Boulogne and Wimereux formed an important hospital centre.
No. 2 Australian General Hospital was based at Wimereux from 1 July 1916 to 7 February 1919.
I can scarcely close my last report on the work of the Nursing Staff of No. 2 Australian General Hospital without paying a tribute of praise to the excellent work which has been done by the Sisters. I joined the unit on December 9th 1916, so was here during the severe Winter of 1916-17, when the bulk of our patients were in tents, and the Sisters worked under many disadvantages.
The intense cold, the frozen water pipes, and the lack on more than one occasion of coal, were all things that might have given an excuse for grumbling, but through the whole season the Sisters worked on day and night duty cheerfully, making the best of things, and going about with a smile.
In April of 1917, we had our first great rush of surgical work. Patients came to us in hundreds from the severe fighting of Vimy Ridge. Work was intensely heavy, convoys and evacuations occurring many times daily. Never once did the zeal and energy of the Sisters fail.
My greatest difficulty with the staff at this time was to be sure that each Sister was allowing herself proper time for meals and sleep.
Apart from the Nursing work, the Sisters have taken a personal interest in the boys in the line, keeping in touch with them in many ways, and trying to make them feel “The touch of Home” through all the warfare and strike.
Should no further work be found for us in England or on this side, we will return to our own land, feeling glad to have been permitted to stand by the side of our soldiers, and proud to have had a share in the great struggle for freedom and right.
Matron E. Gray, 16 March 1919 – 2AGH War Diary, February 1919
4-1-17. Snow is about 6” deep everywhere now and is still falling and the fog” horn is continually sounding at Boulogne Harbour I suppose,
I’m on night duty now and we get such a number of stretcher cases in almost every night. Some of them are almost frozen with the cold. They do enjoy a big mug of cocoa and hot water bottles in their beds. Some of the patients who can walk are given a hot bath and they have a short distance to walk and before we can get them into their bed their hair is frozen stiff and their towel and washer are also stiff. It will give you an idea what we have to put up with over here.
We night sisters look just like a lot of teddy bears getting around in all our woolies. We wear balaclava caps on our heads, they ara lovely and warm. Sister Magarey and I go for a skate on the ice before going to bed in the morning. Of course we get some fine falls as we are anything but . experts but its good exercise and keeps us well and fit,
How we long for a good old Australian sunning.
We are so short of water now that we have to melt the snow to wash our patients in and its so hard, We couldn’t even get a cup of tea for breakfast this morning. The water pipes are all frozen. Some of the boys walked over to the frozen pond and broke the ice with an axe and brought some back in lumps. We then made a cup of tea in our ward, Some of our poor dirty boys are only wiped over, face and hands, with a warm flannel as we can’t get sufficient water to do more than that.
Sister Elsie Eglinton AWM PR86/068
It is a very desolate spot on the sea cliffs, quite close to Wimereux and about ten minutes tram ride to Boulogne…
I had hoped to find that it was our own Aussie Diggers who would be admitted here, but I was to be disappointed as the 2nd A.G.H. received any patients but the Digger. The British Hosp. adjoining ours and the B.H. across the road always received our boys. It being quite exceptional for us to have a few in the wards.
This Hosp. comprised 17 Huts and one line of tents, which were very conveniently arranged, and the Sisters Quarters were the most comfortable I had been in in France.
…on the night of the 1.10.17 having gone to bed and to sleep early I was wakened up by the explosion of a bomb quite near and the noise of bursting shrapnel falling on the roofs of our quarters, which were shaking on their foundations. Then everything began to fall on the floor, photo frames and ink stand were two stepping round the room and nose caps from the anti aircraft guns were also falling on the roofs. It did not take long for all Sisters to be up and seeing what was happening as bomb after bomb, five in all, were dropped beside (fortunately not on) the Railway line just outside our quarters. A train passed along just as the second one exploded. We thought it had got the train which had stopped immediately and which we could see were outlined by the light of the explosion but after a few seconds later proceeded on its journey. Of course all the anti a.c. guns were going and machine guns barking their hardest, and rays from [?] searchlights filling the sky all centred over our Hosp. The Wimereux Railway Station was also quite close to us and from here we were horrified to presently see another train emerge and when, directly under the spot where all the other bombs had fallen, the driver opened wide his furnace doors. This was too much for us and we all disappeared into our bedrooms from the hall door. For we knew exactly what would happen and down came another bomb & exploded. We hardly thought it possible for this train to excape, but to our surprise on going out again to have a look, it was passing along the line slowly and cautiously. All trains except Red Cross trains travelled in darkness. This was the last of the bombs. Just near here five smaller ones were dropped in a paddock just beside our tent lines, the roofs of which got many holes in them from bursting shrapnel. The patients being all walking cases were able to run to the Huts for safety, or more safety than they had there.
The Sisters’ courage and demeanour throughout all this was wonderful as many of them had never been away from this Base and so not used to the noise and sound of the guns to say nothing of the bombs. And one could not help feeling proud of their fellow workers. All the time we were wondering about the boys in the wards. Especially those who had their limbs suspended, but each ward had a Sister and orderly, and so we decided it was wiser to remain where we were. Our O.C. and matron had been along to see all was well with us.
Then there was peace and quietness again so we commenced cleaning up our rooms, picking things out of the beds and off the floor and adjusting them to their right places. Next day revealed such that it was aerial torpedos that were dropped so very near the Railway line and the holes were enormous and huge clods of earth thrown for great distances, but the R. line was quite intact – the five dropped near our tents killed two [horses?] but beyond the holes in the tents no further damage was done. And we were sorry for all the hard things which we had said about that engine driver who opened up his furnace as he proved to be a very brave French man. The station it seeemed was full of trains amongst them a troop train. This was the line which took all the men and material up north, and one aeroplane would keep hovering over the station the whole time & they were afraid of it being bombed any minute, so a volunteer was called for to take an empty train out of the station, open the furnace and so draw Fritz away from the station… this is was happened so successfully and the engine driver was rewarded for his bravery by the French nation. It is said three machines were over. This night was as clear as crystal with full moon. The next night we all watched anxiously for the moonrise but it came up wet much to everyone’s delight.
Sister E.H. Cuthbert, AWM E253/2
15.1.1917 Kit McNaughton and Ida Mockridge and Packard and I are the only four Lemnosites left here. Kit and Ida are absolutely two of the best. They room near Pete and me, and we share everything. They both come from Victoria – Eddy rooms near us, too.
30.9.1917 There has been a heavy bombardment all night.
[Monday] It has been pretty lively here today. Fritz came in the middle of the day. I slept through it all, I am glad to say. But, however, he came over again tonight. Some raid, too – bombs were dropping like one thing and guns going and shrapnel dropping on the roof. The poor patients, naturally, got the wind up. It is the limit. Fritz knows jolly well the hospitals are here – he might leave them alone.
4.10.1917 The wind is blowing a gale tonight and everybody is happy because Fritz can’t get over on account of it. The patients are sleeping peacefully, secure from bombs. Such a number of horses were killed the other night – the poor dears were shot all over. One of the orderlies got shell shock so badly that he went quite mad. Several got it in a lesser degree.
I was put on night duty for the first time in France about November 1916 in a line of tents which contained one hundred beds; Medical and Surgical Cases mixed. The tents were badly pitched, there were about seven Marquees in a row all joined together as one big tent and pitched on the rough weather side of the Camp and no shelter from the blizzards which came off the English Channel so anyone who had any experience with tents could guess what these tents were like with a gale blowing full force against them, many nights I had to go out with the orderly and hammer the pegs in and tighten the ropes otherwise they would soon have been down on the patients, when it flapped the patients got a shower bath and the water poured through on to the beds. We only had a few ground sheets which we covered some of the very sick patients with. The Charge Sister complained every day to the C.O. he made no attempt to get them altered until after several weeks when the beds were so wet that the Sisters refused to put patients into them and there were no means of getting them dried.
Liz Clempson writes: “I have discovered that a Staff Sister I am researching was at the 2nd AGH in Wimeraux from 3/11/1917 till at least the 5/1/1919. Her name is Sister Annie Susan Guest.”
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