Wednesday, 12 December 2012

St. John Ambulance Brigade Hospital, Etaples

Several people have contacted me to say they liked the King George Hospital photos, so I thought I'd have a go at a couple more hospitals.  Firstly the St. John Ambulance Brigade Hospital, in Etaples.
Opened in September, 1915, and the most northerly of the run of hospitals at Etaples, it was said to be the best-equipped of all military hospitals on the French coast.

An interior of one of the wards, can be seen on this page from Canada:

Newfoundland Ward, St. John Ambulance Brigade Hospital, Etaples

 On the night of 31st May 1918 it suffered terribly during a German bombing raid and much of it was destroyed.

SJAB Hospital following the air raid of 31st May, 1918

The war diary of the Matron-in-Chief with the British Expeditionary Force, Maud McCarthy (TNA WO95/3990) reported:

There was a terrible raid right over the hospitals.  Practically all the Etaples hospitals suffered, those which had the most casualties being the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade hospital, where 1 Sister was killed and 5 wounded, besides many patients and personnel, the Liverpool Merchant’s Hospital (1 Sister wounded), No.24 General Hospital (2 of the nursing staff wounded, one severely), No.56 General Hospital, where there were no casualties amongst the nursing staff but the administrative block was almost destroyed, and No.26 General Hospital, as well as the two Canadian hospitals (Nos.1 and 7) which had suffered so severely before.  The St. John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital,  which was beautifully equipped, is entirely wrecked. 

Several of the nursing staff received the Military Medal for their actions that night including the Matron, Constance Elizabeth Todd:

Miss Constance E. Todd

It was re-built, and once again opened for patients on 23rd October 1918, finally closing on demobilisation in January 1919.  Today it seems impossible that life and death ever took place here, but the beach at St. Cecile Plage is unchanged and a reminder of where nurses walked during their off-duty hours.

Former hospital site, Etaples

St. Cecile Plage


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