Description

This photograph was taken at a Regimental Aid Post during the Battle of Amiens. It shows RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) stretcher bearers treating a wounded soldier, who is lying in the foreground. It was taken by David McLellan, a British war photographer who was employed by the Ministry of Information to depict the scale of World War One.[1]

A stretcher bearer’s role was the first link in the ‘chain of evacuation’ for wounded soldiers. With a basic knowledge of first aid – and relying upon physical strength – these men were tasked with retrieving the wounded, and delivering them to Regimental Aid Posts, Advanced Dressing Stations and, in some cases, to distant Casualty Clearing Stations.

Evacuations were typically carried out under immense pressure as the bearers were working under streams of shell fire or battling through mud quagmires. It often took four to six men to move one casualty.

The Battle of Amiens

In the early hours of 8 August 1918, British Imperial and French armies launched an offensive against Germany in an area to the east of the city of Amiens, France. Due to the surprise nature of the attack, Allied forces advanced by up to 12 km in four days.[2]

Although regarded as an Allied victory, these four days of fighting resulted in 120,000 casualties across both sides.[3]

General Erich Ludendorff famously described the opening of the Battle of Amiens as ‘the black day of the German Army in the history of this war’.[4] This is largely because of its devastating impact on German morale. Amiens began the ‘Hundred Days Offensive’, a series of major battles which resulted in the collapse of the German army on the Western Front and the signing of the Armistice 95 days later.

Footnotes

[1] Jane Carmichael, First World War Photographers, (1989), p.65

[2] David Stevenson, With our backs to the wall: victory and defeat in 1918 (London, 2011) p. 346.

[3] ibid.

[4] Erich Ludendorff, Ludendorff’s Own Story, vol. 2 (London, 1920), p. 326; quoted in Stephen Badsey, ‘Battle of Amiens’.

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