This year, the focus of The National Archives’ First World War Centenary programme shifts to the use and development of technology. Medicine is one of the areas that we will be exploring and so today’s post is designed to give a brief overview of the route which wounded or sick soldiers would have taken when receiving treatment.
Having been injured, wounded or taken sick on the Western Front, British and Commonwealth soldiers would have received their initial medical treatment at a Field Ambulance unit, from where they would either be returned to their unit or sent further back to a Casualty Clearing Station for further care.
From a Casualty Clearing Station the injured would be moved back further towards a Base Hospital before potential transportation home to a British military or civilian hospital. This journey would come to see a wide variety of transportation methods utilised, ranging from stretcher bearers, horse-drawn carriages, motorised vehicles, barges and ships of various shapes and sizes.
From a research perspective, discovering the medical units or hospitals that your ancestor may have been treated at can be quite difficult. A service record, if it survives, may contain details of medical units which treated a wounded or sick soldier. Alternatively, if you know the Division that your person of interest was serving with, this can help identify the three Field Ambulance units attached to that formation. I would also recommend consulting the ‘Location of Medical Units’ found within WO 95/5494. This folder details the various medical units and hospitals in numeric sequence by hospital type. In some cases the Division attached to, location, and relevant dates are recorded.