work of carrying stretchers

extremely arduous. During the present fighting, it required

six men to a stretcher, six hours, to carry from the regi

mental aid posts to the nearest point where wheeled trans

port was available. These men were then completely worn

out. It is therefore estimated that 400 stretcher bearers

per brigade will have to be detailed in addition to the

ordinary medical personnel."


This order is dated 21st October 1917, and the gloomy

prediction was amply fulfilled. The casualties were:

killed 3,130; wounded 12,076; missing 947. In this battle


102 MEDICAL SERVICES CHAP.


all four Canadian divisions were engaged; the 1st and 2nd

each made one tour in the line; the 3rd and 4th were en

gaged twice. The last tour of the 3rd, however, was only

for a few days, and was merely holding a position previous

to handing over to a new corps. The divisions were in the

line for each tour, eight to thirteen days, and then went out

of the line to the rest area. The medical arrangements were

partly corps and partly divisional. The divisional medical

arrangements concerned the advanced dressing stations,

clearing the front, and evacuating sick to the corps dressing

stations. There were two divisions in the line, at one time.

For the first tour the 3rd, and 4th were in the line, with the

4th on the right and the 3rd on the left. These divisions

had their own advanced dressing stations, which were moved

according to the need.


The main dressing stations were operated under corps

arrangements, and were disposed as follows: Vlamertinghe

Mill for stretcher cases; Ypres Prison for walking wounded;

collecting post for sick at Red Farm opposite Vlamer

tinghe; Brandhoek for gassed cases. One casualty clear

ing station was at Nine Elms, operated by the Australians,

and two at Godewaersvelde. The wounded were evacuated

from the front by hand, by horsed ambulances, wheeled

stretchers, and light tramway, to Frost House, which was

the transfer point from the 4th Division on the right. The

transfer point of the 3rd Division was Bridge Farm. From

these two transfer points wounded were taken back by light

railway or ambulance cars to the main dressing station at

Vlamertinghe. The walking cases were sent back by lorries

or found their way to the prison at Ypres.


The battle had been in progress for some weeks before

the Canadians arrived, and disaster dogged every corps in

volved. The Canadian commander refused to engage until

he should have taken measures which, if they would not


vm SOMME - VIMY - PASSCHENDAELE 103


ensure success, would at least render disaster improbable.

One of these measures was to make certain that his

wounded could be evacuated. Nothing so strengthens

morale as the certainty of such relief. For a whole week

his sappers were engaged in building plank roads, pushing

up light tramways, and preparing those movable pathways

known as " bath-mats."


For the Canadians the battle opened on October 26,

in heavy rain. The first walking wounded arrived at

Somme Redoubt, where wheeled transport was available,

at 6 a.m. The stretcher cases began to arrive an hour later.

By 2 p.m. the aid post on the right sector was clear, and

by 6 p.m. all aid posts and advanced dressing stations on

the whole front of the right sector were free of wounded.

On the left sector infantry bearers rendered great assist

ance.


From Somme Redoubt the further evacuation was

made easy by wheeled stretchers over the plank road and

by the tramway that worked alongside, and carried patients

as far as Culloden Junction. Three broad gauge trains con

veyed the walking wounded from Ypres Prison to Gode-

waersvelde, and another train from Vlamertinghe cleared

those cases which had come down by light railway from

Culloden and Bridge Farm. By this means ambulance cars

were kept off the roads, and even the motor convoy was

much relieved. The whole front was cleared in 12 hours.

The Chaplain Services, the Red Cross, and the Young

Men s Christian Association combined their efforts, and at

arranged places provided hot drinks and food, stoves, fuel,

clothing, and cigarettes. The supply of blankets was un

failing.


The action was resumed on October 30, and the med

ical arrangements were nearly identical. The weather was

fine but very cold. Later in the day rain fell, but by that


83635-S


104 MEDICAL SERVICES CHAP. YIII


time the wounded were cleared. The first cases arrived at

6 a.m. ; the whole front was free of wounded by four in the

evening.


In the final actions, November 6 and 10, evacuation

was easier, as trench mats were in more general use. The

walking wounded began to arrive at 7 a.m. ; by 3 p.m. both

sectors were clear; by 5 p.m. 800 wounded had passed

through Ypres Prison, and 350 through Vlamertinghe, most

of them stretcher cases. In this action Captain R. A.

Ireland was killed; Captain K. A. McCuish, who took over,

was wounded at once, and died next day.


CHAPTER IX


THE SURGERY OF THE FRONT


The number of wounded in the Canadian army pass

ing through medical formations was 144,606. The number

of troops overseas was 418,052. The ratio of wounded was,

therefore, 34-59 per cent, that is, more than one person was

wounded out of three who served. Of these wounded,

16,459 died, that is 11-4 per cent. Nearly nine out of ten

recovered in some degree from their wounds. The extent

to which modern surgery, civil and military, triumphed is

contained in that statement.


For comparison, exclusive of overseas troops, the Brit

ish wounded were 1,583,180. The enlistments were

4,970,902. The percentage of wounded in all areas was

therefore 31.84. Amongst those troops employed in

France the percentage of wounded was 37.56. The total

British battle casualties in France, including killed, died

of disease, wounded, missing, and prisoners, were 55 . 99 per

cent; that is, of every nine men five became casualties, of

whom more than three in nine were wounded.


The surgeon had no unfair advantage. From his point

of view never was a filthier war waged. From time imme

morial Flanders has been the battle-field of Europe, and in

the intervals of peace the land was most carefully farmed.

The inhabitants gather up all excreta, their own included,


105

83635-8J


106 MEDICAL SERVICES CHAP.


like crumbs from a rich man s table; and this by-product

is an important element in making up the economic profit

and loss account of the individual. The soil is deeply in

fected. With the disturbance of the ground by trenches,

graves, and shells, the infection was general and virulent.

Tetanus came into its own; but not for long.


Early in 1915 the menace was grave. The proper

serum was used. The danger passed. The supply became

deficient and the menace recurred. With ample supplies

the infection was brought under complete control again.

When the fighting was at its worst, and even one base hos

pital was receiving five hundred wounded every day, a week

would pass without more than one case of tetanus being

discovered. The surgeons of this hospital No. 3 Canadian

General observed from their experience that 1,500 units

was the proper average preventive dose of serum; that the

apparent severity of the wound was not a trustworthy indi

cation of the amount to be used; that a trivial abrasion on

the heel or the impairment of skin in " trench foot "

allowed an infection as grave as might be expected in a

heavy wound.


The commandant of this hospital also observed that

patients might be saved after definite signs of tetanus had

disclosed themselves, as in cases of cephalic involvement

and primary spasms of muscle. But it was necessary to

administer the serum in doses that seemed incredibly large.

Several hundred thousand units must be injected into

the veins, into the thorax, into the sheath of the spinal

cord, and under the skin. By these measures more than

half the cases were saved, provided an early diagnosis had

been made. This led in turn to the manufacture of a

serum in a highly concentrated form, and to every such

suggestion the British medical director gave instant accept
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