Official history of the canadian forces in the great war

НазваниеOfficial history of the canadian forces in the great war
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of one in five also represents the strength of the Canadians

in comparison with the whole force engaged. No. 3 Field

Ambulance alone evacuated 5,200 cases during the week.

The medical arrangements were under the direction

of Colonel G. L. Foster, who was awarded a C.B., and


his deputy, Major H. A. Chisholm who received a D.S.O.

It was during this action that Captain F. A. C. Scrimger

earned a V.C. The C.M.G. was conferred on Lieut. -

Colonel F. S. L. Ford in command of No. 1 Casualty

Clearing Station, which had previously done good service

in the adjoining army and in the present action received

the overflow of cases. Captain T. H. McKillip received

the D.S.O., and Captain A. K. Haywood the military

cross. The officers commanding the Ambulances, Lieut.-

Colonels A. E. Ross, D. W. McPherson, W. L. Watt were

mentioned in despatches with Majors J. L. Duval and

E. B. Hardy, Captains F. C. Bell, P. G. Brown, A. S.

Donaldson, J. J. Fraser, R. H. McGibbon, J. D. McQueen,

and E. L. Stone. Lieut.-Colonel A. T. Shillington, Matron

E. Campbell, and nursing sister M. P. Richardson of No.

2 Stationary Hospital also received mention. The other

ranks were also generously remembered. From that day,

of which the story has so often been told, there was perfect

confidence in the British Army that the Canadian medical

service would adequately perform any duty to which it

was assigned. In reality the service came into actual being

at Ypres as a living and powerful force. The detail of

these operations will be given in proper sequence.


After the battle of Ypres the medical units of the 1st

Division began to drift southward; No. 1 Field Ambulance

by Watou to Bailleul; No. 2 by Hillhoek; No. 3 to Steen-

werck. They were about to take part in the series of

engagements that lasted from May 9, to 26, known as

the Battle of Festubert. The 3rd Brigade was involved

on the 18th, and on the following day the Division formally

took over the area. Tent sections of the three ambulances

operated as a single unit at Hinges. The arrangement

served admirably, and won approval from the Army. The


units worked side by side with an operating tent for serious

cases, and another for walking wounded. The motor am

bulances delivered their patients to each in turn. The

regimental aid posts were also combined, as the front was

narrow. For purposes of evacuation hospital barges were

employed, and conveyed the more serious cases from the

main dressing station to Dunkirk or Calais. Each barge

had 30 beds, with a medical officer, four nurses, and order

lies. As a further development of the policy of direct

evacuation, casualties were taken from the front to the

canal, and their wounds dressed ,on the barges.

The first two days were wretched with rain and cold,

and the work of the stretcher bearers was difficult along

the mile journey. By night horsed ambulances could reach

Indian Village, and by the 20th, when the weather cleared,

motor vehicles advanced beyond Festubert to the great

relief of the wounded. The action centred in the "Orchard,"

and the rescue of the fallen demanded great courage. Of

one volunteer party of eight bearers from No. 3 Field Am

bulance four were wounded and two killed. The number

of casualties treated in this action was 996 Canadians and

111 British.

Certain departures from established procedure were

justified by the experience gained. Evacuation of wounded

was made direct without passing through a casualty clear

ing or even a main dressing station; ambulances were

operated as single units, and aid posts were combined; an

advanced medical headquarters was formed with an officer

in control; regimental officers were to report the probable

number of wounded in their areas; wheeled stretchers were

more freely used; provision was made against slightly

wounded wandering out of their own battle area.

The action of Givenchy was fought on June 15, 1915.

The field lies v little more than a mile south of Festubert.

The Canadian Division held a front of 1000 yards north


of la Bassee Canal. There was room for only one brigade,

and the field ambulances served it in turn during successive

weeks. The others cared for the sick of troops in reserve

and rest. The headquarters were at Vendin, near Bethune ;

the main dressing station was at Le Quesnoy, clearing to

Chocques; the advanced report centre was near that station.

The arrangement worked as if it were automatic. Up to

noon on the 16th, 11 omcers and 350 other ranks passed

through, and the aid posts had been clear two hours earlier.

By night there were 234 additional casualties.

Late in June the Canadian Division was transferred

from the IV Corps of the First Army to the III Corps of

the Second, and moved northward into the Ploegsteert

area, with medical headquarters in Nieppe, the dressing

station at le Romarin, and the divisional rest station in

Bailleul. On July 15, pursuant to the transfer of the

Division to the Second Army, No. 2 Field Ambulance

moved up from Steenwerck near to Neuve Eglise to con

duct a main dressing station in tents; a combined divisional

rest station and corps convalescent camp was maintained

at Bailleul. With minor changes these positions were

held until April, 1916, a period of nine months. 5

The 1st Division by all these labours was a seasoned

body of troops before any other divisions arrived. The

medical service had become strong, flexible, and swift.

The wisdom learned was transmitted to the other divisions

as they arrived by direct instruction and by the posting

of experienced omcers to the later formations; but the 1st

Division never lost the authority it acquired in those days

when it was the sole Canadian force in the field.

1 Militia and Defence Memo. European War. No. 1. p. 57.

2 H.Q, 593-1-10, Vol. 2.

3 Canadian Annual Review, 1916.

4 Sir John French Despatch April 5, 1915.

5 The War Story of the C.A.M.C., Adami, pp. 179-212.




The Second Division was mobilized, trained, and dis

patched not in haste but with some semblance of order.

The component medical units were No. 4, 5 and 6 Field

Ambulances. The accessory medical units were No. 2

Casualty Clearing Station, No. 3 Stationary Hospital, No.

3 and 4 General Hospitals, and No. 2 Sanitary Section.

No. 4 Field Ambulance began to mobilize on Novem

ber 6, 1914, in Winnipeg, where A Section was formed by

Major W. Webster. On January 6, 1915, C Section joined

from Calgary, and on January 13, B Section from Victoria.

The winter was favourable for training, and the ambulance

left on April 14, for Halifax.

No. 5 Field Ambulance was partially mobilized in

Hamilton on November 9, 1914, in command of Lieut.-

Colonel G. D. Farmer. Ten days later it moved to Toronto

where it was quickly completed from various militia units.

On April 15, the ambulance entrained for Halifax.

No. 6 Field Ambulance was assembled in Montreal.

It arose out of No. IV, an old militia unit which had long

been in existence, but was now little more than a nominal

formation as many of the officers had gone overseas. The

new unit was mobilized as from November 13, 1914, under

Captain Philip Burnett. This unit was recruited up to

full strength at the armoury. With a generosity very com

mon at the time, a warehouse on St. James Street was




placed at the disposal of the Department which was to

make the necessary alterations and install sanitary appli

ances. There was some delay in making these arrange

ments as the local member of parliament was absent, and

he alone was in possession of the patronage list of firms

that had qualified for doing the work. From December

until the following April training was carried on. It was

well ordered and thorough. Classes for first aid were estab

lished. Motor drivers were trained. Horse lines were set

up. Drill and route marches were incessant. Equitation

was learned. Field exercises were held.

On February 18, Major R. P. Campbell returned from

England to take over the command. He had previously

organized an ambulance and taken it to Valcartier, but the

unit was broken up; the officers were scattered, and he was

detailed to a base hospital. Training was continued with

fresh interest in spite of the disabilities of a severe winter.

Inspections were made by civilians in ofiicial positions and

occasionally by a discriminating soldier like General Les-


After the customary rumours and reports orders were

received to entrain on April 16. In the morning the ambu

lance marched out at full strength with the proper comple

ment of officers, with personal equipment, haversacks, and

field panniers, but without transport. The port of em

barkation was Halifax. There were six troop-trains on the

road. The run was made according to schedule, and Hali

fax was reached the following day before midnight. Troops

to the number of 3,000 had assembled, and embarkation

of the medical units was complete on April 18, at midday,

in comfort and without unpleasant incident. The three

field ambulances met for the first time, and began a career

of friendship that remained unbroken until the end. Some

of the officers served continuously with their units and

returned with them four years later.


The ship was the Northland, formerly the Zeeland, as

it was known in the earlier convoy. In addition to the

medical units of three field ambulances, a stationary,

and casualty clearing station, three field companies of

engineers were carried, making a total of 1,700 troops with

78 officers. Of this voyage many diaries are extant, and a

few details are set forth from the most pertinent of them:

At sea, April 21, 1915: Left Halifax at 6 p.m. Sunday,

supposing we might lie in the stream; but when the ship

carried us past the harbour lights and out to sea, it seemed

incredible after the long weeks of waiting that we should

be gone. This is Wednesday morning. We have been

making only 10 knots, which means a 12 days voyage at

least. The orders were to join the Grampian at a point on

the Banks and our escort the Cumberland, which was to

come from St. John s; but the weather was thick, and we

proceeded. We are now well clear of cold, fog, and storm.

The weather is fine, the air warm and heavy.

April 23. No chart is posted. We are not told where

we are, but it must be far north. The tail of the Bear is

over the mast-head, and the north star three-quarters way

up the sky. At 11.30 a.m., a ship was seen seven miles

ahead in the mist. She was lying to, and at noon we came

up with her. This was the Grampian, and as we proceeded

side by side there was much talk with semaphore and flag.

The only message I could interpret was: "Reduce your

speed; a cruiser is astern." By night we made out the

cruiser s mass, with a slight glow at the mast-head and a

green tinge amidship. No other lights from any ships are


April 25. At 3 p.m. the cruiser Cumberland was

abreast. She lowered a boat with ten oars. The sea was

calm, and the boat came under our lee. A boy of about 15

years of age climbed on board. Without a word he went

83635 4 J



on the bridge. In a few minutes he went down the side

and rowed to the Grampian. In the meantime the Cumber

land had crossed our bows, and was standing to the north

to pick up the boat. Whilst the captain was waiting, he

signalled that the Canadians had been heavily engaged at

Ypres two days before; that the losses were heavy, but

they "had done very well. " Then he drew ahead, and

the Grampian fell astern.

April 28. This morning the Cumberland, our silent

and faithful friend, left us. For nearly a week she bore

patiently with our slow speed. Then she turned and fled.

At the same moment two destroyers appeared out of the

north, their heliographs flashing in the sun: I am the

Boyne} the other is the Foyle. Follow the course arranged

yesterday." The moon was full as we sailed up Bristol

Channel. Under orders from the Boyne even the navi

gating lights were put out. The Foyle went ahead as pilot.

The Boyne with all her lights ablaze was forward and off

to port, so that if attack were made, she would receive it,

like a wild bird flying with " broken wing " to protect her


Avonmouth, April 29. 7 a.m. Disembarked. ?he

train moved off; clear of the town it was the English spring

at its height, sunny day, dandelions, then daisies, then the

hawthorne in waves of white breaking upon the hedgerows.

The route lay by Reading, Acton, Clapham, then south

east through Kent. At 5 p.m. reached Westenhanger, and

there detrained. A march of two miles brought the mobile

medical units to West Sandling camp which is in the Shorn-

oliffe area.

The origin of the medical units designed for the lines

of communication of the 2nd Division may be briefly stated,

and also their career until the time they became army troops
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