Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War
Part 13: Evacuation to Hospital
By Michael O'Leary; The Regimental Rogue
Lines of communication medical units … eventually reached the following in number; 16 general, 10 stationary, 7 special, and 8 convalescent hospitals. Some of the stationary and convalescent hospitals were eventually converted into general hospitals.
Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War; The Medical Services, by Sir Andrew McPhail, 1925.
One set of papers that will be found in almost every service record of a Canadian soldier of the First World War are his medical documents. These may range from a hospital admissions card, to detailed hospital records of diagnosis and treatment, to the medical examination conducted when the soldier was demobilized and returned to civilian life. Usually hand-written, these medical records can be a challenge to decipher, but can hold a host of information about the soldier's experiences during the war. besides providing details of the soldier's illnesses, wounds and treatment, the medical records will also all the researcher to track his movements from evacuation from France to England and through the hospitals in which he was treated and convalesced.
The medical system during the First World War was a complex system which cared for soldiers on the battlefield as soon after wounding or injury as possibly, evacuated them to the appropriate medical facility for treatment, and provided long term care before a return to duty or repatriation home. Soldiers' service records will not include every incident of minor wounding that may have been treated by unit Medical officers and their orderlies, but will include any instances where the soldier was removed from the unit due to his injuries. The greatest detail will be found in those cases where the wounded soldier was evacuated to England for treatment.
This article will provide simple descriptions of the various places along the evacuation chain between the front lines and England. Following that is a listing of hospitals with locations and dates when they were operational. Identifying hospitals from service records can be complicated by the changes in names and locations of some hospitals during the war, all naming information from the reference used is included.
Besides individual treatment records, documents that may be found in soldier's service records identifying where they were treated when wounded or sick are the Field Medical Card and the Hospitals Admissions Record Cards.
Sample of a Field Medical Card from the CEF service record of 2334356 Private Robert William Bringloe.
Sample of a Hospitals Admissions Record Card from the CEF service record of 734121 Private Angus Leon Cross
Medical Facilities the Evacuation Route
Depending on the nature of his wound or illness, and the capacity of the medical evacuation system compared to numbers of wounded and sick, a soldier's movement rearward could be fairly quick, or it could take days with slow staging through each level of the evacuation system. There are too many variables to say any individual moved through every stage, or a specific sequence of stages during his evacuation. The medical system did include these way stations which may have been part of your soldier's evacuation route:
The following list provides a general description of the facilities which a soldier might have encountered in being evacuated wounded or sick from the front lines to England. Futher sections offer lists of locations of the various hospitals from the Casualty Clearing Stations rearward.
- Regimental Aid Post (R.A.P.): The unit Medical Officer and his Orderlies at a unit (in an infantry battalion at full strength, the R.A.P. would be staffed by a total of 31 men).
- Advanced Dressing Station: Medical facilities immediately behind the front lines which received wounded brought by stretcher, or walking wounded, and administered immediate care.
- Field Ambulance (F.A.): A mobile unit equipped with horse-drawn or motorized ambulances which evacuated soldiers from the Advanced Dressing Station rearward.
- Main Dressing Station: A stationary medical facility at which battlefield casualties received fresh wound dressings, and at which time they were formally recorded as having entered the medical system. (Before this they may not have remained in one location long enough to be documented, and staff was not deployed further forward specifically for this purpose. It was from the Main Dressing Stations that the Divisions were informed of evacuated casualties when men might not have been handled by their own Unit R.A.P. or Brigade F.A.)
- Corps and Divisional Rest Areas: Maintained for the treatment of the sick and lightly wounded who did not require evacuation to England, until they were fit to return to their units.
- Casualty Clearing Station: Organized to accept patients from the F.A. and provide care until they could be further evacuated, the C.C.S. was, after late-1914 usually established in permanent buildings behind the front line. Patients were usually moved within four days from the C.C.S., unless too ill to be transported. By summer 1915, the C.C.S. had developed into a hospital in its own right, being able to provide surgical treatment of casualties, the furthest forward such treatment was available.
- Ambulance Train: Ambulance trains, able to carry 400 patients, were used to evacuate wounded soldiers rearward from the C.C.S.
- General Hospital: The Canadian medical services operated 16 General Hospitals by the end of the War. Initially equipped for 520 patients, this was increased in 1915 to 1040, after which they varied in size up to 2300 beds.
- Stationary Hospital: The Canadian medical services operated 11 Stationary Hospitals by the end of the War. Originally having a bed capacity of 200, this was increased to 400 in 1915 and later varied between 400 and 650. One, No. 3, reached a capacity of 1090 in 1918.
- Special Hospital: The Canadian medical services operated Special Hospitals for treatment of orthopaedic, tubercular, eye and ear, physiotherapy and venereal cases. Officers' Hospitals also fell under this categorization.
- Convalescent Depot: The Canadian medical services operated eight Stationary Hospitals by the end of the War. providing a combined total at war's end of 7,456 beds, the largest Convalescent Hospital was at Woodcote Park, Epsom, with 3900 beds.
- Hospital Ship: Hospital Ships transported wounded and sick soldiers from France back to England, there were also ships which transported sick and wounded to Canada from England.
Casualty Clearing Stations
Locations of the four Canadian Casualty Clearing Stations (C.C.S.) while operating in France and Flanders are detailed below:
- No. 1 C.C.S. (War Diary):
- Aire, 6 Mar 1915; Bailleul, 19 Jan 1916; Aubigny, 4 Mar 1917; Adinkerke, 17 Jun 1917; Zuycoote, 23 Oct 1917; Ruitz, 23 Nov 1917; Adin-Pernes, 28 Apr 1918; Arneke, 1 Aug 1918; Boves, 15 Aug 1918; Agnez-les-Duisans, 1 Sep 1918; Gosselies, 23 Nov 1918. Germany: Euskirchen, 9 Dec 1918; Bonn, 20 Dec 1918. (Closed, 12 Feb 1919.)
- No. 2 C.C.S. (War Diary):
- France 17 Sep 1915 (personnel detailed to other hospitals for training); Aire, 31 Jan 1916; Remy Siding, 10 Aug 1916; Esquelbecq, 15 Apr 1918; Remy Siding, 16 Sep 1918; Leuze, 16 Nov 1918; Huy, 5 Dec 1918. Germany: Bonn, 21 Dec 1918. (Closed, 7 Feb 1919.)
- No. 3 C.C.S. (War Diary):
- Remy Siding, 2 Apr 1916; Frevent, 26 Mar 1918; Ligny-sur-Canche, 7 Jun 1918; Varennes, 1 Sep 1918; Ypres, 1 Oct 1918; le Quesnoy, 1 Nov 1918. (Closed 13 Mar 1919.)
- No. 4 C.C.S. (War Diary):
- Longueness, 30 Jun 1917; Ruitz, 11 Dec 1917; Pernes, 27 Mar 1918; Esquelbecq, 31 Jul 1918; Boves, 11 Aug 1918; Agnes-les-Duisans, 1 Sep 1918; Bois-de-Montigny, 30 Oct 1918; Valenciennes, 7 Nov 1918; Mons, 7 Dec 1918. (Closed 3 Apr 1919.)
Locations of the sixteen Canadian General Hospitals are detailed below:
- No. 1 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Salisbury Plain 20 Oct 1914 to 13 May 1915; Etaples 31 May 1915 to 20 Jul 1918; Trouville 21 Jul 1918 to 4 Feb 1919.
- No. 2 General Hospital (Matron's diary (Link 1) (Link 2)):
- Salisbury Plain 18 Oct 1914 to 13 Mar 1915; Le Treport 16 Mar 1915 to 2 Mar 1919.
- No. 3 General Hospital (McGill University) (War Diary):
- Shorncliffe 16 May 1915 to 16 Jun 1915; Dannes-Camier 16 Jun 1915 to 5 Jan 1916; Boulogne 6 Jan 1916 to 29 May 1919.
- No. 4 General Hospital (University of Toronto) (War Diary):
- Shorncliffe 28 may 1915 to 15 Oct 1915; Salonika 9 Nov 1915 to 18 May 1916; Kalamaria 19 May 1916 to 17 Aug 1917; Basingstoke 18 Sep 1917 to 2 Jul 1919.
- No. 5 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Shorncliffe 5 Sep 1915 to 16 Nov 1915; Salonika 14 Dec 1915 to 16 Aug 1917; Liverpool 13 Oct 1917 to 15 Aug 1919.
- No. 6 General Hospital (Laval University) (War Diary):
- Organized as No. 6 Stationary Hospital; Shorncliffe 10 Apr 1916 to 1 Jul 1916; St. Cloud 10 Jul 1916 to 4 Aug 1916; Joinville-le-Pont 5 Aug 1916 to 17 Jan 1917; Troyes 18 Jan 1917 to 20 Jun 1918; Joinville-le-Pont 21 Jun 1918 to 10 May 1919.
- No. 7 General Hospital (Queen's University) (War Diary):
- Originally No. 5 Stationary Hospital; Cairo 26 Jan 1916 to 10 Apr 1916; le Treport 22 Apr 1916 to 13 Oct 1916; Etaples 14 Oct 1916 to 31 may 1919.
- No. 8 General Hospital (War Diary: Jul 1916 - Jun 1917, May 1917 - Jan 1919):
- Originally No. 4 Stationary Hospital; St. Cloud 8 Jul 1916 to 12 Feb 1919.
- No. 9 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Originally Shorncliffe Military Hospital; Shorncliffe 10 Sep 1917 to 17 Dec 1918; Kinmel Park, Rhyl, 17 Dec 1918 to 26 Jun 1919
- No. 10 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Originally Kitchener Military Hospital; Brighton 10 Sep 1917 to 3 Sep 1919.
- No. 11 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Originally Moore Barracks Military Hospital; Bramshott 12 Oct 1917 to 20 Sep 1919.
- No. 12 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Originally Originally Bramshott Military Hospital; Bramshott 12 Oct 1917 to 23 Sep 1919.
- No. 13 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Originally Hastings Military Hospital; Hastings 2 Oct 1917 to 6 Jun 1919.
- No. 14 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Originally Eastbourne Military Hospital; Eastbourne 10 Sep 1917 to 23 Oct 1919.
- No. 15 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Originally Duchess of Connaught Canadian Red Cross Hospital; Taplow 10 Sep 1917 to 15 Sep 1919.
- No. 16 General Hospital (War Diary):
- Originally Ontario Military Hospital; Orpington 10 Sep 1917 to 20 Sep 1919.
Locations of the ten Canadian Stationary Hospitals are detailed below:
- No. 1 Stationary Hospital (War Diary):
- Hampstead 12 Nov 1914 to 1 Feb 1915; Wimereux 3 Mar 1915 to 28 Jul 1915; Lemnos 16 Aug 1915 to 31 Jan 1916; Salonika 3 Mar 1916 to 4 Sep 1917; Hastings 28 Aug 1917 to 2 Oct 1917 (Became No. 13 General Hospital).
- No. 2 Stationary Hospital (War Diary):
- Le Touquet 27 Nov 1914 to 20 Oct 1915; Outeau 21 Oct 1915 to 1 Apr 1919.
- No. 3 Stationary Hospital (War Diary):
- Moore Barracks 5 May 1915 to 1 Aug 1915; Lemnos 17 Aug 1915 to 6 Feb 1916; Boulogne 10 Apr 1916 to 10 Nov 1916; Doullens 11 Nov 1916 to 18 Aug 1918; Rouen (closed) 19 Aug 1918 to 7 Oct 1918; Arques 8 Oct 1918 to 28 Feb 1919.
- No. 4 Stationary Hospital (War Diary):
- Tent Hospital, Shorncliffe 16 May 1915 to 19 Sep 1915; St. Cloud 20 Sep 1915 to 8 Jul 1916; (Became No. 8 General Hospital).
- No. 5 Stationary Hospital (Queen's University) (War Diary):
- Tent Hospital St Martin's Plain, Shorncliffe 7 Jun 1915 to 1 Aug 1915; Cairo 14 Aug 1915 to 26 Jan 1916 (Became No. 7 General Hospital, remaining at Cairo).
- No. 6 Stationary Hospital (Laval University):
- Organized Montreal Sep 1916, immediately converted into No. 6 General Hospital.
- No. 7 Stationary Hospital (Dalhousie University) (War Diary: Jun 1916 - Mar 1917, Apr 1917 - Mar 1919):
- Shorncliffe Military Hospital 10 Jan 1916 to 16 Jun 1916; le Havre 19 Jun 1916 to 30 Dec 1916; Harfleur 31 Dec 1916 to 13 May 1917; Arques 14 may 1917 to 18 Apr 1918; Etaples (closed) 19 Apr 1918 to 23 may 1918; Rouen 24 May 1918 to 21 Sep 1918; Camiers 22 Sep 1918 to 23 Feb 1919.
- No. 8 Stationary Hospital (University of Saskatchewan) (War Diary):
- Canadian Military Hospital, Hastings 1 Jan 1917 to 2 Oct 1917; Canadian Special Hospital, Witley 2 Oct 1917 to 10 Nov 1917 (closed for 1 month); Camiers 10 Dec 1917 to 16 Apr 1918; Charmes 17 Apr 1918 to 1 Nov 1918; Rouen (closed) 2 Nov 1918 to 14 Nov 1918; Dunkerque 16 Nov 1918 to 14 Apr 1919.
- No. 9 Stationary Hospital (St. Francis Xavier University) (War Diary):
- Bramshott Military Hospital 3 Oct 1916 to 5 Dec 1917; St. Omer 12 Dec 1917 to 19 Apr 1918; Etaples 20 Apr 1918 to 9 Sep 1918; Camiers 10 Sep 1918 to 21 May 1919.
- No. 10 Stationary Hospital (Western University):
- Seaford 2 Nov 1916 to 20 Jan 1917; Eastbourne 21 Jan 1917 to 5 Dec 1917; Calais 25 Dec 1917 to 16 Apr 1919.
- No. 11 Stationary Hospital (War Diary):
- Vladivostock 26 Oct 1918 to 5 Jun 1919.
Locations of the Canadian Special Hospitals are detailed below:
- Granville Special Hospital (orthopaedic) (War Diary: Oct 1915 - Dec 1917, Jan 1918 - Jun 1919):
- Ramsgate 28 Sep 1915 to 18 Oct 1917; Buxton 19 Oct 1917 to 17 Sep 1919.
- Westcliffe Eye and Ear Hospital (War Diary):
- Folkstone 20 Oct 1915 to 20 Sep 1919.
- Special Hospital (tubercular) (War Diary):
- Lenham 7 Dec 1917 to 7 Jul 1919.
- Special Hospital (venereal) (War Diary):
- Etchinghill 15 Aug 1916 to 1 Sep 1919.
- Special Hospital (venereal) (War Diary):
- Witley 25 Aug 1917 to 3 Oct 1919.
- Petrograd Red Cross Hospital for Officers:
- Witley 25 Aug 1917 to 3 Oct 1919.
- Hospital for Officers, Hyde Park Place (War Diary):
- London 29 Feb 1916 to 25 Aug 1919.
- Buxton Red Cross Special Hospital (War Diary: Feb 1916 - Jul 1917, Aug 1917 - Mar 1919):
- Buxton; 1 Feb 1916 to 26 Mar 1919.
Locations of the Canadian Convalescent Hospitals are detailed below:
- Woodcote Park Convalescent Hospital (War Diary):
- Epsom 5 Sep 1915 to 30 Jun 1919.
- Princess Patricia's Red Cross Convalescent Hospital (War Diary):
- Ramsgate 26 Jan 1917 to 14 Jan 1918; Bexhill 15 Jan 1918 to 18 Aug 1919.
- Bearwood Convalescent Hospital (War Diary):
- Wokingham 20 Sep 1915 to 24 Jul 1919.
- Bromley Convalescent Hospital (War Diary):
- Bromley 20 Apr 1915 to 31 Aug 1918.
- Hillingdon House, Canadian Convalescent Hospital (War Diary):
- Uxbridge 20 Sep 1915 to 12 Dec 1917.
- Monks Horton Convalescent Hospital (War Diary):
- Monks Horton 1 May 1915 to 28 Aug 1918 (closed for 5 months in 1916).
- King's Red Cross Convalescent Hospital (War Diary):
- Bushey Park 31 Dec 1915 to 2 Sep 1919.
- Officers' Convalescent Hospital (War Diary):
- Matlock Bath 5 Mar 1918 to 12 Sep 1919.
These English military hospitals were taken over by Canadian personnel during the dates as shown:
- Military Hospital, Basingstoke: Basingstoke 4 Apr 1917 to 18 Sep 1917. Taken over by No. 4 General Hospital on its return from Salonika, 18 Sep 1917.
- Military Hospital, Kirkdale: Liverpool 21 May 1917 to 13 Oct 1917. Taken over by No. 5 General Hospital on its return from Salonika, 13 Oct 1917.
- Shorncliffe Military Hospital: Shorncliffe 25 Jul 1915 to 10 Sep 1917. Taken over by No. 9 General Hospital.
- Kitchener Military Hospital: Brighton 14 Mar 1917 to Sep 1917. Taken over by No. 10 General Hospital.
- Moore Barracks Military Hospital: Shorncliffe 4 may 1915 to 13 Sep 1917. Taken over by No. 11 General Hospital.
- Bramshott Military Hospital: Branshott 29 Sep 1916 to 12 Oct 1917. Taken over by No. 12 General Hospital.
- Military Hospital, Eastbourne: Eastbourne 11 Jan 1917 to 10 Sep 1917. Taken over by No. 14 General Hospital.
- Hastings Military Hospital: Hastings 1 Jan 1917 to 2 Oct 1917. Taken over by No. 13 General Hospital.
- Duchess of Connaught's Canadian Military Hospital: Taplow 16 Dec 1914 to 10 Sep 1917. Reorganized as No. 15 General Hospital.
- Ontario Military Hospital: Orpington 19 Feb 1916 to 10 Sep 1917. Reorganized as No. 6 General Hospital.
Canadians may have also been treated a variety of smaller hospitals in the United Kingdom. Staffed by Canadians and voluntary aid personnel, these smaller institutions had 25 to 125 beds and were paid a daily rate (2-4 shillings) by Canadian authorities for the treatment of Canadian soldiers. Some of these smaller hospitals are identified below:
- For Officers only:
- "The Limes": Crowborough.
- Helena Hospital: Shorncliffe.
- Perkins Bull Hospital: Putney Heath.
- Northwood Hospital: Buxton (for Nursing Sisters).
- Convalescent Homes for Other Ranks:
- Hermitage Hospital: Hastings.
- Dane John: Canterbury.
- Lympne Castle.
- Luton House: Selling.
- Glack House: Deal.
- Special sanitoria for tubercular patients:
- Special hospital for typhoid convalescence: Wear bay, Folkstone
- Canadian Forestry Corps main hospitals:
- Beech Hill, Englefield Green.
- Canadian Forestry Corps hospitals in France:
The following list of Hospital Ships and Ambulance Transports was identified from the Part II Daily Orders of The Royal Canadian Regiment. This list, comprised of the ships that transported wounded and sick soldiers of a single unit, is only a partial list of all the cross-channel hospital ships.
Pieter de Conick
Ville de Liege
Seventy-five hospital ships and ambulance transports supported the British and Canadians in transporting sick and wounded soldiers from France to England.
The Canadian medical services employed five hospital ships to evacuate sick and wounded soldiers from England home to Canada. These five ships made a total of 42 trans-Atlantic journeys and transported 28,238 patients. The five ships were:
- Araguaya (20 voyages / 15,324 patients)
- Essiquibo (9 voyages / 5106 patients)
- Llanddovery Castle (5 voyages / 3223 patients)
- Letitia (5 voyages / 2635 patients)
- Neuralia (3 voyages / 1950 patients)
In addition to those listed above, five other transports carried 2369 convalescent patients home to Canada (each making one voyage).
Military Hospital Ships and Ambulance Transports
Reference: History of the Great War; Medical Services, General History, Vol 1, by Major-General Sir W.G. MacPherson, K.C.M.G., C.B., LL.D.; published 1921. Appendix B - Military Hospital Ships and Ambulance Transports, Showing Date of Commissioning, in Chronological Order (also showing medical staffing for each vessel and capacity of evacuees).
Resources for Researching Troop and Hospital Ship
The following websites may assist in finding photos and information on individual ships:
Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War