The Scottish Women's Hospital, Royaumont Abbey (image courtesy of Grantown Museum)
The operation of hospitals was greatly assisted by volunteers from the Red Cross.

Wounded soldiers first received treatment at aid posts which were located close to front line positions and still within range of enemy fire. Each aid post had a Medical Officer, some orderlies (assistants) and stretcher bearers. These posts were the first in a chain designed to move men away from the trenches and, potentially, all the way back to ‘Blighty’.

Also close to the front line were the Field Ambulances. These were mobile medical units which provided relays of stretcher bearers who would move men away to the Dressing Stations where they could receive further treatment. Dressing Stations were staffed by Royal Army Medical Corps and the Field Ambulances. From here, depending on the severity of each soldier’s condition, they would either be returned to their unit or moved further away to a Casualty Clearing Station (CCS).

Casualty Clearing Stations were usually located several miles from the front. CCSs usually occupied clusters of huts or tents which were set up near a railway line or a canal. They were well-equipped and each could hold around 1,000 men. Those whose condition was critical would remain at the CCS until it was either safe for them to be moved again or they died of their injuries. Others would remain at the CCS until they could return to their units and the rest would wait to be evacuated to a Base Hospital. Today, many CCS positions are occupied by military cemeteries.

There were two types of Base Hospital. The smaller Stationary Hospitals could hold around 400 casualties while General Hospitals, which had a staff of over 300, could look after more than 1,000 men. As the war progressed, Base Hospitals increased in both number and size. Their operation was greatly assisted by volunteers from the Red Cross. In France, General Hospitals tended to be located near to coastal ports such as Boulogne and Le Havre to aid evacuation to Britain.

The existing military hospitals in Britain soon became overwhelmed with the number of sick and wounded men so several civilian hospitals were given over to military use while many large buildings such as stately homes were converted into temporary hospitals or, from March 1915, as places for convalescence where recovering soldiers could be kept under military control. Towards the end of their period of convalescence, soldiers were often sent to Command Depots where they remained until fit enough to return to their units.


[Text © High Life Highland; image courtesy of Grantown Museum]