The Field Ambulances

What was a Field Ambulance?

The Field Ambulance was a mobile front line medical unit (it was not a vehicle), manned by troops of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Most Field Ambulances came under command of a Division, and each had special responsibility for the care of casualties of one of the Brigades of the Division. The theoretical capacity of the Field Ambulance was 150 casualties, but in battle many wouldneed to deal with very much greater numbers. The Field Ambulance was responsible for establishing and operating a number of points along the casualty evacuation chain, from the Bearer Relay Posts which were up to 600 yards behind the Regimental Aid Posts in the front line, taking casualties rearwards through an Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) to the Main Dressing Station (MDS). It also provided a Walking Wounded Collecting Station, as well as various rest areas and local sick rooms. The Field Ambulances would usually establish 1 ADS per Brigade, and 1 MDS for the Division.

IWM

Imperial War Museum image Q4257. The official caption for this photograph is "an Advanced Dressing Station near Ginchy, September 1916" but the accuracy of this is doubtful. The exposed position, stretchers and cans of water suggest that it may be a stretcher bearer relay post situated between the front line and the ADS, which although often improvised in terms of its location and construction was a more substantial and better equipped post than shown here.

Composition and organisation

When it was at full strength a Field Ambulance was composed of 10 officers and 224 men. It was divided into three Sections. In turn, those Sections had Stretcher Bearer and Tented subsections. RAMC officers and men did not carry weapons or ammunition.

"A" Section:
65 in total
  • 1 Lieutenant-Colonel, in command of the Ambulance and A Section
  • 1 Captain or Lieutenant in command of Stretcher Bearer subsection
  • 1 Sergeant and 1 Corporal
  • 1 Bugler
  • 3 Privates (wagon orderlies) and 36 Privates (bearers)
  • 1 Captain or Lieutenant in command of Tent subsection
  • 1 Quartermaster, 1 Sergeant-Major, 2 Sergeants, 2 Corporals
  • 15 Privates (including a cook, a washerman and 2 orderlies)

Field Ambulance

This is "A Section" of 129 Field Ambulance 'somewhere in Flanders'. Author's collection.

"B" and "C" Sections:
128 in total
  • 1 Captain or Lieutenant in command of Stretcher Bearer subsection
  • 1 Sergeant and 1 Corporal
  • 1 Bugler
  • 2 Privates (wagon orderlies) and 36 Privates (bearers)
  • 1 Major, Captain or Lieutenant in command of Tent subsection
  • 1 Quartermaster, 1 Sergeant-Major, 4 Sergeants, 2 Corporals
  • 13 Privates (including a cook, a washerman and 2 orderlies)
Attached
  • "A" Section also had a Sergeant, 10 Drivers and 4 officers batmen attached from the Army Service Corps.
  • "B" and "C" Sections each had a Sergeant, 9 Drivers and 3 batmen attached.
  • A driver of the Army Service Corps was attached for duties with the cooks wagon.
Sanitary Section
A Sanitary Section of the Royal Army Medical Corps (consisting of a Lieutenant or Second-Lieutenant, 2 Sergeants, 2 Corporals, 20 Privates and 1 batman) was added to each Division in early 1915. Its job was to maintain as far as possible clean water supplies, cooking facilities and billets, de-lousing stations and similar facilities. The Sanitary Sections were withdrawn from Divisions and came under Corps or Army control from March 1917 onwards.
Transport
As with all other units, the Field Ambulances relied heavily on horses for transport and had an establishment of 14 riding and 52 draught and pack horses. They worked the 23 wagons, 3 water carts, 3 forage carts, 6 General Service wagons, 10 ambulance wagons and the cooks wagon. The Field Ambulance also had a single bicycle. By the end of 1914, each Field Ambulance also included 7 motor ambulance vehicles. A workshop to maintain them was added to the Division, although in 1916 it was absorbed in the Divisional Supply Column.

The work of the Field Ambulances

Thanks to the war diary of 56 Field Ambulance RAMC, we have an insight into the tasks undertaken by the men of the Ambulance. On 12 January 1916, when at Daours, the men were organised into the following parties:

8 wards, in two blocks of 4 each with a Sergeant Wardmaster and Corporal Assistant Wardmaster for each block.
33 men acting as nursing orderlies or general duty orderlies, including 7 men on night shift, in the wards.
5 men on pack store duties.
6 on rifle and kit cleaning.
3 men on hospital fatigues.
3 men on patients bath house duties.
6 men on RAMC men's cookhouse and 3 on mens dining hall.
5 on patient's cookhouse, 4 on canteen, 3 on patients dining room.
3 on billet cleaning.
4 in the dispensary.
6 in the wash house.
7 on sanitary squad.
4 at bathing establishment.
9 in drying room.
4 in quartermaster's stores.
2 white washers.
1 in the ablution room.
1 fumigator.
1 in the cleaning yard.
2 bootmakers.
1 horsed ambulance driver.
1 tailor.
1 barber.
2 men at the ASC Refilling Point.
3 water cart orderlies.
5 loaders.
1 sick officer's cook and 1 orderly, same.
5 permanent police squad.
2 in sergeant's mess.
8 in officer's mess.
11 men not detailed

The Field Ambulances

Field Ambulance Great War history Remarks
1st 1st Division  
2nd 1st Division  
3rd

1st Division Aug 14 - Aug 15 then Guards Division to Nov 18

 
4th 2nd Division Aug 14 - Aug 15 then Guards Division to Nov 18  
5th 2nd Division  
6th 2nd Division  
7th 3rd Division  
7th British Lahore Division  
8th 3rd Division  
8th British Lahore Division  
9th 3rd Division Aug 14 - Aug 15 then Guards Division to Nov 18  
10th 4th Division  
11th 4th Division  
12th 4th Division  
13th 5th Division  
14th 5th Division  
15th 5th Division  
16th 6th Division  
17th 6th Division  
18th 6th Division  
19th

Originally attached to 19th Brigade; 6th Division for 5 days in Oct 14; 2nd Division Aug 15 - Nov 15 then 33rd Division to Nov 18*

 *made up the 99 and 101 FA in addition
19th British Meerut Division  
20th Army Troops FA  
20th British Meerut Division  
21st 7th Division  
22nd 7th Division  
23rd 7th Division  
24th 8th Division Designated 1st Wessex, moved from Wessex Division TF in Oct 14
25th 8th Division Designated 2nd Wessex, moved from Wessex Division TF in Oct 14
26th 8th Division Designated 3rd Wessex, moved from Wessex Division TF in Oct 14
27th 9th (Scottish) Division  
28th 9th (Scottish) Division  
29th 9th (Scottish) Division  
30th 10th (Irish) Division  
31st 10th (Irish) Division  
32nd 10th (Irish) Division  
33rd 11th (Northern) Division  
34th 11th (Northern) Division  
35th 11th (Northern) Division  
36th 12th (Eastern) Division  
37th 12th (Eastern) Division  
38th 12th (Eastern) Division  
39th 13th (Western) Division  
40th 13th (Western) Division  
41st 13th (Western) Division  
42nd 14th (Light) Division  
43rd 14th (Light) Division  
44th 14th (Light) Division  
45th 15th (Scottish) Division  
46th 15th (Scottish) Division  
47th 15th (Scottish) Division  
48th 37th Division  
49th 37th Division  
50th 37th Division  
51st 17th (Northern) Division  
52nd 17th (Northern) Division  
53rd 17th (Northern) Division  
54th 18th (Eastern) Division  
55th 18th (Eastern) Division  
56th 18th (Eastern) Division  
57th 19th (Western) Division  
58th 19th (Western) Division  
59th 19th (Western) Division  
60th 20th Division  
61st 20th Division  
62nd 20th Division  
63rd 21st Division  
64th 21st Division  
65th 21st Division  
66th 22nd Division  
67th 22nd Division  
68th 22nd Division  
69th 23rd Division  
70th 23rd Division  
71st 23rd Division  
72nd 24th Division  
73rd 24th Division  
74th 24th Division  
75th 25th Division  
76th 25th Division Oct 14 - 9 Sept 18 and from 26 Sep 18 - Nov 18; attached to 9th (Scottish) Division in between  
77th 25th Division  
78th 26th Division  
79th 26th Division  
80th 26th Division  
81st 27th Division Designated 1/1st Home Counties
82nd 27th Division Designated 1/2nd Home Counties
83rd 27th Division Designated 1/3rd Home Counties
84th

1st London Division Aug 14 - Dec 14 then 28th Division Dec 14 - Nov 18

Designated 1/2nd London
85th 1st London Division Aug 14 - Dec 14 then 28th Division Dec 14 - Nov 18 Designated 1/3rd London
86th 28th Division Designated 1/2nd Northumbrian
87th

West Lancs Division Aug 14 - Oct 15 then 29th Division Jan 15 - Nov 18

Designated 1/1st West Lancs
88th 29th Division Designated 1/1st East Anglian
89th 29th Division Designated 1/1st Highland
90th 32nd Division  
91st 32nd Division  
92nd 32nd Division  
93rd 31st Division  
94th 31st Division  
95th 31st Division  
96th (County Palatine) 32nd Division Jun 15 - Nov 15 then 30th Division to Nov 18 Raised as part of the original 32nd Division, transferred to new 32nd Division in June 1915
97th (County Palatine) 32nd Division Jun 15 - Nov 15 then 30th Division to Nov 18 Raised as part of the original 32nd Division, transferred to new 32nd Division in June 1915
98th

32nd Division Jun 15 - Nov 15 then 30th Division to Nov 18

Designated 1/2nd West Lancs
99th

33rd Division

 
100th

33rd Division to Nov 15 then 2nd Division to Nov 18

 
101st

33rd Division

 
102nd 34th Division  
103rd 34th Division  
104th 34th Division  
105th 35th Division  
106th 35th Division  
107th 35th Division  
108th 36th (Ulster) Division  
109th 36th (Ulster) Division  
110th 36th (Ulster) Division  
111th 30th Division Oct 14 - Sep 15 then 16th Division to Nov 18  
112th 30th Division Oct 14 - Sep 15 then 16th Division to Nov 18  
113th 30th Division Oct 14 - Sep 15 then 16th Division to Nov 18  
129th 38th (Welsh) Division Originally designated 1st Welsh; renumbered March 1915
130th (St John) 38th (Welsh) Division Originally designated 2nd Welsh; renumbered March 1915
131st 38th (Welsh) Division Originally designated 3rd Welsh; renumbered March 1915
132nd 39th Division  
133rd 39th Division  
134th 39th Division  
135th 40th Division  
136th 40th Division  
137th 40th Division  
138th 41st Division  
139th 41st Division  
140th 41st Division  
141st 1st Division Aug 15 - Nov 18  
142nd 3rd Division  
143rd 28th Division Mar 17 - Nov 18  
145th 75th Division Aug 17 - May 18 Handed over men, stores and equipment to 123rd CFA
146th 75th Division Aug 17 - May 18 Handed over men, stores and equipment to 127th CFA
147th 75th Division Aug 17 - May 18 Handed over men, stores and equipment to 163rd CFA

229th

74th Division Jan 17 - Nov 18 Formed from the Field Ambulances of the Highland and Lowland Mounted Brigades

230th

74th Division Jan 17 - Nov 18 Formed from the Field Ambulances of the Eastern and South-Eastern Mounted Brigades
231st 74th Division Jan 17 - Nov 18 Formed from the Field Ambulances of the Welsh Border and South-Western Mounted Brigades
307th 73rd Division Jan 17 - Mar 18 (disbanded) Formed from the 9th Provisional FA. Designated Home Counties.
308th 73rd Division Jan 17 - Mar 18 (disbanded) Formed from the 9th Provisional FA. Designated Home Counties.
309th 73rd Division Jan 17 - Apr 18 (disbanded) Formed from the 9th Provisional FA. Designated Home Counties.
313th 65th (2nd Lowland) Division 2/1st Lowland
314th 65th (2nd Lowland) Division 2/2nd Lowland
315th 65th (2nd Lowland) Division 2/3rd Lowland
1st (East Lancashire) 42nd (East Lancashire) Division Raised in Manchester
2nd (East Lancashire) 42nd (East Lancashire) Division Raised in Manchester
3rd (East Lancashire) 42nd (East Lancashire) Division Raised in Manchester
1st (North Midland) 46th (North Midland) Division Raised in Derby
2nd (North Midland) 46th (North Midland) Division Raised in Leicester
3rd (North Midland) 46th (North Midland) Division Raised in Wolverhampton
1st (London) 1st London Division Aug 14 - June 16 then to Salonika, arriving 4 July 16, being redesignated 30th Stationary Hospital  
2nd (London)   See 84th FA
3rd (London)   See 85th FA
4th (London) 47th (2nd London) Division Raised in Woolwich
5th (London) 47th (2nd London) Division   Raised in Greenwich
6th (London) 47th (2nd London) Division Raised in Chelsea
1st (South Midland) 48th (South Midland) Division Raised in Birmingham
2nd (South Midland) 48th (South Midland) Division Raised in Birmingham
3rd (South Midland) 48th (South Midland) Division Raised in Bristol
1st (West Riding) 49th (West Riding) Division Raised in Leeds
2nd (West Riding) 49th (West Riding) Division Raised in Leeds
3rd (West Riding) 49th (West Riding) Division Raised in Sheffield
1st (Northumbrian) 50th (Northumbrian) Division Raised in Newcastle
2nd (Northumbrian) 50th (Northumbrian) Division Aug 14 - Dec 14 See 86th FA
3rd (Northumbrian) 50th (Northumbrian) Division Raised in Hull
2/2nd (Northumbrian) 50th (Northumbrian) Division Apr 15 - Nov 18  
1st (Highland)   See 89th
2nd (Highland) 51st (Highland) Division Raised in Aberdeen
3rd (Highland) 51st (Highland) Division Raised in Dundee
2/1st (Highland) 51st (Highland) Division May 15 - Nov 18  
1st (Lowland) 52nd (Lowland) Division Raised in Glasgow
2nd (Lowland) 52nd (Lowland) Division Raised in Glasgow
3rd (Lowland) 52nd (Lowland) Division Raised in Edinburgh
1st (Welsh) 53rd (Welsh) Division Aug 14 - Aug 18, when transferred to Desert Mounted Corps  
2nd (Welsh) 53rd (Welsh) Division Aug 14 - Sept 18, when absorbed by 170 CFA  
3rd (Welsh) 53rd (Welsh) Division Aug 14 - Sept 18, when absorbed by 171CFA  
2nd (East Anglian) 54th (East Anglian) Division  
3rd (East Anglian) 54th (East Anglian) Division  
3rd (West Lancs) 55th (West Lancs) Division  
2/1st (East Anglian) 54th (East Anglian) Division late 14 - Nov 18 Raised after mobilisation of 1st Line. See 88th FA.
2/1st (North Midland) 59th (2nd North Midland) Division Feb 15- Nov 18  
2/2nd (North Midland) 59th (2nd North Midland) Division Feb 15- Nov 18  
2/3rd (North Midland) 59th (2nd North Midland) Division Feb 15- Nov 18  
2/1st (West Lancs) 55th (West Lancs) Division Jan 16 - Nov 18  
3/2nd (West Lancs) 57th (2nd West Lancs) Division  
2/1st (Wessex) 55th (West Lancs) Division Jan 16- Nov 18  
2/2nd (Wessex) 57th (2nd West Lancs) Division  
2/3rd (Wessex) 57th (2nd West Lancs) Division  
2/1st (London) 58th (2/1st) London Division - Feb 16 then 56th (London) Division to Nov 18  
2/2nd (London) 58th (2/1st) London Division - Feb 16 then 56th (London) Division to Nov 18  
2/3rd (London) 58th (2/1st) London Division - Feb 16 then 56th (London) Division to Nov 18  
2/4th (London) 60th (2/2nd) London Division to Nov 18  
2/5th (London) 60th (2/2nd) London Division to Nov 18  
2/6th (London) 60th (2/2nd) London Division to Nov 18  
2/1st (South Midland) 61st (2nd South Midland) Division to Nov 18  
2/2nd (South Midland) 61st (2nd South Midland) Division to Nov 18  
2/3rd (South Midland) 61st (2nd South Midland) Division to Nov 18  
2/1st (West Riding) 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division to Nov 18  
2/2nd (West Riding) 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division to Nov 18  
2/3rd (West Riding) 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division to Nov 18  
2/1st (Northumbrian) 63rd (2nd Northumbrian) Division to Nov 1916  
2/3rd (Northumbrian) 63rd (2nd Northumbrian) Division to Sep 1916  
3/2nd (Northumbrian) 63rd (2nd Northumbrian) Division to Sep 1916  
1st (Royal Naval) 63rd (Royal Naval) Division to Nov 18 Original designation 1st FA
2nd (Royal Naval) 63rd (Royal Naval) Division to Nov 18 Original designation 2nd FA
3rd (Royal Naval) 63rd (Royal Naval) Division to Nov 18 Original designation 3rd FA
2/1st (East Lancs.) 66th Division 1915 - 22 June 1918, when attached to United States 27th Division, then 9th Division from 26 September 1918 - Nov 1918  
2/2nd (East Lancs.) 66th Division 1915 - Nov 1918  
2/3rd (East Lancs.) 66th Division 1915 - Nov 1918  
1st Cavalry 1st Cavalry Division  
2nd Cavalry 1st Cavalry Division  
3rd Cavalry 1st Cavalry Division  
4th Cavalry 2nd Cavalry Division  
5th Cavalry 2nd Cavalry Division  
6th Cavalry 2nd Cavalry Division  
7th Cavalry 3rd Cavalry Division  
8th Cavalry 3rd Cavalry Division  
9th Cavalry 3rd Cavalry Division  
Ambala Cavalry 1st Indian Cavalry Division  
Sialkot Cavalry 1st Indian Cavalry Division  
Lucknow Cavalry 1st Indian Cavalry Division  
Secunderabad Cavalry 2nd Indian Cavalry Division  
Meerut Cavalry 2nd Indian Cavalry Division  
Mhow Cavalry 2nd Indian Cavalry Division  
Jodhpur Cavalry 2nd Indian Cavalry Division  
1st South African 9th (Scottish) Division May 16 - 9 September 1918, then attached to VII Corps, finally 66th Division 23 September 1918 - Nov 1918  

 


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