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The New Zealand Medical Service in the Great War 1914-1918


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While the Division rested and trained the battles in the Ypres salient were reaching an impasse from which not even the best troops of the British Armies could break through. In the northern sector, along the road that led from Ypres to Graven-staffel and the heights above Passchendaele progress was despairingly slow. Tempestuous weather and the surprising toughness of the defences combined to stay the Fifth Army in a morass beset by steel and concrete fortresses that, like the tombs on the Appian way, flanked the road to Gravenstafel. In the operations of the 16th of August the Fifth Army—although successful everywhere else—failed to make headway in the St. Julien sector; their advance had been so delayed that a German counter attack drove back the thinned waves of assault to their original positions. Wet weather followed for the rest of the month. The Second Army was now brought up and set at this unforgiving sector north of the Menin Road and on the 20th September another great battle was fought. The Australians of 1st Anzac broke into Polygon Wood and, with the other Corps to the south of them, took all the high ground on the Menin Road, once held by us in October, 1914, now regained after two months piecemeal fighting. But in the St. Julien sector the ground was low lying, wet and sodden, studded with pill-boxes, and to be conquered only yard by yard with heavy losses. The 25th and 26th of September saw further minor progress: the Australians cleared Polygon Wood completely and took Zonnebeke village, and to the north, London and North Midland Territorials made good a long chain of pill boxes, carrying our line to Kansas Cross at the foot of Abraham's heights just two miles from the original point of departure; objectives gained at so great a cost which should have been attained early in August. No hopes of a break through now remained; it was to be a scramble for winter positions.

The French armies, nursed back to better humour by Pétain's cautious leading, had, during this month of September, taken their final revenge at Verdun and by a carefully planned and well page 330executed campaign, based on limited objectives, had finally restored the perimeter of the fortress to its original trace, so wiping out all the gains made by Germany in nineteen months of brutal assaults. Further plans were in hand for an impending attack on the Moronvilliers Massif and the Chemin des Dames.

The Italian offensive across the Isonzo was now at an end; it had been successful but unfruitful; Gorizia still barred the way to Trieste and the morale of the Italian people and of part of its army had been shaken by ultra socialistic propaganda. Riots in Turin, mutinies in the Army were signals of impending misfortune. Already German and Austrian Divisions were concentrating against Cadorna's flank and were destined to wipe out all his successes of two years laborious fighting. By the triumph of the Soviet parties, the Russian front had finally collapsed; the rolling up of Rumania was now inevitable. And yet, everywhere there was talk of Peace. While Ludendorf was training new armies in the obscurity of the Russian front, and grimly encouraging his Western Armies, reeling from a multiplicity of blows he dreamed of peace in 1918 through a crushing German victory.

On the 14th of September, Sir Douglas Haig reviewed the New Zealand Division near Harlettes on the road to Boulogne; and ten days later a warning order was issued, somewhat sooner than anticipated, for IInd Anzac to relieve the Vth Corps in the St. Julien sector. During the following days our brigades were on the march; on the 27th Colonel Begg took over from the D.D.M.S. of the Vth Corps; the New Zealand Divisional Headquarters moved to Watou near Poperinghe; and the 49th and 66th Divisions joined the IInd Anzac Corps. By the end of the month battalions of the 2nd Brigade, relieving the 49th Division had taken over the positions taken on the 26th astride the road to Gravenstafel, just in front of Kansas Cross. The weather was fine, the days warm, the nights cold. There was a brilliant moon of which the enemy aircraft took advantage to bomb most unmercifully our back areas and our communications.

The area taken over by IInd Anzac was a rectangular strip about 17 miles in length from east to west and had an average width of about one mile. Forward of Poperinghe the area was served by one road only, the main road to Ypres. All the traffic of IInd Anzac, most of that of the XVIIIth Corps and part of that of 1st Anzac, converged at Poperinghe where there was at all times a dense, slowly moving surge of packed transport, and along the main road to Ypres the traffic flowed on both sides of page 331the road in opposing streams as turgid as any seen during work hours in the crowded streets of London; only at Ypres did this densely packed flow divagate to avoiding roads, made necessary by the constant shelling of Ypres the focus of transport streams— the hub of the salient. The deserted road ran eastward through the "City of Fear," past the hideous midden that once was the Cloth Hall—the glory of Flanders, which cost a hundred years of Flemish craft to build—and which had all been defaced, razed and crushed down to ruin in a few months by the craft and industry of German munition workers. The giant howitzers, products of the skill and scientific wizardry of the twentieth century craftsmen, had with jealous fury torn down and ground to powder all that the thirtienth century builders could make that was most lovely, lasting and imperishable. Out through the Menin Gate, and turning northwards, skirting the ramparts of Vauban, a side road led on past broken villas, through the ruins of St. Jean, to Wieltje and to the historic ground now held by the New Zealanders. At Wieltje the road forked: the north branch, the main road, led on to St. Julien and Poelecappelle—lost to the French in March, 1915—the eastern route to Gravenstafel and to the Bellevue Spur north of Passchendaele. It was at Wieltje, in an estaminet just at the fork of the road, that the Canadians had their A.D.S. during the second Battle of Ypres in 1915. Their front line lay on the eastern slopes of Gravenstafel, named by them the heights of Abraham; British troops held the Broodseinde cross-roads on their right. But all these positions were lost during the cloud gas attack and for two years or more Wieltje had remained a forward point in a small salient in our front line system. During the advance of the 20th of September, 1917, Wieltje again was used as an A.D.S. and the medical arrangements now being made for the New Zealand Division were curiously similar to those of the Canadians in 1915, whose lost lines in front of Gravenstafel the New Zealanders were about to retake.

Operations at Gravenstafel 4/6th October, 1917.

The Second Army and the Fifth Army were to renew the attack on the 4th of October. IInd Anzac Corps on the left of the Second Army would fight on a two divisional front. New Zealanders to the north to take Abraham's heights, the 3rd Australian Division on their right. In front was the 4th Bavarian Division whose dispositions were known to us from accounts given by prisoners. The task of our division was to be accomplished by the 1st and the 4th Brigades. Each brigade would attack page 332on a two battalion front; the rear battalions to leap frog through to the final objectives. The divisional front was 2000 yards in width, the depth of the attacking brigades 1200. The field guns of five divisions would provide the creeping barrage and the Corps and Army heavy artillery were already pounding the strong points into submission. A limited advance with unlimited explosives to blast out a way. If the weather held it must succeed.

Colonel McGavin's medical arrangements for the evacuation of wounded hinged upon the A.D.S. at Wieltje and the bearer relay posts in front of it. The post at Wieltje taken over by Lt.-Col. Murray, D.S.O., and the No. 2 Field Ambulance was in a mine gallery some 100 yards long which terminated in a large excavated chamber. Two openings led out on to the road, down one of these, on an inclined plane, stretchers could be lowered by ropes and, by the other, exit from the dressing room was gained to the roadway above, where motor ambulance cars received their loads. There was accommodation for a large number of wounded, and the dressing station was secure against any shells the enemy were likely to use at this point. The main bearer relay post forward of the A.D.S., on the Gravenstafel road, and about a mile distant, was in a collection of concrete dugouts and sandbagged shelters known as "Bridge House," or "Midland Farm," on the line of the trench tramway that skirted the road. One medical officer and 12 stretcher bearers formed the garrison of this post, which had the usual reserves of medical supplies, comforts, stretchers, blankets and water. Half a mile further on, and near the junction with a road running north to St. Julien, was a cluster of relay posts in concrete dugouts of which the chief, to the south of the road, was known as "Spree Farm;" all were situated in what had been the British front line during August and early September, when our advance was delayed by wet weather, and it was from this line that the third attack was made on September the 20th. The garrison of each of the relay posts was 12 bearers. The most advanced bearer relays were at the R.A.P.'s; on the left "Gaschyler Galleries," on the right "Delve" Farm. From Delve Farm, distant some two miles from Wieltje, there was a chain of relay posts some 400 yards apart linking up with Bridge House. At the Gaschyler Farm Galleries R.A.P., about 1000 yards north-east of "Spree Farm," there was ample accommodation in deep dugouts for the R.M.O.'s of the left brigade, and 26 N.Z.M.C. personnel besides the regimental stretcher bearers. The northern infantry track, a trench grid pathway, led up to this R.A.P. whose route of evacuation was on page 333the "duckwalk" to "Spree Farm," thence by road via Bridge House to Wieltje A.D.S. The southern R.A.P. at Delve Farm was similarly staffed and a parallel duckwalk led south of the road to the tramway terminus at Bridge House. It will be gathered that both the road surface and the surrounding crater area were not practicable even for foot traffic. The shell holes were contiguous in places and often of great depth. Dead and the litter of a two months' battle lay everywhere in hideous confusion. The torn ground was strewn with arms, equipment, unexploded shells, and material of all kinds; it was a repelling wilderness of desolation, even in dry weather most difficult to traverse, thorny with tangled skeins of barbed wire and in wet weather wholly impassable except on the narrow boarded infantry tracks. Walking wounded were provided for by a divisional collecting station some half a mile down the road to Ypres from Wieltje. Here, they could entrain on the light railway or in the absence of a train service, motor lorries or omnibuses would be in waiting. Hot food and drinks were provided for by a stall close to the entraining point, manned by the Y.M.C.A.

In the northern suburb of Ypres there is a harbour at the terminus of the Yser Canal which was at one time flanked by tall warehouses. The locality was known as Kaaje (quay), a mildly busy place in pre war days when the sea borne trade came and went By Dixmude, but now horribly mangled and ravaged by three years of siege. This was the only outlet for the northern portion of the salient, all traffic converged here to a bridge across the Ypres-Commines Canal not far from the harbour. The returning track having passed the bridge led to a bend known as the Devil's Corner where tradition had it that it never ceased shelling, and a little further on the road turning westward towards Poperinghe, passed a corner where there was safety and which was known as Salvation Corner. The painstaking regularity of the bombardment of Kaaje resulted in the wrecking of every house in the neighbourhood; there was none left intact in 1915, few standing in 1917—a melancholy spot known to the present generation as "Dead End." A road started eastward from the harbour, leading to Poelecappelle Passing through St. Jean and Wieltje, the latter only a mile and three quarters from the Yser embankment. At Dead End the reserves of the N.Z.M.C. were concentrated—reserves of bearers, stretchers, blankets, and medical supplies, mostly in dugouts in the canal embankments.

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Halfway to Poperinghe was the village of Vlamertinghe, in 1914 a romantic Flemish townlet with high gabled roofs, an ancient moated farm and a mighty windmill built of solid brickwork jacketed in white plaster, flanking the shady roadway like a Norman fortress. It had abandoned its sails and taken to steam in competition with the more modern flour mills further down the road at Brandhoeck. Our divisional sick collecting post was in the moated farm, the corps walking wounded collecting station in the Vlamertinghe mill.

In the corps medical arrangements made by Colonel Begg, certain modifications, in the general principles of evacuations need a moment's consideration. At Messines we have seen that the evacuation of the wounded from A.D.S. was carried out by the division by means of its own cars. The Anzac medical arrangements for the battle of Gravenstafel included the pooling of all ambulance transport and the clearing of the A.D.S.'s by M.A.C. under corps control. Possibly, this was done in order to avoid waste of transport; possibly, for traffic control. All A.D.S.'s were now to be cleared under corps arrangements through corps M.D.S. and corps walking wounded station to the C.C.S.'s. A corps gas treatment centre was provided and a large corps rest station. No special corps bureau for recording casualties was devised, although 1st Anzac had already established the practice; all returns were still to be furnished by C.M.D.S. and C.W.W.C.P. as at Messines, although matters had been improved by segregating walking from lying wounded in separate units.

The final medical arrangements were completed on October the 1st. No. 2 New Zealand Field Ambulance, Lt.-Col. Murray, D.S.O., commanding, was in charge of forward evacuations with headquarters at Wieltje mine shaft. All bearers of the three Field Ambulances were at his disposal. A reserve of 70 bearers had been formed at Dead End; there was a total of 217 bearers available for forward work. It is to be noted that No. 3 Field Ambulance was with its brigade, as yet in corps reserve. At each of the three R.A.P.'s there were 24 bearers N.Z.M.C. and two runners. 30 bearers under Major McCormack, N.Z.M.C, at Midland Farm; with 24 bearers in each of the relay posts. No. 1 Field Ambulance under Major Craig, N.Z.M.C.—temporarily in command, replacing Lt.-Col. Mathew Holmes, evacuated sick—had manned the moated farm with their tent subdivisons; and at Vlamertinghe Mill, the corps walking wounded collecting post was in charge of No. 4 New Zealand Field Ambulance, Lt.-Col. McLean commanding. The final instructions issued by Col. Begg were: That the Thomas' page 335splint was to be applied at all RA.P.'s to all fractures of the lower limb or wounds of marked severity: that as little redressing of wounds as possible was to be practised so as to avoid delay in evacuation to C.C.S.; that the clothes of men contaminated by gas fluid were to be removed before they were admitted to the A.D.S. galleries at Wieltje. On a previous occasion during the intense bombardments with mustard gas of the the 28th and 29th of September, all the medical officers at the Wieltje dugout and most of the R.A.M.C. personnel, became casualties owing to gas fluid being brought in on the clothes of the gassed—the gallery was gas proof which increased the danger in this particular instance. The severely wounded and the gassed were to have special "urgent" labels attached to their stretchers so that they might have precedence in transit to C.C.S. The distances were so great and delay was likely to be so considerable owing to the length of the hand carriage and the congestion of the roads that at all stages the utmost despatch was to be observed and all needless redressing of wounds avoided. Fixture of fractures and the treatment of shock, the arrest of haemorrhage, and the administration of food were the only operations permitted in the divisional and corps stations. Despatch was to be the essence of the evacuations.

On the 2nd of October the D.D.M.S. held a conference of A.D.'sM.S. and reviewed the medical arrangements. Two tent subdivisons of the 10th Australian Field Ambulance joined No. 4 New Zealand Field Ambulance at Vlamertinghe Mill. On the 3rd our division moved up its fighting headquarters to Dead End. No. 3 New Zealand Field Ambulance coming under divisional control, two of their tent subdivisions went to C.M.D.S.: half the bearers, to Dead End.

The concentration of the 1st and the 4th Brigades was successfully accomplished; they lay on their taped lines astride the Gravenstafel road in front of Kansas Cross. It was a quiet day; a cloudy sky with occasional bursts of sunshine; the enemy artillery fire slackening. There was a cool breeze and a threatening sky towards evening; it rained during the night. The night was suspiciously quiet, and for this reason—the enemy also were assembling for an attack on the British lines at that very point where the Second and Fifth Armies were massed to advance on an eight mile front in the direction of Passchendaele. The 45th Bavarian Reserve Division and the 4th Guards Division had just been brought down from Roulers; other divisions were to attack further south. The German objectives were Zonebeke and Polygon page 336Wood. Our zero hour was fixed for 6 a.m., theirs, probably, a quarter of an hour later. Luck was with the Anzacs.

Rain began to fall at zero hour, a strong south-westerly wind sprang up as our barrage, unusually heavy, fell full upon the huddled masses of the Bavarians in their assembly positions. The going was bad and our battalions, finding the enemy in strength met with considerable resistance; there was heavy fighting but later the enemy surrendered freely and the advance continued. Some heavy shells fell about the Wieltje Post causing casualties there, but by 8 a.m., 50 lying and walking wounded had passed through. By 9 a.m. both divisions of IInd Anzac reported capture of their first objectives and were in touch with contiguous troops. At 10, the enemy shelling about the A.D.S. was much more severe but the wounded were coming in freely; a party of 200 German prisoners were employed as bearers to bring down cases by road from Midland Farm. Towards midday the attack on the final objectives beyond the Gravenstafel Spur was in progress. Reports from the bearer relay posts showed that all was going well. There was as yet no news at the A.D.S. of the whereabouts of the R.M.O.'s of 3rd Canterbury and 3rd Otago, although walking wounded were coming in from both battalions. About this time evacuations from the A.D.S. were temporarily held up for want of cars; about 30 stretcher cases awaited removal. The motor ambulance convoy was delayed by the mass of traffic on the only road at our disposal, the Ypres—Kaajev—Gravenstafel road, now densely packed with lines of heavy lorries rumbling up the narrow way, while enemy shelling added to the delay and congestion. At noon, a counter attack was in progress, but it was a spineless affair and easily dispersed by our artillery, no doubt considerable confusion had been caused to the enemy by our unexpected onslaught and the heavy losses inflicted on his massed assault troops by our rolling barrage. By 1 p.m. our brigades were well established in their appointed positions; consolidation was in progress along the whole front, and large numbers of prisoners were coming in, including a battalion headquarters captured intact with all its important documents at Kron Prinz Farm, an elaborate concrete fortress which we were to use to some purpose later.

By this time some 240 stretcher cases, 490 walking and 80 wounded German prisoners of war had passed through the A.D.S. The number of stretcher eases is remarkable, for the carry by hand was now nearly two miles and the number of bearers employed not much over 200. Already 70 per cent. of the total wounded were in. One R.A.P. still remained "in the air" it was page 337that shared by the R.M.O.'s of the 3rd Otago and 3rd Canterbury. In the afternoon there was high wind and rain—one of the bearer relay posts three-quarters of a mile ahead of Bridge House was blown up—7 bearers became casualties, one of them killed. They were still using the boarded tracks from this post, as the road to Wieltje, at least beyond Bridge House, was almost obliterated by shell holes. Duckboard tracks were being put down by our Pioneers almost as fast as the Infantry advanced, and they formed the only routes for stretcher parties, as travel in the crater field was almost impossible. The afternoon became exceedingly wet and cold, and some anxiety was being felt about the position of the missing R.M.O.'s until at 4 p.m. news came in to the A.D.S. as to their whereabouts and parties at once act out from Bridge House to relieve them.

The narrative of the advance of the missing party was not devoid of incident. It starts at zero hour when Captain Barron, N.Z.M.C., of the 3rd Canterbury s and Captain Farris, N.Z.M.C. of the 3rd Otagos lay in shell holes behind the white taped lines on which their battalions were marshalled and where they bad spent an uncomfortable night. The troops moved off a little before zero as they wanted to be clear of the enemy barrage and be well up to their own when it opened. Behind the last wave came the R.M.O.'s with their 32 stretcher bearers marching in single file in four columns some distance apart. Captain Barron's narrative of subsequent events is easy to follow. "It was a misty morning, the ground was fairly hard but the shell holes made the going slow. Our party carried stretchers, a pannier which I had specially fitted up, a box containing extra dressings and a few splints. Padre Bryan Brown came with me.* There were no casualties, as far as I could see going up, although a good few shells were coming in, a lot of these were "dud" and owing to soft ground they failed to explode, but we were smothered in mud occasionally. Presently we struck a pill box. "Otto Farm" which had been marked off on the map previously by the brigade as a suitable R.A.P. for Otago and myself. It was a large pill box with two narrow windows facing us. There were mounds of bricks about—probably part of the old farmhouse. Outside there were a lot of German dead, the bodies tied in bundles of four with ropes. When we got inside we found two rooms each about 10 by 10 by 8 feet high. There was a four foot passage in front with two windows looking out towards the Hun lines. We blocked up the windows with German clothing and other odds and ends, and the stretcher page 338bearers went off to look for the wounded. A few wounded were coming in: there was heavy machine gun fire on the hill in front." It was now about 8 o'clock. Captain Barron despatched a runner to Spree Farm with a message showing the map reference of the R.A.P. and in case the first became a casualty, another was despatched some ten minutes later. "There was a fair amount of shell fire," says the narrative, "but the pill box we were in seemed a pretty good place—walls 6 feet thick and about 9 feet of concrete overhead. The wounded were coming in pretty freely, some we took inside, mostly lying cases, the rest we put under shelter of the back wall of the pill box. Padre Bryan Brown was a great help in looking after the men. About 10 o'clock, I was getting anxious as no ambulance bearers had come up to clear me, and the wounded were more than the R.A.P. could hold. At last a party from the ambulance reached us, but not enough to clear. About 11 the Hun got on to the pill box and we had it in salvoes—three direct hits on the roof, the concussion knocked us down, it took some time for the dust to clear away. Padre Bryan Brown was outside, he was burying the German dead—they got him." Corporal Munroe, N.Z.M.C., who was a water duty man from the 4th Field Ambulance, was assisting the chaplain at the time when the fatal salvo came. Six shells arrived all together; of these, two burst on the roof of the R.A.P., one hit the side wall. Besides the chaplain, three of the wounded were killed with two regimental stretcher bearers and one German wounded. Several were wounded including the water duty corporal, who was forthwith despatched for assistance to Spree Farm. The party now packed the wounded inside the, R.A.P. as best they could and did their utmost to get the walking wounded clear, but this was too much for most of them as they could not find their way to the duckboard track only some 500 yards away. Late in the afternoon Major McCormack, came up with 30 bearers; evidently the two messengers despatched, for some reason or other, failed to bring down the report sent at 8 a.m. This party of bearers could not clear the R.A.P., darkness was falling and it was impossible to carry stretchers from the post except by daylight. Even then it was hard work for the bearers; there was no duckwalk track; six bearers were required for each stretcher; the shell holes were half filled with water and were in places so interlocked as to be unavoidable. Debris of battle, including barbed wire lay everywhere. Over 100 wounded spent the night at Otto Farm, of whom three died during the night.

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By nightfall it was known that our casualties were not heavy. The day had been a very successful one for the British Armies and very costly and disastrous for the enemy. The New Zealand Division had taken 1159 prisoners from four different divisions; the Army had at least 5000 prisoners, and many German dead lay on the conquered ground. Since midday nearly 500 wounded had passed through the A.D.S. At the walking wounded post there was little to be done as the light railways were running the wounded down from Wieltje to Vlamertinghe—about 400 were evacuated in this way—the remainder had been sent down in empty returning lorries during the day. A half ambulance train was run into Ypres during the forenoon, the first to arrive there since 1914; it took away 200 wounded from the southern battlefield. At the corps walking wounded collecting post, the total number of casualties dealt with by No. 4 Field Ambulance was 39 officers, 1944 O.R., including 13 officers, 367 O.R. German wounded prisoners of war. Some congestion resulted at this station which was not well suited to dealing with so large a number of casualties. At midnight all spare bearers were moved up to Spree Farm where Major McCormack now established the main bearer relay post. All posts were clear save Otto Farm, where there were about 30 stretcher cases. The night passed in comparative quiet but heavy rain was falling.

As early as 2 a.m. on the 5th. parties from Spree Farm set out for Otto Farm and by 8 a.m. many wounded had been safely brought in, but the bearers showed signs of the greatest fatigue, their work was hampered by the rain which had fallen during the night. Lieut.-Col. Murray now called up all remaining ambulance personnel; the weather had cleared and it was essential to search the battlefield. By 12 noon the additional bearers arrived at Wieltje. Wounded were coming in slowly, only 38 stretcher cases had been admitted since 8 a.m. An occasional shell fell at intervals about the A.D.S. In the afternoon Colonel McGavin visited the Wieltje station to make arrangements for the relief which was pending. By 6 p.m. all forward posts were reported clear, it had taken full 12 hours to clear Otto Farm; there was two miles of hand carriage which cost three hours of hard trudging to accomplish. The whole journey to Wieltje, three miles, consumed four hours and required relays of 18 men to one stretcher. The day passed quietly enough, and at 8 p.m. the advanced parties of the 2/2 West Riding Field Ambulance had arrived at Wieltje. During the night it was possible to make use of the trench tramways from Bridge House, thus saving a mile page 340of hand carriage. Occasionally a Ford car had penetrated along the broken road to this post, but the service could not be well maintained on account of heavy shelling always directed on to the roadway. During the night of the 5/6th the relief of the New Zealand Brigades was completed by the 49th Division.

The 6th of October opened with rain and cold winds, all reliefs were completed at an early hour and command of the sector passed to the 49th Division at 10 a.m. Before it was handed over the New Zealand front line had been consolidated. Two almost continuous trenches had been dug across the 2000 yard front of the Division, well down the forward slopes of Abraham's heights, communication trenches were in forward progress, and mule tracks and duckboard tracks had been pushed forward from our old front line. The single road that led forward to Gravenstafel was as yet not practicable for artillery, but work there was in hand; our engineers were laying down a roadway of heavy baulks of timber clamped with iron dogs. All medical personnel returned to unit in the afternoon; the A.D.S. at Wieltje was handed over. The bearer subdivisions were sent out to the reserve area in motor omnibuses for rest and refitting. The divisional headquarters moved back to Watou.

So ended the successful engagement of Gravenstafel where the 4th Brigade fought its first and last battle and won its spurs handsomely on Abraham's heights. It had succeeded because of surprise and because the weather conditions were at least passable, the ground sufficiently hard to permit of reasonable speed in the advance. The artillery support had been most powerful, skilfully directed and under sensitive control. Our losses were in consequence unusually light. The numbers of wounded and sick evacuated by the A.D.M.S. for the period from noon on the 4th to noon on the 7th were: 1326 wounded; 398 sick; say 16 per cent. wounded in the two brigades and including the killed, 20 per cent of casualties. Both the bearer officers, Major McCormack and Captain Addison, M.C., and their bearers worked hard and with untiring energy. Every acre of the pockmarked ground of our advance was searched and without any assistance from infantry—if we except the German prisoners and some help obtained from our Pioneers during the relief—the N.Z.M.C. bearers alone carried to safety over 400 stretcher cases in two days, a remarkable feat if we consider the nature of the terrain, the length of the carries and the almost complete absence of cover until the galleries at Wieltje were reached.

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Orders had been issued by the Second Army for a renewal of the attack on the 9th. It seemed there was every prospect of obtaining good results by further exploitation of our successes. The positions so far gained in the St. Julien sector gave excellent observation of the northern end of Passchendaele ridge. Preparations were pushed forward for the final assault of the last bit of high ground now held by the Germans. The other divisions of IInd Anzac, the 49th and 66th were now to be engaged. The 49th Division took over the New Zealand positions and medical arrangements; the A.D.S. remained at Wieltje but Otto Farm became a bearer relay post and two advanced concrete fortresses became the permanent R.A.P.'s: Kron Prinz Farm and Waterloo Farm, both well down on the forward slopes of the Gravenstafel ridge. Meanwhile our tent subdivisions employed in the corps stations remained in position. At the mill at Vlamertinghe alterations were made in the dispositions by the erection of marquees and redistribution of personnel so as to facilitate the work. No. 4 New Zealand Ambulance remained in charge and were assisted by tent subdivisions of other medical units of the Corps.

Some short account of the operations of the 49th Division we must consider momentarily as they form an important prelude to the disastrous situation at Bellevue Spur which was the Waterloo of the New Zealand Division. The morning of the 8th of October was cold and windy, all clocks had been put back during the night so as to revert to winter time. The New Zealand Pioneers and Engineers remained in the battlefield struggling with the roading problem; "corduroy" and fascined ways were laid down; all the stores and material brought up by pack mules. The conditions were only too familiar to New Zealand roadmakers, who quell the stormy seas of mud in our backblocks; home-like conditions, but disquieting. In the morning a good drying wind had cheered them on, but evening fell in desperate weather. In the cold cliché of the Corps diary: "The work of forward communications was behindhand, bad weather, since the 5th, had impeded progress." The usual number of muddy walking wounded struggled through the mill at Vlamertinghe. The attacking troops of the 49th Division were assembling at 6 p.m.; heavy rain fell and continued to fall during a night of intense darkness and boisterous wind. In ground that was now a quagmire, correct adjustment of the assaulting line was a matter of chance, all landmarks were obliterated. The disposition of the medical personnel was somewhat similar to page 342ours; roughly, some 245 bearers were distributed to the forward posts; an officer in charge of bearers was appointed for right and left sectors. The most forward R.A.P. was at Waterloo Farm, a very heavy oblong concrete fortress lying on the forward slopes of Gravenstafel and about 1000 yards from Bellevue Spur, on the same northern side of what at one time had been the road, but now was in no way distinguishable from the remainder of the tattered forefield. On our side of Gravenstafel Otto Farm, Spree Farm, and Midland Farm, were the principal bearer relay posts, each held over 30 bearers, the reserve of ambulance personnel was still at Dead End.

On the morning of the 9th in fine but windy weather the assaulting brigades of the 49th got away with their barrage but were brought up almost at once by withering machine gun fire from the Bellevue Spur which projected to the north of the sunken road leading up to the highest point of the ridge. Uncut wire flanked the sides of the gentle slope to their right and the steel and concrete walls of the fortresses crowning the Spur, and undamaged by our shells, spluttered with fire from concealed machine guns handled by determined men fighting desperately for the last bit of vantage ground remaining to the Germans on the lost ridges. The British losses were very heavy, the medical situation grave. At least 50 stretcher cases were lying at Waterloo Farm and many others reported to be as yet out in the open. The difficulties were exceptional, the wounded came in as fast as they were cleared; there was a two mile stretch devoid of cover and constantly swept by shell fire. 391 bearers out had brought in only 146 stretcher cases, nearly every stretcher had to be carried three miles by hand over ground in places a foot deep in mud. Infantry were asked for to clear the field but the situation was as yet so uncertain that the troops could not be spared. During the day a steady flow of wet and muddy wounded came to the Mill at Vlarmertinghe: 12 officers and 372 bedraggled men. That night the New Zealand Division was coming in to relieve the 49th.

By 4 a.m. on the 11th the bearers of the 49th Division were exhausted; infantry detailed to assist them owing to a misunderstanding in a telephonic communication, failed to carry out instructions. The evacuations by light railway from Spree Farm and Midland House had not been satisfactory. Trains were erratic, sometimes none for six or seven hours, sometimes three within the hour. The wounded suffered a good deal from cold, lying or sitting in open trucks. The road was impassable for page 343cars in front of the A.D.S. In any case it was so blocked by ammunition limbers and pack mules as to be quite unsuited for stretcher parties or horsed ambulances. At 3 a.m. the railway ceased to work.

* Revd. Byran Brown, C. F., attached 3rd Canterbury