On 22 March 1918, Sister Nicholls and five staff nurses – one of whom was Ella Redman – were detached from No. 3 Australian General Hospital to the 38th C.C.S. It was the moment of the German advance. In light of their remarkable experiences, the Officer Commanding of 3 A.G.H. requested of the Matron their accounts for the war records office. Sister Nicholls’ account can be found in the 3 A.G.H. war diary for April 1918. (See Sister F.E. James-Wallace for her experiences at the same time at 61st C.C.S.)
This is Sister Ella Redman’s account:
Left 3rd A.G. Hospital on 22-3-1918 with five other Australian Sisters, met seven other Sisters at Station, thirteen in all including Matron forming the 38th C.C.S. Train left Abbeville for Amiens at 10.40 a.m. arrived 1 p.m.. we were not expected, but were made very welcome by the staff; had a cup of tea, put up our beds and went on duty by 6 p.m. I was put in the Dressing Station with another Sister & Medical Officer, the wounded were just pouring in. Abd. Chest & almost every kind of wound, men walk in with. In a good number of cases the men collapsed and fainted as soon as they got inside, every would was dressed; the rush was so great that the Colonel gave us permission to mark up the cards as the men were dressed, except in cases where the Chest, Abd. or severe haemorrhage was involved, then the medical man sent as many as possible to the pre Op. Ward for operation, we had brandy which we gave freely to the men and hot drinks of tea, all that could walk went outside where they had food given to them.
After we been there about thirty six hours food gave out, splints were finished and we had very little dressings. In many cases of broken limbs and in some cases where the limbs were just hanging on by muscle, all we could do was to bandage as firmly as possible, give an injection of Morphia and turn the case into the paddock with a couple of blankets over the patient. The men were splendid, not one of them complained, their only trouble was to get away before the Germans took them prisoners; in many cases as soon as they were dressed they start to walk hoping that some of the transport of an ambulance would pick them up. We had very little accommodation, six marquees and two huts in all, from seven hundred to one thousand stretcher cases in the paddock.
On the evening of the 23rd between 5 & 6 p.m., Soldiers, guns and transport of every kind started to pass out C.C.S. retreating from the front lines, all the soldiers looked absolutely tired out, even the horses looked done; mingled with the Army were Civilians, in many cases the very old folk and children in carts, all absolutely panic stricken flying for their lives, the firing and bombardment was terrific.
About 2 a.m. on the 24th Colonel said he could not take in any more wounded as we had over 1000 stretcher cases and very little dressings left and we could not get a train or any transport to take away our wounded, we had no food and very little water and the enemy were on the railway and only then five miles away. It was terrible to see the distress of the patients, their one cry was would they get away from the Huns took them prisoners.
We were all terribly busy, which was really a very good thing, as we had no time to think, just doing our best, which seemed so very little.
On the morning of the 24th about 4.30 a.m. the Colonel told us all to get a small hand case and be in the Ambulance in a quarter of an hour’s time to go to Abbeville, that they hoped to get a train in shortly and get all the patients away, if not, they were going to stay with them.
We arrived in Abbeville about midday, reported at the Nurses’ Home and then back at No.3 about 1 p.m. Left the Hospital again 25th, 8 a.m. reported at Club & at Station 10 a.m. – waited on Station for train till 12.45 m.d. arrived at Amiens 3 p.m., reported at No.42 British Stationary, then had a good tea at the Buffet at Station. Left by Ambulance about 6.30pm for Corbie; arrived there about 8 p.m., were told that we would have to fly next day, but hoped the Huns would be stopped, were overjoyed to find our baggage there, mine was quite all right, some of the girls had had theirs looted, one little English Sister lost all her luggage.
We put our beds down and some of the girls went on duty, I went to bed and called at 3 a.m., we were very busy, the wounded were coming in fast, some of the cases had a pad tied over their wounds with ties, putties, handkerchiefs. There was no Field Dressing Station in front of us, every man had to have an injection of A.T.S. and in many cases Morphia was injected also. One case, a severe abd. case, was carried in by four of his pals a distance of ten miles, the case was hopeless, we packed him with hot water bags, inj. Morphia; he died shortly after being admitted. The Hospital this time was pitched near the ruins of some old mill, we had our dressing station in a large room, appeared to be a barn, another two storey place we had for our Theatre and where we put our severe cases.
We had seven bell tents erected for our use, but were told not to unpack anything but our beds as we might have to go any time, our tents were pitched on a very pretty site – among gum trees on the bank of a canal; the Officers’ tents were pitched the other side of the canal.
At 5 p.m. on the 26th an Ambulance train came & took all our cases away and we were told to get ready to leave for Abbeville at very short notice; almost immediately two Ambulances came along to take us away, we were told that we could each take two pieces of luggage, luckily I had some uniforms, aprons & other clothing in one case & some collars, stockings, handkerchiefs & writing case in the other, but had to leave all my treasure, such as photos, snaps I’ve collected from all parts, books, boots, bed & bedding and all my summer uniform; still we are very thankful to have got away with what we have as we were told by some wounded that just came in that the Germans were coming over the ridge just two miles behind us, and that all the bridges were to be blown up immediately. As we came through Corbie the village was deserted by all the Civilians, only soldiers, guns & ammunition to be seen; all the bridges we crossed were ready to be blown up at any moment, one Tommy rushed to our Car & gave us a little canary in a cage which Miss McCarthy claimed when we reached Abbeville.
We met quite a number of New Zealand boys on the outskirts of Corbie, it was lovely to see those big fellows helping the old women and their bundles along. They were all so cheery and assured us that the Germans would not get any further.
As we flew along towards Amiens we could see huge explosions & fires, did not go through Amiens – just the outlying parts; seemed quite deserted. About 8.45 p.m. we could see the Aeroplanes over Amiens and the explosions in the Air.
Reach Abbeville about midnight, reported at the Club where we stayed the night; we were terribly dusty, tired and all feeling rather miserable. our Matron, Miss Grieves, an Australian, was splendid, all through it all she was here, there and everywhere, helping in every way and always so cheerful.
Our Colonel and the Medical Officers were splendid, they never rested day or night, when they were not dressing or attending the wounded, they were round the paddock giving drinks & tucking in the stretcher cases.
The Orderlies were splendid, they never had any rest day or night, the work they did was splendid, and were prepared for anything.
We had a Surgical team of Canadians and two Canadians [two Canadian Sisters?] – they were shelled out of their own station.
At Mericourt our Staff consisted of Twelve medical officers, sixteen Sisters, Matron & Sixty odd men & N.C.Os. At Corbie twelve Medical Officers, Matron & twelve Sisters and same staff of men and N.C.Os.
(Sgd) Ella M. Redman
War diary, 3 A.G.H., April 1918 – transcribed by the authors of this site
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