Treatment of the wounded

Throughout the conflict, every day thousands of wounded soldiers had to be evacuated from the battlefields. A casualty evacuation chain was put in place. The first link was the regimental aid post, situated in the combat zone. The wounded soldier would go to the first aid station on his own, when possible, or would be taken there by his comrades or by bearers on wheelbarrow-like carts. The injured were sorted according to the severity of their injuries, then taken away in Field Ambulances. Morphine or camphor oil were injected to ease the pain.

The soldiers would then be taken by truck to the triage hospital or “hôpital d’orientation des étapes” (HOE) in the case of the French or to the Casualty Clearing Station in the case of the British. These were located in the evacuation zone, about 15 to 20 miles from the front. Here soldiers were treated or operated.

The last stage was the base hospital at the rear front. From 1914, additional hospitals were set up by the Church and charitable organizations such as the Red Cross. They were bedded in wards of various types: schools and colleges, convents, churches, castles, hotels and casinos, and so on.

Numerous soldiers died during their hospital stay and cemeteries were therefore created nearby to meet the need for burials.

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  • First-aid station on the Chemin des Dames, first quarter of the 20th century, photo, Departmental Archives of the Aisne – no mark

    This French divisionary first-aid station was the first stop for wounded soldier in the Chemin des Dames sector.

  • Gehlsen Max (1881-1960), Field hospital in the church of Gouzeaucourt (Nord), 3 October 1916, watercolour on paper, Departmental Archives of Pas-de-Calais – mark 47 Fi 2/1

    The church of the village of Gouzeaucourt, in a zone that was in German hands, was turned into a field hospital. Max Gehlsen was a German soldier and artist who was stationed in various sectors on the Western front and who filled notebooks and painted watercolours based on his experiences on the front.

  • On the Somme. Hospital barge. Embarkation of the wounded, first quarter of the 20th century, gelatine silver print, coll. Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne

    The transport resources used to evacuate the wounded from the front included trains as well as barges.

first-aid station on the Chemin des DamesFeldlazarett in der Kirche Gouzeaucourthospital barge. Embarkation of the wounded