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Compulsory militia training was introduced by the Australian Government in 1903. The Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) moved to adopt the British model for the organisation of their Field Ambulances.
During 1914 Military Districts were raising Field Ambulances. In August 1914 1 Military District raised 1 Field Ambulance (Citizen Forces/Militia) (1 FdAmb (CF/M)) in Queensland, based in the Townsville region. In August 1914 "A" Section of 1 FdAmb (CF/M) was deployed as part of the garison force to Thursday Island. 1 FdAmb(CF/M) continued until December 1914, providing recruiting and training facilities to the forming of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), being raised by the Australian Government for the war on Germany, declared by Great Britain on the 4th August 1914. On the 6th August 1914 it was suggested by Great Britain that Australia and New Zealand might take a hand in the capture of German Territorial Possessions in the Pacific, a potential naval base for the enemy. This was agreed to. The nearest German possession to Australia was German New Guinea.
The Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (NMEF) was raised in the 2nd Military District (New South Wales), for deployment to German New Guinea. A medical detachment commanded by Lieutennant Colonel (LtCol) N R Howse VC, comprising 4 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer (WO) , and 35 Other Ranks(ORs), joined the 1,250 Militia Force that was sent to German New Guinea. On the 9th of September 1914 the force was drawn up for attack on Rabaul and Herbertshohe. During the conflict on the 11th September 1914 Captain (Capt) B Pockley (AAMC), and Able Seaman (AB) A Williams (Naval Reserve[NR}) were both mortaly wounded. Capt Pockley had given his Red Cross armband to a stretcher bearer to provide him with some protection whilst evacuating wounded to the rear. Capt Pockley had finished dressing the smashed hand of a German Non-Commisioned Officer (NCO) when, without the protectionof his red cross armband he received a mortal wound. Both men died aboard the transport ship "Berrima". On the 11th September 1914 the German occupation and control of New Guinea ceased, Australia being now in control of this and other German Territories.
In August 1914 the Australian Government was raising the AIF, based on Divisions, Brigades and Units. Field Ambulances were allocated and numbered accordng to their Brigade. Thus the 1st Australian Field Ambulance was allocated to the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division. On the 20th August 1914 recruits were mustered at Victoria Barracks, Sydney and marched to Queens Park to set up the camp. The first Routine Order was issued by the Commanding Officer(CO) Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol) B J Newmarch, on Monday 24th August 1914.
RAISING OF THE 1ST FIELD AMBULANCE
The 1st Australian Field Ambulance was raised on the 24th August 1914 at Queens Park, Waverley a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales. Recruits were from New South Wales particularly the Sydney region. A group of 250 personnel had to be organised to achieve the role of a Field Ambulance. Many had St Johns Ambulance Certificates and prior Citizen Military Forces (CMF) experience, which qualified them for certain posts. Ambulance wagon drivers for the transport sub division were given riding tests, leading to some amusing results as many candidates had never been astride a horse before. Suitable men were given temporary NCO positions to try them out as very few had had any previous service. Many NCO positions were not made substantive until the Unit reached Egypt. The standard of physical fitness for stretcher bearers was higher than that required for Infantry. The minimum height was 5' 7",chest measurement at rest was 35".
At Queens Park the Unit trained and equipped itself. Training chiefly consisted of Squad Drill, route marches and lectures. Equipment was good and arrived quickly. Elliot Bros. of Sydney made all the panniers, and stocked them with the standard goods, so that the ambulance left with completely new stock. Officers Millard, Poate and Aspinall were all honary surgeons at different institutions in Sydney and with the subscription of their varous friends a fairly complete modern surgical kit was got together. This sugical kit was seldom used apart from the first 3 months of Gallipoli when Poate and Aspinall did a great deal of work on the transports running from Lemnos to Egypt and Malta. The innoculations for Typhoid were for typhoid-straight and did not include any para-typhoid A or B. This was to cost dearly as 90% of the Enteric on Gallipoli was one of these para-typhoids.
Captain (Capt) Kay with Corporal (Cpl) Davies, and Private (Pte) Bennett, were sent to Hobart on the 22nd September 1914, to provide medical support to the men from the 3rd Brigade onboard theTransport Ship 13 "Katuna". On the 16th October 1914 the remainder of the Field Ambulance embarked onto the Transport Ships "Clan MacQuorquodale" and "Euripedes", bound for Albany, Western Australia, where they were joined by other Transport Ships to form a convoy of 36 ships holding 20,758 troops, 7479 horses, which departed on the 1st November 1914 for active service overseas. Ten days later great excitement was on board as one of the escorts, the "Sydney" left the convoy,shortly after a wireless message announced the sinking of the "Emden". Ist Australian Field Ambulance dissembarked at Alexandria on the 4th December 1914 and entrained to Mena Camp for training in desert camps.
The Unit left Alexandria by ship transport, the "City of Benares" on the 3rd April 1915, bound for Lemnos, which it reached on the 7th April 1915. No landing was made on Lemnos, except for route marches, and the time was spent on board practicing landing from the transports with full gear and equipment. At one o'clock in the morning of the 25th April the ship left Lemnos, and arrived at Gaba Tepe about eight. At approximately 0930 hrs the Unit Bearers transferred to the destroyer "Scourge" carrying with them their basic field equipment, surgical haversack and rations for 48 hours. It was during this action that several bursts of shrapnel hit the ship, and two of the Unit's bearers were seriously wounded as they floundered ashore.
Even as troops were attempting to land at ANZAC Cove, casualties occured, resulting from Turkish troops, consistently firing volleys from nearby ridges. The collecting of casualties from further north and southern ends of ANZAC Cove was necessitated, as casualties were accumulating in great numbers down from the ridges. The safe handling of casualties on the slopes and ridges required the Field Ambulance bearers to use their puttees for tying the casualty to the stretchers then sliding them down the almost vertical hillside amongst the undergrowth. By 5:30 pm on the 25th April 1915 over 600 wounded (casualties) including Turkish soldiers, had been carried down to the beach for transfer to the hospital ships. In the months that followed thousands of casualties were to be handled by the 1st Australian Field Ambulance at Gallipoli. At first the bearers were carrying from every part of the line, but after the second week the work was confined to the 3rd Australian Brigade.
The first soldier Field Ambulance soldier to be killed in action was Pte Claude Abbot. A piece of shrapnel pierced his chest at 4:30 am on the 29th May 1915,he died almost at once.
The tent division remained on board until the 27th June when a number of them went to asist the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) bearers at Cape Helles, returning on 2nd July. 1st Australian Field Ambulance left Anzac on the evening of the 9th September 1914, arriving at Lemnos the next morning. On the 17th November the troopship was boarded once more, howeever tempestous weather prevented its departure and disembarkation took place. The Unit did not return to Anzac again, the evacuation of the Peninsula by the British being made on the 19th December 1915. Christmas 1915, spent on Lemnos Island was celebrated very quietly.
To be continued
An interesting article from the 1st WW