World War One Casualty Evacuation System

Introduction

The evacuation process recorded in service records is often incomplete and confusing because the events are recorded out of chronological sequence. The steps shown below are the general route followed by a wounded man on the Western Front as he was progressively removed to the rear for treatment, recovery, convalescence and sometimes retraining, before returning to his unit.

From my own observation, progress through the casualty evacuation system could be short-circuited when wounds were severe. In some cases this meant missing steps, and for others where death was the obvious outcome, movement through the system might cease.

If a man was graded as being medically unfit for further service he was returned to Australia for discharge. I have found that some with physical or psychological wounds were returned for Australia 'for change'. I can find no official definition, but it appears as if it was the intention to remove them from the scene of the war in order to recuperate and return. Of those whose records I have examined, all were discharged and not one returned to the war.

Battlefield Area:

  1.    First Field Dressing (carried on the man)

  2.    Regimental Aid Post - belonged to and was manned by the unit.

  3.    Advanced Dressing Station - together with the Main Dressing Station were manned by the Field Ambulance units

  4.    Main Dressing Station

  5.    Casualty Clearing Station

Northern France

  1.    Hospital Train1

  2.    Base Hospital

United Kingdom:

  1.    General Hospital

  2.    Auxilliary Hospital

  3.    Convalescent Camp

  4.    Fourteen Days Furlough

  5.    Command Depot (South of England)

Northern France:

  1.    Training and Reinforcement Base

Return to Australia (generally applied after convalesce and furlough)

  1.    return to Australia if unfit for further combat operations.

Sources:

  1.   Newton, The History of the 14th Battalion AIF. pps 158-61

  2.   Mathews & Wilson, The History of the 19th Battalion AIF. p 491

  3.   Butler, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918

  4.   https://www.qaranc.co.uk/ambulancetrains.php

Footnotes:

  1. Ambulance trains were first used during the First World War in France and Belgium to transport wounded or sick to hospital. By the end of 1915 Ambulance trains had increased from twelve to twenty three.

    They also used during the Second world War in England and Scotland to transfer the wounded to the many temporary and permanent UK Military Hospials for further recuperation and treatment. Most of these military hospitals were placed in rural locations so that servicemen and women would not suffer unduly from air raids by the German Luftwaffe. The main line train companies actively assisted the Army, Navy and Air Force with supply and conversion of the Ambulance trains and during WWII this was sanctioned by the Railway Executive Committee.