The Men Who Came Home – A Memorial Part Seven – The Royal Army Medical Corps

R.A.M.C. doctors drawing rations. 

I know that because it says so on the back of the card!

Young R.A.M.C. ambulance driver (third from left and identified by his cap badge), and some of his wounded, but mending, passengers, somewhere in Blighty.  1898 saw the formation of the Royal Army Medical Corps with the amalgamation of the two previous organisations within the Army Medical Services, the Medical Staff (officers) and the Medical Staff Corps (men).  Within three months the new service was operating in the Sudan, and within a year, in South Africa, and it was their experiences there, in particular dealing with disease (typhus & dysentery were rife) that would prove so valuable during the Great War.

R.A.M.C. sergeant, on the left, alongside a corporal and two privates.  The sergeant, a man of nearly five years service, is another example of a soldier whose death, many years later, was directly attributed to an incident during the Great War,…

…and although I have doctored this medical document extract (see what I did there?) by removing some of the details, what remains proves the point.

From left, a corporal with eleven years service, three of which were pre-war, a private, a staff sergeant who joined up in 1910 and served until 1931, and on the right, a sergeant who had been gassed, probably by phosgene, in 1918 and who would die in his early fifties, hardly helped by his Great War injuries.  Just 9,000 strong at the start of the war, by 1918 the R.A.M.C. would consist of 13,000 officers and over 150,000 other ranks.  And you have just met a few of them, the men who came home.

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4 Responses to The Men Who Came Home – A Memorial Part Seven – The Royal Army Medical Corps

  1. Jon T says:

    Has there been any sort of study made of how many veterans met early deaths post war due to wounds or illness sustained during it ? Can only think there must have been a considerable number of them…

    Was struck when visiting a number of the cemeteries around Ypres that were a number of burials within them of ex soldiers who had obviously decided to join the IWGC and tend the graves but who had passed away in the 1920’s and 30’s themselves.

    • Magicfingers says:

      If there has been such a study I have never come across it. And I don’t quite know how one could go about it, or have gone about it, bearing in mind medical confidentiality. It is certainly one of the things that has always been in the back of my mind; apart from physical wounds, how many undiagnosed cases of PTSD, for example, were there in the UK after the war? I would suggest thousands and thousands and thousands. And we now know how debilitating PTSD can be, whereas they didn’t even know it existed in those days. There will one day be a post on Shellshock here – have been working on it for a while already – but do not hold your breath!

    • nicholas Kilner says:

      sadly its wasn’t only wounds or illness that caused an early death, I understand that suicide rates were pretty high too. Survivors guilt and PTSD must have lead to an awful lot of young men taking their lives. Lt Col Charles Whittlesey, the man who famously lead the ‘Lost Battalion’ was probably the most prominent public figure (certainly that I can think of) to take his own life after the war. There will have been a good many others who chose to rejoin the friends they’d lost. An awful legacy of the war, and a true tragedy.

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