What was a Field Ambulance?

The Field Ambulance was a mobile unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps. It was situated quite close behind the fighting front, and received wounded and sick men. Some had received rudiemntary treatment at the front-line aid posts. The job of the Field Ambulance was to treat men who could be quickly returned to unit (the lighly wounded or sick) but in general to prepare the men for a move to a Casualty Clearing Station.

Locations

In 1914, each infantry Division had three Field Ambulances, each of which was divided into three Sections. In turn, those Sections had Stretcher Bearer and Tented subsections. The Field Ambulance comprised 10 officers and 224 men, as shown below. In no way should modern readers confuse this with our current-day usage of the word ambulance, meaning the vehicle.

A Section

A Section comprised 65 men in total. It acted as a headquarters for the Ambulance as well as carrying out teh medical tasks.

  • Lieutenant-Colonel in command of the Field Ambulance and A Section
  • Captain or Lieutenant in command of Stretcher Bearer subsection
  • 1 Sergeant and 1 Corporal
  • 1 Bugler
  • 3 Privates (wagon orderlies) and 36 Privates (bearers)
  • Captain or Lieutenant in command of Tent subsection
  • Quartermaster, Sergeant-Major, 2 Sergeants, 2 Corporals
  • 15 Privates (including a cook, a washerman and 2 orderlies)
  • 1 Sergeant, 10 Drivers and 4 officer's batmen attached from the Army Service Corps
  • 1 ASC Driver for the cook's wagon

RAMC

B and C Sections

The two Sections comprised 128 men in total.

  • Captain or Lieutenant in command of Stretcher Bearer subsection
  • 1 Sergeant and 1 Corporal
  • 1 Bugler
  • 2 Privates (wagon orderlies) and 36 Privates (bearers)
  • Major, Captain or Lieutenant in command of Tent subsection
  • Quartermaster, Sergeant-Major, 4 Sergeants, 2 Corporals
  • 13 Privates (including a cook, a washerman and 2 orderlies)
  • 2 Sergeant, 18 Drivers and 6 officer's batmen attached from the Army Service Corps

Also attached

The Field Ambulances relied heavily on horses for transport and had an establishment of 14 riding and 52 draught and pack horses. They worked the 23 wagons, 3 water carts, 3 forage carts, 6 GS wagons, 10 ambulance wagons, and the cook's wagon. The Ambulance also had a single bicycle.

Neither officers or men carried weapons or ammunition.

By the end of 1914, each Field Ambulance also had 7 motor ambulances. A workshop to maintain them was added to the Division, although in 1916 it was absorbed in the Supply Column.

Associated but not part of the Field Ambulance

A Sanitary Section (a unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps consisting of a Lieutenant or Second-Lieutenant, 2 Sergeants, 2 Corporals, 20 Privates and 1 batman) was added to each Division in early 1915. Its job was to maintain as far as possible clean water supplies, cooking facilities and billets. The Sanitary Sections came under Corps or Army control from March 1917 onwards.

tipTip: how do I find out the location of a Field Ambulance? The daily operational record of the Field Ambulance is the war diary. They are held at the National Archives at Kew. You can get a general idea by following the movements of the Division to which the Ambulance belonged, here on the Long, Long Trail .