Thursday, October 11, 2012

The End ..... Warloy-Baillon

After being wounded in the night of July 12/13, quite possibly in one of two of the terrifying 3 AM frontal charges down the trench into the German blocking position, George would have been transported back to a casualty clearing station and thence to the operating centre at Warloy. 

Casualty Clearing
If George's service record had survived the attentions of the Luftwaffe in WWII, we would know exactly what the injuries were that claimed his life two days later. Given the reports of the Ovillers fighting, it seems likely that he was a victim of machine gun fire, a German grenade or a sniper. Each of these is identified as causing significant casualties to the 3rd Salfords in Ovillers. 

The following map shows the distribution of medical service centres serving the Somme battlefields. The concentration of services at Warloy is evident and it also clear why George was taken there given the lay out of the road network.

The following descriptions of Warloy are taken from an Australian history of the Somme medical services:

Period Post Card of the Main Hospital at Warloy
"The supply of dressings, equipment and medical comforts was ample. As a main dressing station the auxiliary to a British Field Ambulance in Warloy was taken over and placed under the direction of the officer commanding 1st Field Ambulance (Lieut.-Colonel C. Gordon Shaw). Arrangements were made whereby for a time “abdominal, head, and serious cases” were to be sent to the British Field Ambulance which ran the ”Main Hospital” at Warloy."

Google Street View of the Hospital Building at Warloy Today

"Under its experienced commanding officer (Lieut.-Colonel C. G. Shaw) the 1st Field Ambulance built up in Warloy a tented hospital capable of dealing expeditiously with very large numbers of wounded. The site conveniently adjoined the Corps Motor Repair Workshop, and the Motor Ambulance Convoy Park. The work at times was very strenuous - four operating tables going at one time."

WWI Hospital Ward
"The special station at Warloy for abdominal, head, and other urgent cases was staffed by special surgical “teams” from field ambulances with a female nursing staff from I Advanced the casualty clearing station. It was an operating centre, Warloy commonly known as the “main hospital,” and occupied a small but well built civil hospital of 75 beds together with accommodation for 375 in tents, huts, and other buildings."

So George clearly got the best of care available once he was successfully evacuated. One must assume that he was so seriously wounded that the medical services of the time could do nothing for him. Given that the hospital specialised in serious head and abdominal injuries, it is likely that George was seriously wounded in in one of these areas of the body. Given he died two days on, one has to conclude that the two days after Ovillers were unpleasant for him. That is sad to contemplate. 

It was general practice for officers writing home to spare the feelings of the families and to announce that thair fallen members has been killed instantly and had not suffered, even when it was a blatant lie. One wonders what the letter my great grandparents received said. I hope they got the standard lie.


  1. Fascinating account about the work of the medical services at Warloy-Baillon. This is the hospital where one of my ancestors died from abdominal injuries incurred during The Battle of the Somme.

  2. My grand-uncle James McNeill McKinstry also died there of abdominal injuries. Our family has a moving collection of letters written by the sister in charge (a Ms Parry-Jones) who wrote every day to James's mother. We are trying to find out who she was

  3. My great uncle Lance Corporal Sydney Victor Hampton (1st Bn) also died there of a gun shot wound to the abdomen. He was wounded in the charge at Pozieres on 23 July 1916. A Red Cross report states he was recovered from no mans land by Sgt A V Steel and then carried by his brother Warren - a stretcher bearer with the 1st Field Ambulance to a dressing station and thence to Warloy. He died of his wounds on August 1st and must have suffered terribly in those final days. We have no survivng letters but the Red Cross report contains many affirmations of how well liked he was by his mates. His fellow signallers even clubbed in to buy him a better headstone than the simple wooden standard issue cross.