Help Needed: Researching Medical Arrangements India/Burma

Discussion in 'General' started by Alison from Calgary, Jun 8, 2015.

  1. Alison from Calgary

    Alison from Calgary New Member

    HI, I am leaving for London on Saturday to research medical care in the India/Burma theatre and in preparation have been slowly working my way through the online catalogues of TNA, the Wellcome Institute, the British Library, and the IWM for pertinent files. While my primary focus in psychiatric casualties, I am also interested in casualty evacuation and the overall delivery of medical care. My problem is identifying all the Casualty Clearing Stations, Field Ambulances, etc. operating in the theatre. I am stumbling on bits and pieces of information using various searches - for example, in WO 177 (medical war diaries) a search of Burma plus Fd. Amb. brought up 6 results.
    I came across an incredibly helpful post from Scarlet Finders detailing the General Hospitals and am wondering if anyone has done a similar list of CCSs, Ambulances, Field Hospitals, etc. - or if anyone has any suggestions as to how I might discover this information.
    Also, any suggestions on medical research/using archives in London generally would be appreciated!
    Thanks, Alison
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Are the British and Indian official histories on your radar? Both armies published technical and operational histories of their medical services, and these would be a good starting point. If you haven't come across these, shout and I will dig out the titles later.

    You may also want to consider the Army Medical Services Museum in Aldershot. It's not one I've dealt with personally, but they've been featured in a few documentaries.
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Alison,

    WO177 is very frustrating as the file references rarely state, for instance the location of the Casualty Clearing Station, just the number. I bought a very interesting book on the subject, 'Crisis Fleeting' by James H. Stone, in which he discusses the medical facilities and its performance in the India/Burma theatre during WW2. He concentrates on areas such as Wingate's two expeditions and Merrill's Marauders, the major effects on the soldiers, diseases etc. The book was published by the US Department of the Army in 1969.

    It might prove good background reading for you, that's if you haven't read it already of course.
  4. idler

    idler GeneralList


    These are the key official histories:

    [British] Official History of the Second World War 1939-1945: The Army Medical Services, Campaigns, Volume 5: Burma, Crew, Francis A. E. London: HMSO, 1966

    Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War, 1939-45: Medical Services: The Campaigns in the Eastern Theatre; B L Raina (Ed)
    The Indian series also has volumes on: Administration, Medical Surgery and Pathology, Medicals Stores and Equipment, Preventive Medicine, and Statistics.

    There's also this probably-less-official one: Psychiatry in the British Army in the Second World War by Robert Ahrenfeldt.
  5. 379/101 HAA

    379/101 HAA Ubique


    As has been intimated, it can be rather hit-and-miss knowing where to find the right documents. For instance in my own research, looking for answers on my Grandfathers CASEVAC, I found that both the Corps and also sometimes individual Divisions within the Corps, wrote accounts of operations which contained some useful background information on medical services. In his case, with 33rd Indian Corps, the following documents have an overview at the back of the accountss providing an overview of the Corps medical setup as the war progressed from Kohima down to Rangoon:

    WO 203 2683
    WO 203 2684
    WO 203 2685 (Nice map of CASEVAC routes and locations).

    33rd Indian Corps D.D.M.S. diary (WO 172 1931) also gives some information and shows CASEVAC routes and locations.

    I haven`t had out all the Divisional accounts of Ops (2, 19, 20 Division) etc, but would expect to see some related information in these as well. The trouble is the amount of information might be very small, it`s just pot luck with these things. I can tell you that I`ve pulled out several C.C.S files from Kew in the hunt for information on my Grandfather`s C.C.S. and these diaries don`t tell you a great deal about treatments if that`s what you`re hoping? Generally it`s day-to-day stuff like: "Sepoy Singh" AWOL, 100 CASEVAC today, Tents flooded by heavy rain overnight, 10 new staff from so-and-so, A lot of casualties from 2 Div...... all that kind of thing.

    I hope this helps a little. Also, I guess you may have already found this document, but it`s rather interesting in explaining a bit about the CASEVAC and medial setup in general.

    Good luck with the research.

  6. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    As a personnel narrative rather than as an overview I can recommend Surgeon in the Jungle War by John A. Baty. OBE,FRCS. Major Baty served with No. 7 Indian Mobile Surgical Unit in the Arakan.
  7. mapshooter

    mapshooter Senior Member

    The basic organisation was that each British infantry division had 3 Field Ambulances and a Field Hygiene Sect, in about 1944 two Field Dressing Stations were added. Armd divs had only 2 Fd Amb, one designated as light. I'm not sure if these numbers apply to the Indian Army, but probably.

    Corps troops had varying number of: Casualty Clearing Station, Field Dressing Station, Field Surgical Unit,
    Field Transfusion Unit, Field Sanitary Section, Field Ambulance

    Joslen's Orders of Battle (Brit Army only) lists the following types of medical units in the index:
    Airlanding Field Ambulance
    Camp Reception Station (CRS)
    Field Ambulances
    Field Dressing Stations
    Field Hygiene Sections
    Field Surgical Units
    Field Transfusion Units
    Light Field Ambulance
    Parachute Field Ambulance
    Port Detachments
  8. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member


    Something else that might be of interest to you, in respect of the medical study of returning prisoners of war held by the Japanese in WW2.
  9. grandadv

    grandadv Member

    Following this post as my grandfather was a driver of a field ambulance in Burma.
  10. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member

    Alison,My father served in Burma with the 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Rgt, and although he was not injured in battle he did get hepatitis and there is a fascinating account in the book below of how he and a colleague were moved from their camp in Assam via many means, including ship and train to Another part of India to recuperate.There are descriptions of the programme of rehabilitation to fitness they underwent at Wellington Barracks.Hope this might be of use to you.
  11. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    In the 77 brigade diary, there are fraught messages between brigade HQ and Assam regarding the need for an anti tetanus injection which was to be flown in, but was not obtainable in time before the man died. There are other messages in the diary which refer to the codes used for different categories of injury or illness and who could be flown out or not. Many men were treated in the field in spalling conditions.
    Re psychiatric conditions there was a study done of three brigades after evacuation and practically no psychiatric problems were observed . This does not mean that they did not exist. In Dads diary he described what sounds like a man having a standard breakdown during an inactive phase therefore not connected to battle. He himself stated that he had been a "bit mad" after he came out.

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