GSW or shrapnel?

Discussion in 'Service Records' started by Giberville, Jun 21, 2018.

  1. Giberville

    Giberville Junior Member

    Can anyone confirm that GSW refers to shrapnel wound and not just gun shot wound?

    The service records here show the entry. I think FA might be Field Ambulance. Can anyone decipher the rest of it?

    service records GSWhighlight.jpg
  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    G.S.W. Rt. Thigh
    To 17 Can F.A. (? Canadian Field Ambulance ?)
    To X(ii) List

    Unfortunately from your scan I can't see the dates on the right-hand margin to check against details, even for Theatre.

    Some RCAMC info (if that's indeed the case) can be found here
    4jonboy likes this.
  3. Giberville

    Giberville Junior Member

    Many thanks for the swift reply. It's dated 12.8.44, North West Europe. My feeling is GSW is used for both injuries caused by shrapnel and bullet. This medium regiment unlikely to have received a bullet wound on this date (though not impossible, of course).
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    No idea if this matches up location-wise but at least it's the correct Theatre.


    Operation "Totalize", which was designed to break the enemy's line on the high ground astride the Caen-Falaise road and carry our forces south to Falaise itself, began on 7 August. Initially successful, the Canadians met stiffening German resistance, and by the 1 1th their advance was halted about 8 miles from Falaise. For the operation, Nos. 11, 10, and 18 Canadian Field Ambulances were placed under command of the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade, and 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade respectively, with sections attached to the battalions of the infantry brigades. No. 10 had a casualty collecting post at Ifs and No. 18 an advanced dressing station at Fleury-sur- Orne. No. 21 Canadian Field Dressing Station acted as a resuscitation centre while No. 4 Canadian Field Dressing Station acted as a divisional exhaustion unit. The advanced dressing station at Fleury-sur-Orne was used as a roadhead for No. 2 Canadian Motor Ambulance Convoy which was to evacuate casualties back to the Corps medical centre at St. Germain la Blanche Herbe. Thence casualties were to be taken to the hospital centre at Bayeux.

    Just before midnight of 7 August the Canadian armoured columns began to roll towards Falaise. The first advance was rapid and casualties were relatively light, but during the second phase the operation was not nearly so successful. The day bombers of the United States Eighth Air Force dropped some bombs short of their targets, causing casualties and disorganization to allied units. No. 18 Canadian Field Ambulance's advanced dressing station, the only one officially open, handled 503 battle casualties during the day. No. 10, which was standing by for a move forward, had to open hastily and handled 407 casualties. No. 21 Canadian Field Dressing Station, which was operating the resuscitation centre alongside No. 18 Canadian Field Ambulance, took care of another 30 cases and No. 17 Canadian Light Field Ambulance 169 walking wounded.

    Further back at the casualty clearing stations in the St. Germain la Blanche Herbe medical area casualties began arriving shortly after midnight of 7 August. Nos. 2 and 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Stations with attached surgical and transfusion units handled casualties alternately. Between 8.00 a.m. and 11.00 a.m. No. 2 admitted 220, while No. 3, which opened at 11.00 a.m., admitted 303 by 3.00 p.m. The diarist of the clearing station later wrote :

    At one time 20 ambulance cars were in the yard waiting to unload. Reception and resuscitation were jammed so it was necessary to simply unload them on the ground. 110 were so placed at one time. Fortunately it was a warm, clear, sunny day. Our entire canvas set up could scarcely have accommodated the number of casualties.

    The Breakout and Pursuit pg239

    At 3.45 p.m. No. 6 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Cazelle was hastily ordered to open; it admitted 221 casualties up to 11.00 p.m. Casualties admitted to the Canadian medical installations at St. Germain and Cazelle for the two days 8-9 August totalled 1347.

    Of the casualties occurring on 9 August most were from the attack of the 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade on the west side of the Falaise road. The 28th Armoured Regiment (British Columbia Regiment) and the Algonquin Regiment* suffered especially heavy losses, and during the day the Brigade's ambulance unit (No. I2 Light Field Ambulance) evacuated 215 casualties from the engagement.

    Medical installations were busy again on 10 August as Canadian units fought to hold their gains against the fresh German troops which had been brought up to stabilize the position. During the night the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division put in an attack halfway down the Falaise road but did not succeed in breaking through the defences. For this attack No. 14 Canadian Field Ambulance had an advanced dressing station at Rocquancourt and was assisted by sections of No. 23. No. 22 had a casualty collecting post at Cintheaux from which 153 casualties were brought back during the day.

    By 11 August the Germans stabilized their positions, and the Canadians were held halfway between Caen and Falaise. That evening they received a priority order from General Montgomery to "capture Falaise". The plan to bottle up the German army was beginning to be carried out. For the further advance into Falaise the Canadian units were regrouped while engaged in holding their positions. The attack was to be made by two columns of armour and infantry still moving down the Falaise road and supported by bombing attacks by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force."
  5. Giberville

    Giberville Junior Member

    Yes it matches location, as this regiment (9 Medium RA) were positioned near the Caen - Falaise Road during this period. Perhaps need to get 17th Field Ambulance War Diary (though these diaries tend to be very light on details).
    dbf likes this.
  6. klambie

    klambie Senior Member

    Experience with Canadian records is that they differentiated between GSW and shrap. That said, those might not be based on a very detailed examination. Reasonably confident I've seen something noted GSW at one medical unit and shrap at a later one (or vice-versa).
  7. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    The medical records for my great uncle, wounded on May 3rd, 1917 reflect GSW on several forms and shrapnel on many others. Not much point in differentiating without any discipline in the reporting.
  8. Giberville

    Giberville Junior Member

    Did these Field Ambulance units record casualties they collected/treated? Would these be filed in the War Diary. I am guessing not as I suppose they just sent the individuals on through the chain of evacuation and on to hospital?
  9. klambie

    klambie Senior Member

    I've never had luck with an details in FA diaries. Maybe numbers for a day, but that is all. My impression is UK records don't include medical info, Canadian records often include casualty cards from different medical facilities as men were moved back. That's where the different determinations are seen.
  10. Giberville

    Giberville Junior Member

    Thanks. That's interesting. Canadian diaries at Kew are copies and often have all the extra stuff missing. Did you look at the originals?
  11. klambie

    klambie Senior Member

    I checked 2 or 3 originals in Ottawa
  12. Giberville

    Giberville Junior Member

    Here is another service record I have. With this one I knew the soldier as a friend of the family. In the 1980s I would pester him to tell me his war stories, especially the one about his wound. It was definitely a shrapnel wound, but here is referred to as GSW. Evidence that the term refers to both shrapnel and bullet wounds?
    For those interested, he was wounded at Anzio in Feb 1944. Cycling along on his bike, the Germans started shelling and a chunk of shrapnel hit his shoulder and knocked him from his bike into a ditch where he lay until a jeep arrived. The American soldiers picked him up, stuffing a cigarette into his mouth, and dropping him off at the Aid Post. He was wearing a leather jerkin and this probably helped to lessen the wound. I remember him saying that when it was all cut away and he saw the damage, he fainted! That is how the story goes...remembered from the 1980s. camera wound.jpg .
  13. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    My Father was wounded at El Aghelia by shellfire he sustained shrapnel wounds to his buttocks and shoulder, this is recorded in his records as GSW.
  14. Giberville

    Giberville Junior Member

    That confirms the term was used for both types of wound...thank you
  15. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    As Klambie says above the definitive statement about the causation of the wound will be in the medical records. I have also seen Canadian files which contain medical files and drill down to detail - some of them contain the casualties full hospital case history and I’ve even seen the casualty label completed by the first medic who treated the soldier on the battlefield.

    Unfortunately as MOD don't release medical records the GSW interpretation will remain a quandary for U.K. casualties.


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