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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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War Memorials


We are very grateful to Major Elaine Smith not only for allowing us to see her notes on this memorial, but allowing us to publish them.


On a dark wall at the back of Exeter Cathedral hangs an even darker memorial dedicated to the memory of west-country men who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. These were the volunteers who went into battle armed only with a medical kit or a stretcher, men who carried injured comrades for miles across open battle grounds, sometimes on their backs, ducking shrapnel and shot and always, always risking their own  lives; forbidden by the Geneva convention to use weapons except in self-defence. And one reason why there were so many casualties was that it is very difficult to fire a gun while you are holding on to a stretcher carrying a wounded comrade. 


The first and second 24th (Wessex) Field Ambulances were Territorial Battalions and the man at the head of each Battalion was not only a high ranking-officer such as a Lieutenant -Colonel, he would have been at least a Doctor of Medicine. His 2/IC would have been a Captain or Major who was a Bachelor of Medicine. The work of the Battalion was roughly divided into two - medical and logistical and a glance at the casualty statistics reveals just how successful their care was. Wounded men were quickly passed progressively along a  carefully staged line of posts which ran from the front line all the way back to England if necessary and the chances of the wounded were hugely improved by the initial care they received immediately after injury, at the casualty clearing stations where they were assessed. 


A Field Ambulance was not a vehicle although vehicles were used in the transport of the wounded. It was the name of a base post to which men were taken for initial treatment after being injured. Each Field Ambulance was composed of 10 officers and 224 men and was divided into three sections, each of which could sustain service by itself  if necessary. Many tasks , such as driving ambulances, fumigating, delousing, provision of water and sanitation, cooking etc. were performed by men drawn from the Army Service Corps and if your ancestor served with the RAMC, don't be surprised if they also saw service with the RASC. 


The Commeorative Plaque in Exeter Cathedral

The commemorative plaque to the Territorial Field Ambulances of World War 1 in Exeter Cathedral

© Richard J Brine




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