Thursday, 21 May 2015

The patients of No. 1 A.G.H. France during World War 1

Rouen, France. 9 July 1917. Her Majesty Queen Mary visiting No. 1 Australian General Hospital (1AGH). HM is accompanied through a guard of honour of nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) by the hospital's commanding officer, Colonel Trent Champion de Crespigny DSO. Temporary wards and tents are on both sides of the path and patients in hospital uniform look on. Australian War Memorial photograph id K00019
I have written previously on my great grandfather and No. 1 Australian General Hospital at Rouen in France.  At the library this afternoon I was looking through the second volume of the official history of the Australian Army Medical Service in the war of 1914-18. Chapter xiv deals with the General Hospitals.

The hospitals treated the wounded of all forces.  From the book on page 414:
Of the total admissions to Australian General Hospitals in the war 11.2% were Australians; and of all Australian wounded on the Western Front 6.5% were treated in the Australian General Hospitals. The matter was summed up in 1917 in a memorandum by Colonel C. T. C. de Crespigny, who commanded No. 1 A.G.H. in France:-
"No Australian General Hospital or Casualty Clearing Station in France is exclusively devoted to the treatment of Australians. Such selection and segregation would be difficult and inadvisable. We admit sick and wounded in precisely the same way that our British and American neighbours do, so that in the same ward one may see English, Scots, Irish, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Newfoundlanders, British West Indians and members of other overseas units. It is a most striking example of the Empire's 'far flung battle line.' The intimate contact that exists between hospital patients offers an admirable opportunity for men of various dominions and the mother country to know and understand each other."
This item is footnoted:
Colonel de Crespigny adds:
"The patience and stoicism of the wounded is remarkable. The quiet and restfulness of a hospital far from the battle line, with good nursing, cleanliness and considerable comfort appears to them so great a relief counter-balance the pain and discomfort of their wounds.
" As an Australian addressing Australians there is no need for me to speak particularly of our own splendid men. We all know them. But I feel that I must add a word about the British soldier after more than two years' acquaintance with him. Remember that my impression of him is based upon observation of the man as a patient, when the heat of the battle has passed and he has no regimental tradition to live up to and he is harassed with pain or sickness or both. And the longer one knows him the more one is struck by his pluck, endurance and ineradicable vein of quiet humour, which makes light of his own sufferings and helps his comrade in the next bed to bear his own. In hospital one sees him suffering bravely terrible and mutilating wounds and looking forward undaunted to a future which only too often must be a sad one in which both his capacity for earning his livelihood or enjoying his leisure will be permanently lessened or destroyed."




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