Private Diary: Offranville C.C.S. Dieppe Medical Base Sub Area, May - Jun 1940, Brig. R. OGIER WARD

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    TNA Catalogue Reference: WO 217/17

    Context: Private War Diaries of Various Army Personnel, Second World War, British Expeditionary Force

    Scope and content: Private Diary of Brig. R. Ogier Ward, R.A.M.C.

    Covering dates: 1940 May, June

    Courtesy of Drew
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    Formed May 24th. Embarked for U.K. June 15th 1940.

    Last edited: Nov 12, 2019
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    May 18 - 19th
    DIEPPE bombed.

    May 20th
    p.m. All Specialists ordered to leave OFFRANVILLE hospitals for the Base.

    May 21st
    No.s 2 and 3 General Hospitals evacuated ('MAID OF KENT' sunk in DIEPPE, ambulance train set on fire).

    May 22nd
    Preliminary plans for forming a combined unit from No.s 2 and 3 General Hospitals. No. 3 entirely closed, No. 2 taking cases.

    May 23rd
    Operations etc continue at No. 2.

    May 24th
    OFFRANVILLE C.C.S. formed by orders of Colonel GORDON WILSON, Commandant, DIEPPE Sub-Area.

    Lieutenant-Colonel R. OGIER WARD - In Command

    No. 2 General Hospital
    Major A.H.R. CHAMPION
    Major R. LEES
    Lieutenant GRAHAM
    Lieutenant RUSHTON
    Lieutenant DEWAR, and
    60 Other Ranks

    No. 3 General Hospital
    Lieutenant DICK
    Lieutenant HOLDEN
    Lieutenant WADE
    Lieutenant MILLARD
    Lieutenant HARTLEY
    Lieutenant FINLAYSON
    Lieutenant WILSON ('MAID OF KENT')
    Reverend RAWSTHORNE, and
    70 Other Ranks

    No. 10 General Hospital
    Major HOBBES
    Design of Hospital:
    C.C.S. expanding up to 600 bed or more sited in GROUPE SCOLAIRE, OFFRANVILLE and adjoining hutments.

    Incendiary bombs on and around Gambetta garage DIEPPE in the evening.

    May 26th
    Major BUCK, Pathologist, arrived from No. 10.

    May 27th
    Major O'MEARA, O.C. M.A.C. operating with 51st DIVISION and BEAUFORCE and Armoured Division.

    May 28th
    Major BAIRD arrived as Second-in-Command. Lieutenant DEWAR and Lieutenant RUSHTON left. Plans considered by Colonel WILSON to expand to 1,000 bed hospital. Work on hutments recommenced by French contractors.

    May 29th
    Lieutenant (Quartermaster) SMITH arrived.

    May 30th
    Establishment reduced to 200 beds. Contractors told to stop work.
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    June 1st
    Lieutenant GORAVITCH arrived.
    (On June 2/3rd the embarkation at DUNKIRK was completed).

    June 2nd
    Liaison Officer Captain Raymond BARBAS arrived.
    Lieutenant-Colonel R.O. WARD, Lieutenant SMITH and Lieutenant MILLARD and 30 Other Ranks with Captain BARBAS moved to CONCHES to reconnoitre a C.C.S. in GROUPE SCOLAIRE. Transport from OFFRANVILLE of many bulky stores and most of the medical equipment begun, this was done in 5 Ambulances and 8 (3 ton) lorries.

    OFFRANVILLE C.C.S. was of much value in receiving patients during early operations by enemy Southwards from River SOMME. A considerable number of casualties were dealt with, three surgical teams being sometimes in action. It was noticeable that cases were received late, some G.S.W. of abdomen more than 12 hours after being wounded. More than 120 cases were operated upon. In many instances owing to urgency of situation cases had to be evacuated within 12 hours of arrival, even when they had been operated upon and results could not be observed. Sulphonamide pacs were used.

    Blood transfusions were made by Major BUCK from donors on staff of hospital, no donors being available from Blood Transfusion Unit.

    Between May 22nd and June 6th salvage of medical and ordnance stores was carried out. Lieutenant HARTLEY supervised clearance of No.s 5 and 6 General Hospitals at LE TREPORT, working parties were there until June 46h. Lieutenant TATTERSALL entrained these stores at RUMINIL Railway siding, 5 miles East of DIEPPE. Lieutenant DICK supervised clearing of tented sites of No.s 2 and 3 General Hospitals with great efficiency. Lieutenant HOLDEN and other supervised the entraining at OFFRANVILLE siding. Lieutenant GRAHAM and Lieutenant WADE salvaged No. 10 General Hospital at ARGUES LA BATAILLE. In all instances all surgical equipment was cleared together with all tentage and the whole of ordnance stores with the exception of a very few unimportant items. When OFFRANVILLE C.C.S. was closed all equipment was removed, except one large X Ray plant, by ambulances and one 30 cwt. truck to the FORET VERTE, North of ROUEN (M.2022) and thence to CONCHES (R.0363). The hospitals at OFFRANVILLE were never bombed.

    The GROUPE SCOLAIRE was found to be a building suitable without alteration for about 200 cases. It was fully reconnoitred and permission obtained provisionally from the Mayor and Military Authorities of the 111th Region at EVREUX (R.1968) to occupy it. This was no done until orders were received from Colonel RUSSELL A.D.M.S. ROUEN Sub-Area on June 8th.

    June 8th
    Arrangements with the local authorities and the Military at EVREUX were quickly completed; the school children left after the day's work was over at 1600 hours and at nightfall the C.C.S. was ready to receive patients.

    June 9th
    Next morning simple electric wiring to the theatre was completed and wounded began to arrive about 12.30. Operations were continued until about 2000 hours.

    June 10th
    Colonel PAGE and Colonel COLEBROOK visited C.C.S. Bombing of EVREUX. Because Lieutenant-Colonel WARD had fond the Western approaches to this town and the neighbourhood of the station to be damaged by bombing on the previous day, (the Railway bridge at EVREUX station over the main road was found to be half destroyed by a bomb) he and Lieutenant MILLARD went forward to examine D.I.D. at ORGEVILLE 6 miles East of EVREUX and to make contact with the Detachment of No. 9 General Hospital at BUISSET DE MAIN near PACY (23666). The D.I.D. was found to be abandoned and No. 9 General Hospital had retired. On returning to CONCHES the C.C.S. was found to be almost entirely ready to move under Major BAIRD. All patients had been evacuated by orders from A.D.M.S. L of C., brought by D.R. The instructions received were to go to VERMEUIL and thence by ambulance train to No. 8 General Hospital at RENNES.


    To:- O.C., 2 General Hospital,
    O.C., M.A.C.
    O.C. 13 General Hospital

    M., ROUEN Sub Area

    Orig. No. M.66

    Date: 10.6. 1940

    Ambulance Train VERNEUIL Q 9938 Stop
    C.C.S. COCHES will close down forthwith stop
    Patients and Personnel by ambulance train stop
    Remaining personnel and equipment now with units to RENNES stop
    Confirm personnel BRUYERES completely evacuated stop
    If any remaining evacuate at once stop

    Signed RUSSEL, Colonel A.D.M.S.
    By ambulance

    T.O. Origin 0800.

    The civil population now stated that enemy had dropped leaflets during a machine gun and bombing raid at 0530 hours 10th stating that he would bomb CONCHES at 1400 hours on that day. Bombing occurred at 1440 hours and several fatalities and wounds resulted, by this time the C.C.S. and M.A.C. were almost clear and on the road to VERNEUIL (H.0038). The remaining ambulances removed these casualties to the C.C.S. thence with it to South. At VERNEUIL soon after the CONCHES raid the enemy bombed the station and ambulance train standing in it. The staff, including 3 sisters, and the patients in it escaped injury except one ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS Nursing Orderly who was killed; this was because the bomb only hit the kitchen coach. Some refugee wounded were treated and taken by Lieutenant DICK to civil hospital at VERNEUIL. About this time a D.R. arrived with instructions to reconnoitre a C.C.S. at SEES (Q.4328).

    Because of the damage to the ambulance train the head of the column had already begun to continue its journey to RENNES by road taking with it the seriously wounded and consequently could not be stopped in time to effect this. The rear of the column however was directed to SEES, but leading ambulances containing wounded went direct to No. 9 General Hospital at LE MANS. SEES 60 miles West of CHARTRES was reached about 2100 hours.

    Lieutenant (Quartermaster), who with other Officers already mentioned had succeeded in clearing all equipment of C.C.S. at OFFRANVILLE, (except the largest X Ray plant which Major BAIRD considered should be abandoned on account of lack of transport) also cleared all equipment from CONCHES except one damaged autoclave which had been received from another hospital, some chairs, and five bales of blankets. All the equipment therefore of No.s 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 General Hospitals was therefore salved by Medical and other personnel and sent safely to RENNES, also NANTES and SAVERNAY.

    From June 10th, onwards the equipment of the C.C.S. was so restricted in amount that no difficulty was experienced in retiring all of it except some chairs and tables and two more bales of blankets.

    Passing through LAIGLE (Q.7843) and MORTAGNE (Q.6917) the C.C.S. arrived at SEES (Q.4328) on the evening of June 10th. The ambulances were parked under tress in a mall squirt in the town. It was recognised that the town would sooner or later be bombed, (actually this occurred on 14th and considerable damage was done) and that it was an unsuitable place for a C.C.S. A.D.M.S., L. of C had advised against town in general.

    On 11th the O.C. with Captain BARBAS reconnoitred the surrounding country, two horse breeding establishments and a Chateau were examined; it was decided to occupy the first of these, namely the bloodstock stables at BOIS ROUSSEL (Q.4622 just West of ESSAY) where the Derby winner of 1939 was bred, and the C.C.S. moved in on 12th.

    It was an ideal site and may be described in some detail as illustrating the best type of location for a C.C.S. in modern warfare especially during an advance or a retirement. Its relation to our own front will be mentioned presently. The buildings covered a large area - there were about 180 brood mares and foals in the stables - but were unlikely to interest the enemy bombers since no military objectives were nearby. During our occupation enemy planes were frequently overhead and LAIGLE, MORTAGNE, SEES, ALENCON and other towns were bombed, but no attention was paid to BOIS ROUSSEL. Precautions were taken:- ambulances were kept under cover in the large sheds used for farm carts, strict orders were given that no new tracks of any sort were to be made on the grass, all movements of vehicles and personnel had to follow the usual gravel roads and paths. No new structures were erected. Thus an aeroplane photo taken during occupation would have shown no changes when compared with an earlier one. By day a sentry was posted and gave warning of the approach of any plane, all movement then ceased. By night a careful black out was ensured. An important but unavoidable disadvantage was that the C.C.S. was to a flank of the British force facing the enemy, for during that time the O.C. found no troops South of CONCHES.

    A large barn measuring 93 x 45 feet was available as a ward. A stone floored room with electric lights and running water which had been used for veterinary purposes was used as the operating theatre. The personnel slept in empty horse boxes, the officers were kindly accommodated by the Comtesse de ROCHEFORT in her house adjoining the stables. The only disadvantage was the electricity supply, which failed on several occasions probably owing to bombing of the grid system. To deal with this Lieutenant (Quartermaster) SMITH purchased and sent from RENNES electric wire, and it was intended to detach and mount in the theatre the headlights of an ambulance which was parked under trees nearby, but the C.C.S. was closed before this was done.

    BOIS ROUSSEL could be approached by several roads, a particularly useful secondary road ran North East through COURTOMER (Q.5729) to LAIGIE and this was almost free of refugee and other traffic. Evacuation was South West avoiding SEES, but passing through ALENCON to RENNES.

    12th June
    The first six cases reached C.C.S. on June 12th. On June 11th the O.C. had visited H.Q. BEAUFORCE OF Beauman Divn. near LA GOULA FRIERE (Q.6765) and made contact with A.D.M.S., Lieutenant-Colonel EAGGER.

    13th June
    On June 13th, the O.C. went forward in his small SIMCA to H.Q. 157 INFANTRY BRIDAGDE, 52nd DIVISION at R.0163 just West of CONCHES arriving there in the early afternoon and subsequently went into the town and collected a few items of equipment left in that place. At this H.Q. he made contact with Brigadier LAWRIE 157 INFANTRY BRIGADE and Brigadier CROCKER 3rd BRIGADE, Armoured Division, who happened to be there. From these contacts he learnt the position of our front line:-
    BEAUFORCE was facing East along the line of the River RISLE, East of BERNAY with A.D.S. at NOTRE-DAME d'EPIRE (Q.8391) and VATAILLES (Q.8084), 3rd ARMOURED BRIGADE was watching the Right Flank.
    157 INFANTRY BRIGADE had just arrived and was to hold the ground East of CONCHES.
    An R.E. Officer from BEAUFORCE who was present was planning on that afternoon to destroy the bridges over River ITON, West of EVREUX at R.1865.
    South of 157 INFANTRY BRIGADE there appeared to be a gap between it and the nearest French troops. Some French gunner officers arrived just before the O.C., C.C.S. left this Conference but it seemed that the position of this slender British force was far from secure.

    After leaving 157 INFANTRY BRIGADE H.Q. a collecting post formed at Q.9862 was visited. This was on the road 1 1/4 miles West of Infantry Brigade H.Q. It was in charge of Lieutenants THORN and BROWN, ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS and was designed to serve the 157 Infantry Brigade.

    During 13th H.Q. BEAUFORCE moved to LE PIN Q.6295 and a M.D.S. had been established at LA CHAPPELLE HAREING Q.6685.


    To:- O.C., C.C.S., ESSAY. Q.4821.

    From:- A.D.M.S., BEAUMAN DIV.

    Orig. No. M/1

    Office Date Stamp: 13.6.1940

    Advanced Party of H.Q. Skeleton Field Ambulance moving to LA CHAPPELLE HAREING Q.6684 1300 hours today stop
    Main body will follow later today stop
    I will keep in touch with you stop.

    SGD. ?

    T.H.I. 1300.

    On evening of 13th H.Q. 157 BRIGADE moved to BUREY R.0465 just North of CONCHES. The site of previous H.Q. where O.C., C.C.S. had made contact during the afternoon was planned to become the collecting post for wounded and Lieutenants THORN and BROWN were to move forward to it. (1 1/4 miles).

    14th June
    On 14th Lieutenant MILLARD arrived from RENNES with some ambulances and supplies.

    Major CHAMPION performed some operations. A message from A.D.M.S. BEAUFORCE suggested that we were not replacing ambulance sent to us with wounded, but this was untrue, how they got lost, it is not known. This message, received about 2000 hours showed that the position of BEAUFORCE was threatened by the evening of 14th.


    To:- O.C., C.C.S., ESSAY.

    From:- A.D.M.S., BEAUMAN DIV.

    Orig. No. M/4

    Office Date Stamp: 14.6.1940

    Have moved care post forward to my M.D.S. stop
    Unconfirmed report of enemy on flanks stop
    If this proves correct will evacuate to CHERBOURG stop
    Will do my best to keep you informed stop
    Two ambulances sent down to you have not been returned stop
    I am informed that you are sending them on to LE MANS stop
    It is essential that they should return direct from C.C.S. to M.D.S.

    Signed. ? EAGGER

    Time of Origin 17.30

    15th June
    At about 0700 hours a further message was received.


    To:- O.C., C.C.S., ESSAY.

    From:- A.D.M.S., BEAUMAN DIV.

    Orig. No. M.

    Office Date Stamp: 15.6.1940

    Orders received from H.Q., L of C. For you to close down forthwith inform A.D.S. that you have closed down Stop They must evacuate to 7 General Hospital CHERBOURG. Stop can you let them have cars and clear to my M.D.S. at MAROLLES Q.6486 if this is possible stop If not get them back to LE MANS stop I am moving and will now clear to No. 7 Stop

    SGD. ?EAGGER., Lt.Col.
    Time of origin: 03.45

    Presumably H.Q. at LE MANS had been unable to telephone direct to O.C., C.C.S. This message was carefully studied but its meaning was not clear for the following reasons. The position of the two A.D.S. and the M.D.S. of BEAUFORCE was known, so also was that of the collecting post of 157 INFANTRY BRIGADE and this had not so far been alluded to as an A.D.S. All these units were much nearer to BEAUFORCE than to the C.C.S., the distance between was about 50 miles, whereas the collecting post was only about 30 miles form the M.D.S. at MAROLLES Q.6487. None of the forward medical units were of course in any sense under the command of the O.C., C.C.S. and it seemed most likely that the A.D.M.S. BEAUFORCE would have communicated with all of them by the much shorter direct routes. The D.R. on a motor cycle had taken three hours to bring this message. A possible explanation which was considered was that the A.D.S. might be a misprint for A.D.M.S. L of C. The O.C. replied saying that the message was obscure and that ambulances had been returned to BEAUFORCE the previous evening after bringing in wounded (the copy of this signal itself has been lost). It seemed that these must have reached A.D.M.S. BEAUFORCE after his earlier D.R. had left, and subsequent events made it probable that this was so. An order of June 15th concerning rations, the existence of which had bee at that time forgotten but which was found again later on, showed that Medical H.Q. on the L of C had a different conception of the status of the C.C.S. and to some extent explains matters.



    Subject:- Rations

    H.Q. LE MANS Base Sub Area.
    Ref:- ML/29
    12th June, 1940

    Officer Commanding,
    Advanced Dressing Station, CONCHES.
    Main Dressing Station, Chateau Bois ROUSSEL,
    Near ESSAY (Q.4721).

    1. Rations and Medical Comforts for advanced Dressing Station CONCEHES will be drawn daily from D.I.D. LE MANS by a motor ambulance returning from No.9 General Hospital.

    2. Rations and Medical Comforts for Main Dressing Station, Chateau Bois ROUSSEL, will be drawn daily from D.I.D. FRESNAY, by a motor ambulance returning from No.9 General Hospital.

    A.D.M.S. LE MANS Base Sub Area.

    Copy to:- C.R.A.S.C.
    D.D.M.S. H.Q. L of C.

    NB. Copy for Advance Dressing Station, CONCHES to be forwarded to Main Dressing Station for onward transmission.

    At about 09.45 hours a message arrived by D.R. from No.9 General Hospital LE MANS which made it obvious that a further retirement was in progress.


    O.C. M.D.S. ESSAY Lt. Colonel WARD

    9 Gen. Hosp. is closed - Evacuate henceforth on 8 General Hosp.
    Direct - Avoid Eastward Roads.

    SGD. G.H. WOOD
    Major. RAMC.
    For O.C. No.8 General Hosp.

    The message bore no time or date and was not on a signal form but the D.R. had left LE MANS at 22.10 hours on the previous evening. He stated that the hospital had been packing up at 18.00 hours. At about the same time some ambulances arrived from CONCHES, having left there about midnight. They brought no message but stated that the enemy had attacked towards CONCHES on the previous day.

    The O.C. then decided that A.D.M.S. BEAUFORCE must have further assistance for this retirement therefore at 10.30 hours sent Lieutenant DICK with three ambulances and 1 D.R. together with a message and instructions to act in accordance with it.


    To:- A.D.M.S., BEAUMAN DIV.
    From:- O.C., BOIS ROUSSEL C.C.S.

    Office Date Stamp
    C.C.S. 15.6.1940

    9 General Hosp. closed at midnight stop
    Am remaining temporarily here with two ambulances to evacuate cases to RENNES stop
    My equipment mostly left for there at 10.30 hrs. stop
    My patients departed there at 09.15 hrs. stop
    herewith Lieutenant DICK and three ambulances to clear A.D.S. 157 BDE. through MAROLIES to No.7 Gen. Hosp.

    Time of Origin 10.15 hrs.
    DICK left at 10.30 hrs.

    (Lieutenant DICK subsequently in ENGLAND stated that he was unable to contact any of the medical units concerned in spite of a prolonged search. He was eventually evacuated with his personnel from CHERBOURG.

    One of the officers of the collecting post subsequently met Lieutenant-Colonel R.O. WARD in the MIDDLE EAST and at his request wrote an account of their movements, unfortunately this was lost. It is believed that they got away all their wounded in ambulances, and marching South reached BOIS ROUSSEL on the evening of 15th (?). They moved off early next morning and they were safely embarked).

    The C.C.S. remained at BOIS ROUSSEL during the morning. At 09.15 hours cases were evacuated from the C.C.S. to RENNES (5 ambulances and 1 D.R.). The bulk of the equipment and personnel (6 ambulances) left at 10.30 hours. The O.C. remained with two ambulances and Simca until 12.55 hours and then as no further cases had been received moved to RENNES arriving there 18.30 hours.

    16th June
    On 16th the C.C.S. complete (except for Lieutenant DICK and his 3 ambulances) left RENNES at 14.10 hours and sailed from ST. MALO on the s.s. ST. BRIARE at 1920 hours arriving SOUTHAMPTON at 0745 hours on 17th June.
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    The C.C.S. formed under the orders of Commandant DIEPPE Med. Base Sub Area, performed useful work during the period May 22nd - June 15th and under his orders its personnel assisted in the salvage of the General Hospitals. Many wounded were treated surgically, Major CHAMPION particularly performing many operations; equally important was the rapid evacuation of sick and wounded to the Bast.

    Sgd. R. OGIER WARD
    Lt. Col. R.A.M.C.

    18.7.40 No. 3 General Hospital B.E.F.

    I wish to make it clear that no criticism of Lt. Col. EAGGER is implied. He was entirely helpful when I met him and in telephone conversations, and it was from him that I received the first warning of an impending retirement, and the warning to close down, which latter message was of particular value and is a good example of efficient liaison under difficult circumstances.

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    BY:- Lieut.-Colonel R.O. WARD, D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C., ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS

    During the type of mobile warfare experienced throughout the retreat from DIEPPE to RENNES certain lessons have been learned and the results are not summarised.

    The equipment laid down of a C.C.S. is too elaborate if it is to be active during operations in which mechanised columns are employed. This will be true both in advances and in retreats. To begin with there is no place for a pathological department nor for any E.N.T. work.

    During the time the OFFRANVILLE C.C.S. was working the O.C. and Lieutenant (Quartermaster) SMITH formed a dump from the stores remaining from Nos. 2 and 3 Hospitals, and though without any G.1098 with the help of Colonel NICHOL's book they were able to collect in one plane equipment for a C.C.S. of 50 beds and 150 stretchers, with two surgical teams. When, retirement was ordered, not only was this moved CONCHES, but also much other equipment belonging to the General Hospitals which had not yet been entrained.

    When the C.C.S. was opened at CONCHES in the Groupe Scolaire it was decided the mobility was of great importance, and the equipment was reduced to 10 beds and 180 stretchers, together with a reserve of 50 stretchers. At BOIS ROUSSEL no beds were employed but only stretchers.

    It is considered, in the light of these experiences, that a C.C.S. in modern mobile warfare should be without beds and work to 200 stretchers with a reserve of fifty. Pillows add much to comfort, 25 of these should be available. Twelve air mattresses would be useful for serious cases. No ward linen, except pillow cases, towels and cloths are necessary.

    Theatre Work and Surgical Equipment
    Two cases Surgeons' Operating, with one extra for any team added, give sufficient instrument with the addition of Catgut No.1 and No.3 (plain) and Salmongut medium. Cramer Wire and Thomas Knee Splints are all that is necessary. One Hone, one Razor and Strop required. Plaster of Paris is only likely to be used rarely. (Subsequent experience has shown this opinion to be wrong.)

    Two 17" fish kettles, one bowl steriliser, two boilers, copper, two burners Primus are sufficient.

    No mobile one was available. The 15 cwt. General Hospital pattern had to be used and was difficult to load and transport. In this connection the supply of theatre linen must be considered. Twelve gowns operating are sufficient for each team if detachable sleeves and perhaps bibs of the Grey Turner pattern are provided. Jaconnet can be used in lieu of linen towels, this can be either autoclaved or boiled.

    It is better to use oxycyanide of mercury 1-6000, than to work with normal saline. The extemporised operating theatres make this desirable on account of dust and dirt.

    The transport of cases to and from the theatre involves much heavy work; two pairs of wheels, ambulance, carriage, for stretchers are required.

    Main Electric supply is likely to be not available, or to fail. It was intended, though an experiment was not effected, to remove the headlight of an ambulance, and fit them in the theatre. Wires to supply them from the ambulance dynamo and batteries, were purchased. A suitable carrier for these lamps should be designed, and carried in the C.C.S.

    One O.R.A., N.C.O. is required to supervise theatre organisation and must be freed from assisting at operations.

    A light set will be useful at times, but the failure of electric supply will often render this useless, and unless its own wagon is available, it is better omitted.

    It was decided that the only drugs necessary were:-
    Those to relieve pain, to give sleep, to purge, antiseptics - especially oxycyanide of mercury, and dettol, and the sulphonamides.

    The C.C.S. established at CONCHES was equipped on these lines and could be moved and was indeed moved easily in ambulances.

    The Siting of a C.C.S.
    The Groupes Scolaires at OFFRANVILLE and CONCHES were in each instance ideal buildings for the purpose. The former had, of course, been much improved during the previous months, but even before anything was done, it much have been well suited for active service conditions. At CONCHES, the removal of the school desks was all that was necessary, and after two hours' work, most of the stretchers (146 plus 10 beds) were in position. But there are serious disadvantages to school buildings, which seem likely to be often dominant. The harbour at DIEPPE was an attractive target for bombing, at CONCHES the main exits from the town, close to the school, were selected by by the enemy. Any town where roads converge seem likely to be bombed, If in the forward area, and it is, in FRANCE, only such towns which have school buildings.

    BOIS ROUSSEL proved ideal, being isolated from any likely target. SEES, MONTAGE, L'AIGLE and ALENCON were all bombed, whilst the C.C.S. was not, though enemy aircraft frequently passed over it. Instructions were given by the O.C. immediately on occupation that no new tracks across the grass, or of any other kind, were to be made, all vehicles were parked in sheds or under trees, movement was stopped when aircraft were overhead. It seemed reasonably certain that an aeroplane photograph would not have revealed any change if compared with an earlier one.

    The ideal situation for a C.C.S. seems to be in some group of buildings detached from some village to which quite minor roads lead from the main road. Ambulances should be diverted there, unless exceptional circumstances make it necessary that cases should be sent direct to base. Even so, a Medical Officer at point E. could examine each ambulance, and divert to C.C.S. any that contains an urgent case. At such a C.C.S., only serious cases should be treated, others being refreshed, or given morphia, and sent on in the C.C.S. ambulances. It would seem that only by some such plan as this can the C.C.S. be kept extremely light, as to equipment, and highly mobile, either to advance or to retire.

    Attached Files:

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    The foregoing account of the OFFRANVILLE C.C.S. was written in July 1940. It may perhaps be supplemented by some further notes of those last days in FRANCE.

    OFFRANVILLE is a small village about 7 miles South East of DIEPPE. Nos. 2 (Colonel BLACKWELL) and 3 (Colonel A.L. FOSTER) General Hospitals were placed outside it. No.2 was largely in huts, No. 3 entirely in tents. No. 1 General Hospital was in the Casino at the South end of the Esplanade of DIEPPE and three other general hospitals and a convalescent camp were in the neighbouring countryside. In DIEPPE was a medical sub base commanded by Colonel GORDON WILSON. Upon him fell all the heavy responsibilities of the succeeding days, these included the steps to clear the patients, staffs and equipment of the general hospitals and the large amount of medical stores in the depot, as well as the consideration of measures for local defence, though these were organised by the combatant services. The C.C.S. remained under the orders of Colonel GORDON WILSON until it moved South of the SEINE, it then came under the orders of the A.D.M.S. ROUEN Sub area and later on under the control of L of C formations. Active war in the West began on May 10th. The enemy first paid attention to the DIEPPE area by a bombing raid on May 18th, and again on May 19th, on that day No. 1 General Hospital began to clear its cases, ON May 21st it was again raided and the hospital carrier 'Maid of Kent' lying in an inner basin of the harbour was set on fire. Another raid on the town occurred on May 24th. All the hospitals were clearly marked with the Red Cross in large pattern on the nearby ground and none were bombed. But the hospital carriers were also clearly marked and two were destroyed in daylight raids. At OFFRANVILLE we could see the aeroplanes diving on to the harbour and the bombs as they were released from them, and certainly the markings on the ships must have been clearly visible. DIEPPE at that time had no anti-aircraft defences and the planes were able to come as low as they wished. With Colonel GORDON WILSON I visited the harbour shortly after several of these raids. An hour after one of them the remains of the 'Maid of Kent' were a hot mass of metal above the partly submerged hulk, some trucks of the ambulance train on the quay close by were still smouldering having been burnt down to the floor level. The loss of life had fortunately been slight, only few were on board the ship when it was hit and I think all got out. The train was only partly loaded at the time and the burning coaches were quickly detached so that it was able to move off. It contained some patients and sisters besides its usual staff. Although some houses were destroyed the actual damage done to the town was not great.

    The salvage operations of hospitals and stores were initiated and controlled by Colonel GORDON WILSON were extremely successful. Almost the entire equipment of six general hospitals were loaded on to trains and lorries and sent South in the course of a very few days. To many who were engaged in the work the immense capacity of the railway truck came as a surprise. It was a grew achievement and the ultimate loss of all the stores to the enemy should not be too deeply deplored. The fact that the British army made no attempt to embark its stores, though some large part of these could not doubt have been saved, it is a testimony to the fact that BRITAIN was always ready to carry on the fight had FRANCE been so determined.

    I think it was on May 20th that a field adjoining No. 3 General Hospital accidentally became an aerodrome. One of our fighters crossing to FRANCE was attacked by a German plane which the pilot shot down into the sea, this drove him off his course and he landed close to us and we were glad to give him a meal. Soon after his arrival the planes of a French squadron which had been driven from their aerodrome saw his plane on the ground and decided that here was a landing ground. One by one they came down and presently there must have been ten medium bombers there. The field was only rough grass and the commander asked for help to find an aerodrome which his map clearly showed to be about ten miles further south. I took him there in my little 8 h.p. Simca, a decrepit but worthy vehicle which was to prove so valuable to me in the days that followed. We found the place easily enough though the local gendarmerie were very vague about it, a wide expanse of level ploughed field. A small notice board proclaimed that it was reserved for military purposes, but the village policeman whom we caught bicycling back to his lunch assured us that it was an aerodrome but, he added, it was not to be ready until the summer of 1941 !

    During these days a considerable number of cars containing Belgian staff officers passed through DIEPPE, this made one realise how serious was the situation in the North. Presumably they were members of the government and war departments. Many civilian refugees passed through DIEPPE and thousands more were seen during the next fortnight. It was a tragic sight. In 1912 I was a surgeon, actually only just qualified in a British Red Cross Unit sent to CONSTANTINOPLE, Max PAGE was our only real surgeon. In those days TURKEY was being driven back by BULGARIA and SERBIA, RUMANIA and GREECE. We saw the capital crammed with refugees and their transport from MACEDONIA and THRACE. We saw them bivouacked in the side streets for weeks and months, slowly degenerating, the oxen which were to draw their carts sold from lack of forage. They were waiting for space on the ferry to cross the BOSPHORUS to seek new homes in Asia. In 1918 I was in the March retreat of the Third Army and that was grim enough. But in NORMANDY during those last weeks the tragedy was deeper. A nation driven from its homes. The huge farm cart drawn by four high crested horses crammed with household goods, the family walking and pulling hand carts, except perhaps the grandmother who sat on top of the load, dry eyed by staring fixedly ahead. One felt that she had been through it all before but this time had no hope at all. Motor cars always had mattresses on top as a protection against machine gun bullets, sometimes being without petrol they were towed by the carts. The discipline was good, these people kept strictly to the right, rarely doubled the traffic except to avoid some abandoned motor car, and when halted pulled clear. We saw these columns at DIEPPE, we saw them on all the roads down the ALENCON, but in the last days they were gone and the countryside was emptied of them, now the roads were cleared for the free movements of armies, but only the German army made use of them. I passed through ROUEN on June 22nd, and visited it again twice a few days later. The city was partially empty but those who remained were trying to carry on. A doctor upon whom I called was holding his private clinic much as usual, but he had served in the last war and had no illusions about the future when he bade me farewell. Work was going on at all the bridges over the SEINE which were prepared for demolition and I suppose that later all were destroyed. I had been rather concerned lest our retreat from the DIEPPE area might be interfered with by the early capture of ROUEN and had considered using the ferry at YVERTOT about 20 miles to the west but decided against that and I heard afterwards that this became so congested that parties had to wait two days to cross. It was in this corner that the 51st DIVISION was afterwards trapped. The SEINE seemed a fine defensive line but it was not held for long, apparently the Germans quickly penetrated into its sinuousities and then effected crossings. No. 13 General Hospital were on the main road south of ROUEN, they were very busy; before they left, I think on June 9th, they had some unpleasant bombing experiences.

    CONCHES, about 35 miles south of ROUEN, is a pleasant place with a large green in the middle of the village. Here is a opined in which the frogs make a tremendous din each evening. There are many trees round about it which give admirable cover. The M.A.C. parked there with ours and many other vehicles. The River ITON flows through CONCHES and the Garde Champetre in whose house I was billeted showed me where I could get some fine trout fishing. I did well on several evenings while we were waiting for orders to open up. But the fishing was not at its best, for the stream was in places filled with French troops bathing and netting fish. These were men who had been embarked from DUNKIRK and were now going forward again. They seemed very short of vehicles and equipment. A day or two later they came back again and we were left in peace. The bombing of CONCHES was a curious episode for none of our troops saw any leaflets dropped from the aeroplane which passed over in the morning and I fancy the warning was a benevolent one in some way conveyed for the information of local fifth columnists. After we evacuated the village I paid two visits to it. It had sustained no further damage but was almost entirely uninhabited.

    Whilst at CONCHES I went several times in my Simca to the large town of EVREUX. This was the headquarters of the Troiseme Region. The Q Staff were always polite but were obviously extremely depressed. Refugees were moving westwards through the town along the road to CONCHES. The local inhabitants were placid until after the first raid which was aimed at the railway station. I happened to be just outside the town at the time and saw a French plane trying unsuccessfully to intervene, but the enemy dropped their bombs and then one saw the usual sad spectacle of women searching amongst the ruins of their cottages. The third raid was even more successful for the railway bridge over the road just outside the station (there are not many bridges in FRANCE) was hit and one track entirely demolished, and on my last visit to the town I saw that a train coming round a bend out of the cutting had just succeeded in pulling up short of the bridge. On that day EVREUX was completely empty, I and my driver had it to ourselves.

    When we arrived at SEES it was dark. I knew that a blackout was ordered but I could also see that many of the cars hurrying through the town had lights on. I wanted to study the exits from the place so turned on my headlights to examine my map. A French officer, a Lieutenant, asked me brusquely what I was doing, and, when my replies did not seem to satisfy him, told me to come to the police station. I did so and was submitted to a cross examination by the gendarmerie. In contrast they were studiously polite, and my limited French was just adequate to give the explanation which they required. It became more fluent when I told the lieutenant how much I resented his manner. Just as I was leaving my liaison officer Captain BARBAS came in search of me and after some further parley between him and the gendarmerie we departed. When we got outside he told me that the lieutenant was deeply disappointed as he was sure he had captured a parachutist. SEES was bombed later and so were all the surrounding towns and considerable damage was done, for the solitary planes which came over were entirely unopposed either in the air or from the ground and could manoeuvre just as they wished before dropping their bombs.

    BOIS ROUSSEL was one of FRANCE's greatest stock breeding centres fro race horses. When we let the Germans could not have been more than a day's march distant but exercise, grooming and mucking out continued as usual. The stud groom had sent away two of his stallions to the South of FRANCE, one remained and also all the brood mares, foals and fillies. His chief anxiety appeared to be not for himself and their families, but for the safety of his stud books. I remember how the Comtesse in whose house we were billeted came back one afternoon from a hurried visit to her husband who was on the general staff at NANTES. She told us with unfeigned grief and shame that they feared FRANCE would soon make a separate peace. PARIS fell on June 14th. All Captain BARBAS business interests and his hundred employees in the capital were involved. He had joined the artillery of the French army in 1918 by juggling his age, for he was only seventeen, and had been given the Croix de Guerre. He was a splendid officer and no one could have been more whole-heartedly out to win the war. Indeed I formed the opinion and strongly hold to it that the people of FRANCE were willing to go on fighting. I did not see many troops and anyhow troops quickly lose confidence when, because staff arrangements break down, they are left without orders, but the civil population were full of spirit. The refugees were orderly, and when during our final march from BOIS ROUSSEL to RENNES we came to any village we found the entrance to it strongly barricaded, the old men all on duty with shot guns. Their eyes lit up as they saw us, the British army was at hand ! Alas it was not so and presently each of these villages, upon which in FRANCE the roads so characteristically converge and through which all traffic must pass, were to be abandoned by orders and without a fight. Whilst at BOIS ROUSSEL I had made several journeys, either with Captain BARBAS in his Citroen or in my Simca, to the north or to the north east. In the earlier days these villages were still in part occupied and one could easily make purchases at well stocked groceries. Later the villages were completely empty. Telephone exchanges became silent, the inhabitants left everything and the life of the countryside died. It was a curious experience to move about in those days, the cattle remained unattended in the pastures, the farms and the fields were deserted, for miles there was no one to be seen, no civilians, no soldiers and no enemy, though one could not help wondering if a hostile armoured car might not swing round the corner. One felt secure when travelling north of the line from CONCHES to the coast for the British force covered that area, but there was an unpleasant feeling of exposure when more to the south for I had seen the French infantry retire through at CONCHES, and it seemed likely that a wide gap existed though whether that was so or not, I do not know. On one of these expeditions I found what I feel sure was a fifth columnist job. The Simca was following a country lane and we were approaching the main road between LAIGLE and VERNEUIL. About a mile from this another lane, running parallel to the main road, crossed ours at right angles. An enemy plane had just flown over this. When we came to the intersection of these lanes were found to large heaps of dried grass on the track, one had burnt out, the other was still smoking. No-one was to be seen, the countryside for miles round was utterly deserted. It must have been some signal and the man who lit it was doubtless hiding near-by. But I believe the great number of French people were loyal to the cause for which they had entered the war.

    When I said goodbye to Captain BARBAS at RENNES on the morning of Sunday June 16th we agreed that neither wold judge the other's country until all the facts were known. I have kept to that promise and I do not doubt that he has done likewise.

    On Monday June 16th [?17th] at a quarter to eight we landed at SOUTHAMPTON after an uneventful night voyage from ST. MALO and presently a train bore us to the north. I went to sleep and woke up just as we were passing through OXFORD. It was about 3.00 p.m. After the station there are several college grounds close to the railway. On each of these cricket was in full swing, everyone in nice white flannels, everywhere just as it was when I was an undergraduate. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why we win wars.
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  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Illustrated London News 13 April 1940
    Illustrated London News 13 April 1940.jpg

    Attached Files:

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  9. rb62

    rb62 New Member

    Whilst clearing out my mothers house I came accross a letter from her brother about his time attached to No 3 field hospital at Offranville near Dieppe and his subsequent escape from France,his name... Royal Army Chaplain Peter Rawsthorne...I will put his account on this thread once I have typed it up.
    Sadly Peter was killed 14 Dec 1941 in Gurun Malysia while attached to the 2nd East Surrey
    regiment when their postion was overun by the Japanese.
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  10. rb62

    rb62 New Member

    Page1.jpg Page 2.jpg Page 3.jpg Page 4.jpg
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  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thank you for sharing your uncle's account with the forum.


    Chaplain 4th Class RAWSTHORNE, THE REV. PETER
    Service Number 99438
    Died 14/12/1941
    Aged 28
    Royal Army Chaplains' Department attd. 2nd Bn. East Surrey Regiment
    Son of Felix Rawsthorne, L.D.S., and Ethel Rawsthorne. M.A. (Oxon.).
    Commemorated at SINGAPORE MEMORIAL
    Location: Singapore
    Number of casualties: 24320
    Cemetery/memorial reference: Column 95.
    See cemetery plan
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  12. rb62

    rb62 New Member

    We have that information thanks,just need to find out where he was posted between June 1940 and his attachment to the East Surreys.
  13. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Posted full CWGC details 'for the record' - especially useful when others are googling for info. Never know who also might be looking.

    Is that information not provided on his service records?
  14. rb62

    rb62 New Member

    Not really had a look yet!

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