Tonight a new WW1 Centenary drama series, The Crimson Field, will start on BBC1 no doubt sparking a fresh wave of interest in the Nurses of the Great War.
This image was taken in Northern France in 1918 and shows Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and also Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) personnel with the Royal Army Medical Corps medical officers from a Northumbrian Casualty Clearing Station.
This is a hand-tinted image from the 1930s which adds a lot to this wartime photograph of a group of Stretcher Bearers carrying in a casualty on the battlefield.
There were two types of Stretcher Bearers (SBs) in the Great War; Regimental SBs and those in the Royal Army Medical Corps. The ones at regimental level were in infantry battalions; traditionally in peace time these men were part of the battalion band and were musicians as well as SBs, but following the formation of Kitchener’s Army in 1914 that gradually began to change and men were selected for the aptitude rather than their ability to play an instrument, with the medical training coming second. Regimental SBs were the first port of call for battlefield wounded; they would search the battlefield for casualties and take them to the Regimental Aid Post for treatment by the RMO – the Regimental Medical Officer – usually a Lieutenant or Captain from the RAMC. From here they would be taken to a collection point where SBs from the RAMC would take over and transport them back to the nearest Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) or Main Dressing Station (MDS).
The weight of a wounded man was something to be reckoned with and while in pre-war training SBs practiced in pairs, the reality on mud-soaked battlefields was that it would take more personnel to evacuate each casualty even on relatively good ground; as illustrated here.