A second update from the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit

During the last week the work of the unit has been extended and developed in several directions. The work in the evacuating sheds at the station at Dunkirk has been continued without intermission. There has been no time, either at day or at night, during the week when there has not been a party of from seven to ten persons on duty in the sheds. As the members of the unit have become more expert in dressing, it has been possible to reduce the size of the parties. The normal number is now eight instead of twelve, and includes only one doctor instead of two. This eases the strain on all the members of the unit, and especially on the medical staff; while it is found that the smaller party is now quite competent to accomplish the work which previously occupied the whole of the larger party.

The work of the unit has developed in another direction during the week. We were offered by the Belgian Government the use of a military hospital at Ypres, and on Monday, the 9th, a party of twelve men and two doctors left Dunkirk with the intention of establishing there a collecting and dressing station. It was found, however, that the town was completely deserted and partially destroyed; the party spent the night in the hospital, but the bombardment continued at intervals, and by the next morning it was clear that there was no useful work to be done in the town itself. We therefore went north to Woesten, a village on the main road to Furnes, where there was a French evacuating station. The medecin chef of the station at once accepted the services of the party, and provided a large room for its accommodation. Since Tuesday the party has done a considerable amount of work, including the evacuation of hospitals at Poperinghe, Furnes, and Dunkirk of perhaps 40 or 50 very seriously wounded men, some of whom might have died if they had not been taken to hospital at once. They have also dressed over 100 cases, and have on three occasions collected wounded from points just behind the firing line. They were engaged in an endeavour to remove about 70 men from the village of Zuydschoot when the Germans began to shell it. They succeeded in removing about 40, but the remainder were killed by the collapse of the building in which they were lying. Some members of the party were for some time under fire while this operation was being carried out.

The medical staff express themselves as well pleased with the progress made by the members of the unit in the work of dressing.

During the week over 1,500 wounded men have been redressed at the station. In addition to the redressing, a very large number have been provided with shirts and other clothes from the stores of the unit, and in this way much suffering has been alleviated. It is clear that the unit can in this way utilise a large supply of clothes, and especially of shirts.

The whole work at the sheds has been placed on a more satisfactory basis by the construction of a dressing-room, which is allocated to the unit by the French authorities. It is therefore possible for us to keep there an adequate supply of stores and instruments, and thus to render more efficient the services of members of the unit. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the French authorities should have so far marked their appreciation of the work done by the unit. The party which arrived at Dunkirk yesterday has already begun to perform duties in the sheds. (The report proceeds to explain the removing of cases from the sheds to the hospitals already existing at Dunkirk.)

It is clear from the experience gained at this dressing station at Woesten that, if this side of the work is expanded, many more motor ambulances will be needed. An arrangement is at present being made with Captain Fournier, of the French Army, and with Dr. Hector Munro, who has been carrying out ambulance work at Furnes, as the result of which the unit will probably in due course establish two other similar stations on the line between Ypres and Dixmude. There is no doubt that this is the kind of assistance most urgently required, and if a definite arrangement with Captain Fournier is made, the energies of the unit can be most effectively used in this direction.


PHILIP J. BAKER. November 14th, 1914.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914, Volume VII, p113

See previous posts for an update about the Ambulance Unit , a postcard from Corder Catchpool and an appeal for help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *