[Nos. 1 and 2 A.C.C.S.] arrived in France with the A.I.F. and were at once established behind the force in the British Second Army—almost literally “in the front line.” In this solidly efficient Army, under Surgeon-General (later Sir) Robert Porter they worked till the end of the war— always in close conjunction, at times in double harness.
Butler, A. G. The official history of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918 – Vol II, p382
No.1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station opened at Estaires in the 2nd Army in May 1916, with a Nursing Staff of 7, drawn from the staff of No.1 Australian General Hospital.
In May 1917, the C.C.S. moved to Bailleul, where it had a busy time during the battle for Messines ridge, and in July it moved again to Outtersteene, a site near Hazebrouck. Here the work was very heavy during the mustard gas attacks in the Armentieres sector. In October 1917, Colonel Dick the O.C. was transferred to No.1 Australian General Hospital, and Lt.Col. Marks D.S.C. relieved him. On the afternoon of Sept.26th, the vicinity of the C.C.S. was shelled, and one fell at the back of the Officers’ ward, but fortunately did not explode. The patients were evacuated and the Sisters sent to No.2 C.C.S. for the afternoon, but returned later. After this, a concrete dug-out was built in the Sisters’ compound.
Arrived 27 April 1916, first patients admitted on 17 May 1916
It was a Sacred Heart College for boys, converted into a Hospital. It was not at all convenient, and very hard to keep clean, and we were overcrowded.
Sister E.J. Smeaton-White (Butler interviews)
The sketch above by L Cpl. Ray Wenban, 1 A.C.C.S. captioned “The Grand Place and Town Hall 1917. This building was built in 1612 by the Spaniards during their occupation of Flanders.”
19 May 1917—late July 1917
On the night of 3-4 July 1917, enemy aircraft attacked 1ACCS, where Staff Nurse Pratt was on duty and attending a patient. A bomb exploded near the tent, wounding Staff Nurse Pratt, who continued to attend her patient with a level of coolness and bravery that was said to set a conspicuous example to the patients and others. She was later admitted to hospital and underwent surgery on her wounded right shoulder and lung. The following day, Staff Nurse Pratt was promoted to the rank of Sister; she was awarded her Military Medal for “bravery in the field” on 19 October 1917.
19 July 1917—28 March 1918
On 26 March, a new site at Ana Jana Siding near Hazebrouck is inspected, and site (Hendeghem) allocated. In less than a fortnight, a further move back to Blendecques is necessary as the Germans advance.
On March 18th 1918, the C.C.S. came under shell fire during the German advance, but the work (which was tremendously heavy) continued through the first days of the retreat, until March 28th, when a removal was ordered owing to an expected enemy attack. The huts and tents were taken down by degrees and re-erected on a site at Hondeghem, further back, the removal being carried out in an orderly way in spite of the shelling. For several days the work was carried out at Hondeghem under great difficulties owing to rain, mud and other conditions, until on April 12th orders were again received to evacuate, as another enemy attack was expected. The Nursing Staff were transported in motor buses to No.10 Stationary Hospital (where they came in for an air-raid that night) and remained there until April 17th, when No.1 Australian C.C.S. opened up at Blendeques, a few miles out of St. Omer. The Sisters were billetted in houses, but they wrote regretfully that they had lost many of their mess comforts during the hasty removal from Hondeghem.
28 March 1918—13 April 1918
14 April 1918—31 August 1918 at 36d.N.E.F.5.b.7.6.
[Summer 1918] … from June 15th functioned as a first echelon, and received the casualties from the astonishing raids by the 1st Australian Division at Merris and Meteren. The two units [1 & 2 CCS] worked in close cooperation, one each side of a central road, “receiving” on alternate days; and in June and July they dealt with some 8,000 casualties, sick and wounded. Each worked with three, and at times four, surgical teams attached, British and Australian, in addition to its normal surgical complement.
Butler, Official Medical History, p775 (Vol II)
17.4.18: Nursing staff rejoined unit at Blendeques, proceeding by motor ambulance. Most of the equipment was saved in the hasty move from Hondeghem but many comforts belonging to the Sisters’ mess were unavoidably left behind.
26.4.18: Patients again received – not exceptionally busy.
Diary, April 1918 (Appendix) – E. M. McCarthy – Matron-in-Chief
The Sisters were billetted in houses, but they wrote regretfully that they had lost many of their mess comforts during the hasty removal from Hondeghem.
WORK AT THE AUSTRALIAN CASUALTY CLEARING STATIONS ON THE WESTERN FRONT – E. M. McCarthy – Matron-in-Chief
It was a dirty dusty camp consisting of several very long tents and a couple of huts for Theatre and Xray. The officers had ‘bell’ tents in the grounds but the sisters were billeted 4 in a room using camp furniture. There was no bath in the house, and we washed in our basins behind a screen carrying the hot water in jugs from the wards (about 5 minutes walk) and their pumping cold water from the bottom of the garden another few minutes walk. Invariable ‘Fritz ‘came over on his nightly visit while we were in the middle of our ablusions… No bombs ever fell very close to the hospital, but the bursting was sufficient to shake the house and terrify some of the patients besides causing extreme pain to those with shattered limbs done up on splints. One night a dump which was quite close was hit and all night the ammunition was going off. No civilians slept in the village, one saw continuous streams of women and children and a few men – mostly old – making their way to the woods about 9 o ‘clock each evening. They felt safer there and it was warm summer weather. Early in the morning we would hear them returning. In the house I was in there lived four generations of women, the Great-Grandmother must have been a tremendous age and she was quite foolish and unable to accompany the others into the wood so they locked her in a basement room – her cries were uncanny during raids and one of us would go down and talk to her through the door – she did not know what we said but she showed her appreciation by laughing a laugh almost as, weird as her cry…
…All our patients were ‘Tommies’and a few Hun prisoners. The Tommies were wonderful. Never a grumble and hardly a cry of pain. They would see a friend and ask how the fight went when he left it, where he was hit etc. and would then compose himself to sleep or his cigarette – his greatest of all comforts. After that he took little interest in what happened in the line and seldom mentioned his Home people but always asked if he had got a ‘Blighty’. Food and drink of all description, pyjamas, comforts were all plentifully supplied and a most satisfying sight was to see the convoy lined up on stretchers ready for the train all comfortable with a cake of chocolate in their pocket and perhaps an orange.
Sister Leila Brown, AWM nurses’ narratives – Sister Brown was attached to No. 1 ACCS from June 1918
From 4 September 1918; orders to close down midnight 12 September and move to St Venant
… [I don’t] remember when we got a meal or where we went to bed but within a couple of days we had a good hospital going and all cases sorted out and in their proper (wards and equipment all drawn, but the rain persisted and the wind increased as it only can in Flanders. There were no paths and the duck boards were late in arriving our transport consisted of only a few lorries. There was no water supply water having to be pumped from a waterhole which had pretty green stuff growing on top and then boiled and strained several times before drinking – we had fortunately plenty of soda water for the patients. The first thing to do for ourselves after arranging ourselves as comfortably as possible in our… Huts — 6 sisters to a hut – was to look for someone to wash for us. This was a difficult job and when we eventually had our laundry returned to us, it was quite impossible to wear and was much dirtier than when we sent it. We remained in this camp only ten days.
Sister Leila Brown, AWM nurses’ narratives
St Venant Asylum
18 September—24 October 1918
Orders came for another move this time further south to St. [Omer] The scene for the CCS was one old Lunatic Assylum which had been badly shelled. Some parts of it were burnt to the ground’but all was more or less damaged. In the main surgical ward which was upstairs we could look through a shell hole in the floor and see what was going on in the ward below. There was not a pane of glass in the whole place the windows were fixed up with oil skin and blankets put up to keep in the light at night. The amount of cleaning done to this place was tremendous but the work here was extremely heavy we being a forward CCS and no other near … eventually we quietened down a little and No 2 ACCS got in front of us. There I was put on a team and sent to them for a few weeks. The work there was almost entirely oh French civilians ranging in age from 3 months to that indescribable old age of the French peasant.
Sister Leila Brown, AWM nurses’ narratives
Receiving patients, 30 October 1918; moving out, 14 November 1918
“the nursing sisters are billeted in a chateau in Fretin. Their quarters are very comfortable” (War diary, 1 November 1918)
Then the 1st ACCS moved again after the fall of Lille to a dreary bleak spot called Fretin just beyond Lille. Here we were billeted in an old Chateau about 20 minutes walk from the camp. Here I returned to my own CCS No 2 having closed down ready for another move. My team went on night duty and filthy weather prevailed cold winds and rain for it was now late in October. We were cold and miserable long before we reached our ward for the nights work. It was during this night duty that the late Sister Moorehouse took ill but would not give in until she could not move, and it was too late to save her precious life.
Sister Leila Brown, AWM nurses’ narratives
Hal Convent School, Sacre Coeur de Saint Marie
2 January 1919—12 March 1919
The following were Sisters-in-Charge …
Sister M. F. Whipham 25.5.16 to 22.2.17.
Head Sister H. E. Tait 22.2.17 to 20.7.17.
Head Sister A. Anderson 20.7.17 to 20.3.18.
Head Sister E. Fleming 20.3.18 to 19.10.18.
Head Sister E. M. Menhennet 19.10.18 to 23.2.19.
SISTERS OF Ist. A.C.C.S. 15/9/1917
H/Sister ANDERSON, M.
Sister MOSEY, E.
S/Nurse CANN, A.S.
Listed in the appendix of War Diary, September 1917
Mosey was detached for duty with 1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station in February 1917. She served with this unit treating wounded men from the Battles of Messines and Ypres. She returned to 2 AGH on 5 November…
Mosey was awarded the Royal Red Cross Second Class for; ‘Most distinguished and devoted services to the sick and wounded, especially those of the Battle of Messines and of the 3rd and 4th Battles of Ypres, and upon all occasions. Mention, August 1915 in Egypt.’ She was presented her medal at the same ceremony that one of her patients, Private Henry Dalziel, was awarded the Victoria Cross (See photograph H00047).
L Cpl. Ray Wenban served with 1 A.C.C.S. and the State Library of NSW holds a number of his sketches. Most are of towns where the hospital was located (Estaires, Bailleul); others in neighbouring towns (like Bethune), some after the war had ended (Lille).
Attestation papers record Wenban as a lithographic artist, 22 years of age, from Mosman.
We're pleased that people are using this website as a source for locations, quotes and other primary source material. It's why we published our notes on the web. But we'd very much appreciate a footnote or credit. Much of the hospital (and other) location information for Lemnos and the Western Front is original research -- thank you, from Bernard & Cheryl