Excerpt taken from George W. Crile’s diary, January 16, 1915
The method of handling the wounded in the French army is as follows. Every soldier carries in a small canvas bag an emergency pack. This consists of a rolled bandage, a small piece of gause (sic), some cotton and a small vial of iodin.
If a soldier in the first or second line of trenches is wounded he or his comrade applies the first dressing for it is impossible to remove the wounded until night. Then under cover of darkness they are carried to the first station – the Pose de Secour. This is usually about a kilometer and a half from the trenches and is attached to a regiment. It is stationed in a secluded house or barn but is still within the firing line. Here only first aid treatment is given. The next station is called l’Ambulance and is six to eight kilometers behind the Poste de Secour. This is larger than the first and received patients from a number of the first aid stations. Her cases are sorted and those that are so seriously wounded that they cannot be moved, remain. The others are sent on to the Evacuation Station which is a railroad center – the station itself usually being used as the hospital. Each Evacuation Center is fed by a number of “Ambulances”.
Following this there is often the second or even the third Evacuation Station. These also are railroad centers and are fed by a larger territory than the first. Finally comes the “Centre”, such as Paris where there are a number of what may be called Base Hospitals. From these hospitals the men, when no further dressings are required, are sent to Convalescent Hospitals where they remain until they are cured or are discharged. If a man is discharged from a hospital, such as the American Ambulance, “cured” he is immediately sent to his barracks and not to a convalescent hospitals – but if he is discharged “improved” he is sent to a convalescent hospital.
The patients come into the Ambulance tagged – the tag stating whether or not they have had anti-tetanic serum, their name, type of wound, etc.
These patients are covered with mud and grime – they are unshaven and exhausted and wear an assortment of clothes. Sometimes their wounds are swathed in bandages. I have seen bandages several yards in length encircling an arm. They arrive at the hospital with the most ingenious casts – made of steel, tin, wood, plaster, etc.