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No. 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station

No. 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station was formed on 17 March 1916 from personnel of the 10th Australian Field Ambulance. The unit sailed from Port Melbourne on the S.S. Medic on 20 May 1916.

After further training and provisioning in England, they reached Le Havre on 26 September 1916 where they spent two days in a rest camp, then left for Rouen.

After five days in camp at Rouen they entrained for Gezaincourt in the Somme Valley where they relieved No. 11 British C.C.S. A few days later, seven nursing sisters under the charge of Head Sister Ida O’Dwyer completed the staff.

Gézaincourt

October/November 1916. View of the camp of the 3rd A.C.C.S. at Gezaincourt. AWM A02269

October 1916—January 1917

War diary suggests they reached this location on October 5, opening 14 October 1916 to receive the first wounded from Beaumont-Hamel.

At Gezaincourt the Unit opened for the reception of walking wounded. Trains ran into the little siding loaded with wounded from the Somme Battle Fields. This was our first picture of the results of war, the weather was terrible and the mud up near the line was so bad that many cases came in for treatment literally covered from head to foot. Sometimes three and four trains per day with loads of from 200 to 400 walking cases were admitted.

No.29 Casualty Clearing Station was close by and when this CCS., filled it switched to this CCS.

The wounded were classified and fed, their clothes dried and their wounded tended, some requiring operation and others needing only dressings.

The Operating Theatre with its three tables was kept going day and night, Ambulance Trains poured out daily with their loads of wounded for the Base Hospitals.

After the rush had slackened off the work of substituting huts for tents for the serious cases was gone ahead with – for the winter was approaching. Nissen Huts were provided for the Sisters, Officers and Personnel. A fine Hut for the mens mess room was secured by the Quartermaster in exchange for a tin bath.

In December when the fighting has eased off for the year sick began to come in in numbers, for the 1916 winter was the most severe one that had been experienced for years and years and years. Trench Feet, Rheumatism and Pneumonia were the most prevalent complaints, and the wounded were but few. The health of the Unit remained good as plenty of exercise was taken, tobogganing being a favourite sport of this time.

The winter passed pleasantly, it was very cold, but with the aid of plenty of blankets and stoves we managed to keep the cold out.

‘Early History,’ War Diary, April—May 1919

Photos of Gézaincourt, 2011, that help locate the hospital

Edgehill (Dernancourt)

France. c. 1916. Wounded British soldiers on stretchers near Albert waiting to be admitted to a casualty clearing station in the background. AWM H08454

February 1917

January/1917 passed without any special events of note and on February the 9th/17 the Unit received orders to move to Edgehill which was near the Town of Albert. Lorries were provided and the move was carried out expeditiously and soon the camp was ready for the reception of wounded, stretcher cases were received this time.

‘Early History,’ War Diary, April—May 1919

War diary says the unit was “ready to receive” at this location on 28 February 1917.

Where was the unit located? This photo search of the AWM collection has images taken after fighting in the area in 1918 which could help locate the hospital.

Edgehill (Dernancourt)

Grevillers

May 1917. View of the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Grevillers. AWM A02285

April 1917—July 1917

We carried on at Edgehill until 7.4.17 when orders were received to move forward to Grevilliers near Bapaume which had fallen to our Second Australian Division about three weeks before. We had to fill in Shell holes and pitch tents. At Midday 9.4.17 the Unit commenced to receive all classes of cases. The size of the camp was gradually extended to cope with the enormous number of wounded which were being received from Lagnicourt and Bullecourt. No.3 British CCS., and later on No.29 British C.C.S., joined us at Grevilliers.

‘Early History,’ War Diary, April—May 1919

Grévillers

Brandhoek

July 1917—August 1917

On 21.7.17 the Unit transferred to Brandhoek which lay near Ypres and opened with Lieut. Colonel R.D. Campbell D.S.C., in command, he having taken over from Lieut. Colonel J. Corbin who returned to Australia. Lieut. Colonel J. Corbin left with the deepest regret of all ranks.

‘Early History,’ War Diary, April—May 1919

War diary states the location as “Sheet 28 NW.G.12b”. Twenty A.A.N.S. Sisters reported for duty on 31 July 1917. “CCS closed” 22 August due to heavy shelling and bombing.

Map and nurses’ accounts from Brandhoek

Nine Elms

October 1917—April 1918

Location according to War Diary: “Sheet 27 L 10 b3.5,.43.”

Towards the end of August we were shelled out of Brandhoek several casualties among the personnel being sustained. Out [our] next site was Nine Elms close to Poperinghe. The Unit was attached temporarily to No.10 C.C.S. [Remy Siding?, Sheet 28 L22 d6.3] while reorganising after Brandhoek. The close of 1917 saw us still under canvas at Nine Elms, where we spent the winter and remained until April 1918 when we were forced by the German advance to retreat in good order to Esquelbecq some twenty miles further back. For the week prior to our departure the Germany long range guns were dropping shells perilously close to the camp every day.

‘Early History,’ War Diary, April—May 1919

Map and nurses’ accounts of Nine Elms

Esquelbecq

Plan of camp at Esquelbecq from War Diary, April 1918. View large.

April 1918—September 1918

War diary states that orders received 14 April 1918 to move back to Sheet 27.C 7.b.3.4. This site proved unsatisfactory so position taken up at Sheet 27 B.6.c.8.0.

(Note: War diary 1ACCS for May 1918 has appendix showing positions of 2nd Army medical units and 3ACCS at Esquelbecq is shown as Sh.27.B.6.c.7.1.)

Hospital opened 18 April 1918; order to close and move forward came on 15 September 1918.

War diary for July 1918 includes a sketch “Plan of Operating Theatre – 6 Tables” as Appendix 12.

Advancing with the Second Army

Bandaghem Sheet 19 W.28.d.2.3
Ready to receive 20 September 1918; closing up 18 October 1918
Site vacated by 62CCS; railway siding 300 yards from the camp; working in conjuction with 36CCS. (‘Bandaghem’, like ‘Dozinghem’ and ‘Mendinghem’, were names bestowed on these locations by the British forces.)

Colour patch. Worn as a distinguishing unit indication at the head of each sleeve from 1918. AWM RELAWM13307.159

Dadizeele Sheet 28 L.20 d.
Receiving 25 October 1918 as camp is being erected, ordered to move 13 November
Keselberg – “Level field, adjacent to road and railway” – 4 miles from Menin.

Oudenarde Sheet 29 L.10 Central
Receiving 18 November 1918, closed 3 December 1918
“Suitable field about 2 miles away from the town of Audenarde”

Euskirchen “in the Deaf & Dumb Institution”
21 December 1918 to 26 April 1919
Took over from 1 Canadian CCS.

Nurses

No.3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station opened in the 5th Army in October 1916, and the staff, who had been sent out from England and who had done temporary duty in Abbeville joined, with Sister I. O’Dwyer A.A.N.S. in charge.

The following were Sisters-in-charge from this time until it closed in May 1919.

Head Sister I. O’Dwyer Nov. 1916 – 14.11.17.
Head Sister A. G. Douglas 14.11.17 – 14.5.18.
Head Sister E. W. Jeffries 14.5.18 – 15.12.18.
Head Sister V. Woinarski 15.12.18 – May 1919.

E. M. McCarthy – Matron-in-Chief, British Troops in France and Flanders, 31.7.19

Notes

Surgical teams

The change in the military status of the C.C.S. from a clearing house to the forward centre for scientific treatment is held officially to date from the allotment of female trained nurses. The Australian C.C.S’s arrived in France without female nurses but, as the table showing the distribution of the A.A.N.S. indicates, each was afterwards equipped with an A.A.N.S. staff which rose variably from seven to as much as thirty including teams.

C.C.S. work was intimately bound up with the surgical team, one of the most characteristic features of surgery on, the Western Front. Here again the female nurse formed part of the normal establishment.

During the battle of Bullecourt [April-May 1917] No. 3 C.C.S. [at Grevillers] had 17 nurses, and in Third Ypres [July-November 1917] 34, including 12 team sisters [Brandhoek]. Six tables were kept constantly going and the hospital included English, Canadian, American and Australian teams.

Butler’s official medical history, Vol III, p557

Account by Matron-in-Chief

No.3 Australian C.C.S. opened in November 1916 at Gezaincourt (on the old site of 11 C.C.S.) with a staff of 7 Sisters. The O.C. was Lt. Colonel Corbin. The Sisters were accommodated in the Hospice at Gezaincourt together with the staff of 29 C.C.S.

The Matron-in-Chief visited the unit on 11.12.16 with Miss Conyers R.R.C. Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. and the following is an extract from her report: “The O.C. spoke in the highest terms of the work both of the Australian and British Sister during the recent rush. He said he had not thought it possible for women to do such work. Two huts are in course of erection, one for operating theatre, and serious operation cases, and another for serious medical cases.”

From Gezaincourt they moved to Edgehill, where the work became very heavy, and in March 1917, the D.M.S. applied for the Nursing Staff to be made up to 12 saying “This C.C.S. is in immediate touch with the front, and received constant accessions of wounded of a serious type”. At Edgehill the unit came under shell fire, but fortunately neither patients nor staff suffered. Later the C.C.S. moved from Edgehill to Grevillers, but the Hospital was again shelled, and the Nursing Staff were evacuated to other units.

On August 1st, a staff of 25, (including 4 Surgical teams) rejoined the unit at its new site at Brandhoek. Here the Hospital came in for some very heavy work, and a number of visiting surgical teams were constantly attached, so that the staff was almost as large a that of a Stationary Hospital. The heavy work continued throughout October, and on the 18th, the D.M.S. wired for 3 more Sisters, who were immediately sent.

Miss O’Dwyer (Sister-in-Charge) wrote that the numbers of deaths in less than a month had been over 260, and as she was anxious to write to the relatives of each man, the extra work entailed was tremendous.

In the New Year, the work became lighter, and the Staff was reduced to 15. During the 3rd week in March increased shell fire took place day and night. The shells became closer, the nearest falling 35 yards from the Sisters’ Mess. On April 11th, the Nursing Staff was ordered to No.10 Stationary Hospital, as the C.C.S. was closing, and they remained there until the 20th when the unit opened on a new site at Esquelbecq, and 8 of the Staff rejoined. The remainder returned on 27.4.18, by which time the huts and messing arrangements were complete. The Sister in Charge reported that the staff had worked magnificently and cheerfully during all this trying time.

During August, the Hospital had a rush of surgical work and 3 or 4 teams were working day and night. A good many Americans were amongst the wounded and the Sisters remarked what cheerful patients they were. In September, the unit moved to Bandaghem, and from there in October to Dadizeele, about 6 miles from Menin. Whilst at Bandaghem, the camp was inspected by General Plumer, Army Commander, accompanied by General Guise-Moores D.M.S.

At Dadizeele, the work became heavy straight away, the patients arriving faster than the wards could be got ready for them. In addition to the heavy surgical work, the influenza epidemic was at this time very severe, and several sisters had to be evacuated suffering from it. On November 12th (the day after the Armistice) the Hospital moved forward to Audenarde, and on December 19th, they again advanced this time to Euskirchen in Germany. Here they took over from No.1 Canadian C.C.S., where the Hospital was established in a fine building, with central heating etc. During January, the work was fairly light, but in February the renewed influenza epidemic kept the Sisters busy. In April, orders were received to demobilise No.3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station, and the first week in May the last of the Nursing Staff arrived at the Base, preparatory to being demobilised.

E. M. McCarthy – Matron-in-Chief, British Troops in France and Flanders, 22.7.19

Notes

Head sister Matron O’Dwyer
http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/P00848.002


Nurse and patient, 3rd Australian CCS
Artist
Crozier, Frank
http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/ART13338

Resources

Published Saturday May 21, 2011 · Last modified Tuesday February 28, 2012
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence

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