The ferocity of the war coupled with the need to maintain high levels of sanitation in an otherwise fetid environment led to many changes in the way medical affairs were handled. One significant change arose from the vast numbers of casualties the war creating, which meant that it was impossible for surgeons to evaluate and practice successfully on the front lines. It was recognised that a man’s chances of survival depended on how quickly his wound could be treated and therefore the ability to efficiently and rapidly move casualties away from the front was required. For this reason the system known as the Chain of Evacuation was established. Each section of the chain, which included Regimental Aid Posts, Field Ambulances, Casualty Clearing Stations and hospitals, had its own role, with the ultimate aim of dealing effectively with all medical matters and making sure the army remained an effective fighting force.
In our model we show Wilfred’s journey through the Chain of Evacuation, with him now in the care of his regiment’s Field Ambulance. Field Ambulances were mobile front-line medical units for treating the wounded before they were transferred to a Casualty Clearing Station and then onto a hospital. They comprised stretcher-bearers, an operating tent, tented wards, nursing orderlies, cookhouse, washrooms and a horse drawn or motor ambulance. Here, Men would be assessed, labelled with information about their injury and treatments and be prioritized in a procedure known as triage. This would be the final stage of the Chain for many men, their wounds so severe that morphia and other pain killing drugs was the only treatment.
Throughout this project, James has asked his two sons to think about what might have happened to their ancestor, following his wounding at Passchendale. They continue the story:
Jon (age 12)
Somewhere close to Passchendaele. Wilfred has been transported onto a horse cart ambulance made of oak, which takes him on his way for much needed care. At this moment he was unconscious, but not yet dead.
Toby (age 9)
Somewhere close to Passchendaele. Suddenly solider 899 saw the horse cart ambulance "Look!" he shouted. The soldiers boarded Wilfred onto the cart, pulled by fluffy, beautiful horses.