187 Field Ambulance - War Diary October 1940

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4th October 1940 DENBURY CAMP.

At 09:30 hours – all deficiencies made up, vehicles ready to leave and loaded.

Major Leslie admitted to hospital Thursday – replacement demanded.

Lt Greenhill RASC, relief for Lt Dowling RASC, arrived 2nd October 1940. Unit complete except for one Officer RAMC. All equipment complete and issued.

5th October 1940

Operation Order No 5 issued and attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

17th October 1940

Operation Order No 6 issued and attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

At 21:45 hours the Advance Party of Lt Smith and 20 men of B Company left for the Port of Embarkation.

18th October 1940

At 19:00 hours Orders received for entrainment of Field Ambulance at 00:10 hours on 20th October at NEWTON ABBOT. Unit leaves at full strength less Major Leslie, admitted to hospital but not replaced, under orders to proceed from War Office.

Unit complete in stores except glare glasses, socks footless and stretcher slings.

20th October 1940 LIVERPOOL.

At 12:00 hours the unit embarked at full strength on H.M.T. Astoria, after an uneventful train journey. Astoria had only been slightly altered to become a troopship – troops in cabins and on all decks – a most unsatisfactory position which could not be kept up on a long voyage. No space for PT or any exercise. Dining in three batches.

24th October 1940 Reykjavik.

Arrived at 14:00 hours. Unit not being disembarked until D + 6, i.e. 30th October 1940. Uneventful voyage. Feeding very good but ship was too crowded with 2300 men on board.

29th October 1940

At 15:00 hours verbal orders were received that the unit would disembark today – sudden rush before 17:00 hours Naval launch appeared and stated that men must get off at once. Officer very agitated and certain amount of confusion of orders.

Eventually men had to be rushed off to their tea which they had to leave behind unfinished.

All got overboard in 20 minutes, no one missing, but such rushing, even admitting that there was a possibility of the sea rising should not be necessary and might have lead to men being left behind.

Embussed at the quayside and arrived at the Camp at 22:00 hours. Road good for the first three miles then bad. Camp unfinished and seven huts still occupied by Royal Engineers. Rations for next day arrived but the men had no food. Two Battalions ? ? also arrived and are in Camp.

30th October 1940 Alafoss CAMP.

At 09:00 hours an inspection of the Camp took place. Hutted Camp – Nissen Huts. No latrines, no ablution places, no Cookhouses.

? units must put these up for themselves, a very poor arrangement, as sanitation must always be ready if possible.

Apparently due to having to rush up a large number of huts in a short time.

Camp very badly laid out and only 32 huts for Hospital, Stores, Recreation, Accommodation etc. More huts required. Only one hut for recreation and canteen, no accommodation for Bath Unit, no Dispensary, and only one hut for Stores.

Field Ambulance eventually to form small Detention Hospital.

Camp in valley with hills about 1 ½ miles away, full of hot springs. Small fields and some hothouses growing small amount of fruit. Hothouses heated by hot water from spring. This water is reported to have a high bacterial content. Drinking water has to be drawn at a point about three miles down the valley. No washing water for men’s clothing at present.

31st October 1940

15:00 hours. Spent yesterday and today trying to get information, matters rather unsatisfactory, kept being sent from one place to another. Camp will require considerable work to make it right.

Appendices attached to the October 1940 187 Field Ambulance War Diary.

Operation Order No 5 – issued 5th October 1940.

This short Order referenced the secret instructions from Southern Command and 70th Infantry Brigade regarding the forthcoming move overseas. Instructions were included for the transport and the kit to be taken by each Officer and man as well as rations for the journey – including containers of hot tea to be taken.

Cpl E Dale 7361119 was to accompany the convoy and take with him a surgical haversack – this was listed under “extra precautions”.

Operation Order No 6 – issued 17th October 1940.

This Order contained the administrative instructions for the Advance Party and the arrangements for baggage and transport.

The Advance Party was to be drawn from B Company – a list of the men concerned was given – and would be commanded by Lt E.D.L. Smith RAMC. They were to be included with the party from 11th DLI. Fatigue parties for loading and unloading baggage were identified.

The Order contained the usual instruction regarding leaving the existing Camps and billets in good condition and the command arrangements for the Field Ambulance part of the train.

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