Saturday, November 9, 2013

George Henry Slater (3/2 West Lancashire Field Ambulance Unit - Feb 1915 to Aug 1918)

George Henry Slater (1893-1962) - My Grandfather

Private George Henry Slater

Volunteered and enlisted on 1st February 1915 (age 22) in the 3/2 West Lancs Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).
  • The West Lancashire Territorial Division had 3 Field Ambulance units. Two were based in Liverpool (1st at Tramway Road; 2nd at Harper Street); the third (3rd) was at St Helens. On mobilisation all were brought up to strength very quickly and were duplicated, or even, as in the case of the 2nd triplicated. The 1/2 went to Kent to form part of the anti-invasion forces, the 2/2 were sent to France as the 63rd Field Ambulance with 21st Division. The 3/2 formed and went to Blackpool (William Gannicliffe papers – Wellcome Library).
He was based initially at/in Blackpool where he met and married (12 Sep 1916 at ‘Church of the Sacred Heart') my grandmother before leaving for France.
The Door Keepers Wye Kent


In June 1916 he was on Ward 26 at Military Hospital Number 2, Herne Bay, Kent. (Postcard sent by grandmother to Cpl G Slater, 3/2 W.L.F.A. R.A.M.C, Ward 26, Military Hospital No2, Herne Bay, Kent). Apparently he broke his arm by tripping over a tent guy rope whilst running to get on parade. A postcard sent to my grandmother, dated 21 Ju* ** shows a picture of him with his arm in a sling (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tim_slater_14-18/10446299395/in/set-72157633473569593).


    • In July 1916 57th Division moved to the Aldershot to begin its pre-deployment training prior to going to France. (http://www.1914-1918.net/57div.htm)
    • In July 1916 the 3/2 Field Ambulance unit travelled by rail to Fleet in Hampshire and from there marched to Twezeldown Camp. There were 3 T.A. and 5 Kitchener’s Army Companies. The T.A. elements were complete Field Ambulance units (2 Wessex, 1 West Lancs) and were all part of 57th Division. 3/2 West Lancs Field Ambulance unit was part of 170th Bde, each of the 2 Wessex Field Ambulance units were attached to 171st and 172nd Bdes respectively. (William Gannicliffe papers – Wellcome Library)
    The Lines Tweseldown 1916

    In August 1916 he was at or near Aldershot. He sent postcards postmarked 18 & 19 August ‘Aldershot’ to his future wife in Blackpool.

    Armentieres Dressing Station 1917
    An often repeated anecdote from my father mentions the time when my grandfather was in an improvised dressing station in the cellar of a wrecked house behind a section of the line held by the Portuguese. Outside there was ‘a hell of a racket’, apparently a German attack had driven the Portuguese back leaving the dressing station in German territory. The first any of the dressing station occupants new about it was when a ‘Tommy’ armed with a rifle, bayonet fitted entered the cellar as part of a clearing operation following a British counter attack.
    • The Corpo Expedicionário Português (CEP) - Portuguese Expeditionary Corps was placed under the operational command of the British First Army in the Artois/Flanders front. The first Portuguese unit arrived at the front line 11 May 1917, deployment was complete by 5 Nov 1917. On 17 June 1917 the CEP saw its first action of the war, against the Germans in Flanders, Belgium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_Expeditionary_Corps#Deployment_of_the_CEP).

    He appears to have had two service numbers. An identity disk (dog tag) retained by my father is labelled ‘Slater G H, Cpl, RAMC, 339410 (his Territorial Number). However on his discharge paperwork his service number is stated as 666594.

    • Renumbering of the Territorial Force RAMC in 1917. The link indicates that RAMC territorial’s with service (territorial) numbers between 339001 and 341000 (following renumbering) were part of 2 West Lancs Field Ambulance Unit (http://www.1914-1918.net/TF_renumbering_ramc.htm).

    His history of service record sheet (issued on discharge) states the following:

    • Enlisted Feb 1915
    • Feb 1915 to Aug 1918 2nd West Lanc’s fa.
    • Aug 1918 to Mar 1919 553rd Agricultural Company, Labour Corps
    • Transferred to Army Reserve 7 Apr 1919
    He was evacuated from the Western Front following the effects of Mustard Gas which he came into contact with on the clothes of the casualties he was handling, probably during the units rotation into the Ypres area in July 1917. His injuries were such that later in life he had difficulties walking (A statement made by my father who said that his father commented on his mother’s regular complaining about his reluctance to walk very far!).
    Hospital Hut-No2 Convelescent Depot
    He appears to have spent Christmas 1917 at the No 2 Convalescence Depot in Rouen. (Post Card left).

    Some if not all of his Labour Corps service was spent in Ireland.