Reports 07/1915

With the arrival of many of the staff and male personnel, the weekly report of the 30th July 1915, sees progress at the Hospital happening rapidly. Most of the buildings on site have been erected, although delays have occurred with the plumbing, and there is still the drawback of the uncompleted mortuary. However, there are hopes that the Hospital will open within two weeks. Chief Commissioner Clark also writes of the excellent position of the Hospital within Étaples, with its views of the sea and sheltered position from ‘prevailing winds’. He notes that ‘all who see the Hospital express their approval and say that it is the best they have seen in France’.

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First page of report

First page of report

Received 30/7/1915

To The Director

The Ambulance Department

The Order of St. John of Jerusalem

In England.

My Lord,

In compliance with the arrangement made I here send you

my first weekly letter since my arrival.

I arrived on the evening of the 22nd and took up my

quarters in an Hotel near the Hospital. The Hospital not being

sufficiently advanced to receive me.

The Staff and male personnel arrived on Saturday evening

and I was able by then to accommodate them in their barrack rooms

and Officers quarters.

The work on the Hospital is progressing as rapidly as the

receipt of the material and equipment will allow. There is still

a very considerable amount on the way.

The buildings are all up with the exception of the Fuel

Store and the Shed for the Disinfector, which will be finished by

the end of the week. After which there will be a certain amount

of interior fittings to be finished.

We have been considerably delayed as regards plumbing.

Messrs. Humphreys, who undertook the work, not having begun the

work soon enough or sent sufficient hands to carry it through.

More men for the purpose are however here now, and I hope it may

be completed by the end of the week. Without Messrs. Humphrys

assistance in carrying it out matters would have been very much

worse, as labour, particularly skilled labour, is very hard to get,

and the local workmen or a very indifferent type.

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Continuation 2.

The delay in receiving our equipment is due to conditions

beyond our control, but restrictions in forwarding of Stores

etc. will I think in a few days be removed.

I have received Mr. Morgan’s letter and enclosure re. Ship-

ment of goods and names of steamers.

With regard to the female staff, their quarters will be ready

for them in about a week, but whether it will be any use their coming

out then will depend on how we receive our equipment. Ward equipment

chiefly being delayed. The Matron and half a dozen Nurses can come

on ahead but will receive a clear three days notice of when they are

to come.

The site of the Hospital is exceptionally good, within a mile

of the open sea which is in full view. It is sheltered from prevailing

winds on the sloping ground down to the Boulogne Road. The Nurses

quarters being on the high ground.

The mens and Officers quarters are on the opposite side of the

road equally sheltered and open to the sea, in fact it is by far the

best site for a Hospital here.

All who see the Hospital express their approval and say that

it is the best they have seen in France.

The one drawback is the Common Mortuary, which, notwithstanding

the promise given that it should not be used as such is still so used.

The new Public Mortuary opposite the Cemetery is not yet commenced

and is under contract to be finished by a French firm in six weeks

from the 16th of July.

Under these circumstances I represented the matter to the

authorities, a copy of my letter enclosed, I trust that the proposal

that I have made in it will be approved by the Order, though I doubt if

it will be accepted.

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Continuation 3.

Fortunately there is a lull in the war at present so far as

we are concerned, and there are many thousands of vacant beds immed-

iately around us. For if we had to fill up our beds suddenly

three of our wards would be unable to be occupied owing to the

proximity of the present Common Mortuary between the walls of which

and our wards it is impossible for me to stretch out my arms at full


We hope to be in a position to open the Hospital in a fortnight

from now but as I stated previously it depends on the time of arrival

of equipment.

Mr. Gordon has received the draft for £1,000 and paid it into

the account of the Hospital at the Banque Adam. The previous drafts

that he received will be accounted for in the accounts and the balance

paid into the Banque Adam.

I enclose a copy of a letter from Messrs Humphreys regarding


The weather is very variable, rain, wind and bright sunshine,

and cold enough towards sunset to lead one to imagine a frost.

We were all much grieved to hear of Mr. Edmund Owen’s death

and offer our very sincere sympathy to those connected with him.

He did long and good service for the Brigade in a quiet way with

remarkable promptness for a busy professional man, and his advice

was always sound and was much appreciated. A pleasanter and a more

capable colleague in the work of the Brigade it would be hard to find.

I have the honour to be,

Your Lordships

Obedient servant,

James Clark


Chief Commissioner Clark begins the weekly report of 14th July 1915 with news of his arrival at Étaples. He notes that the work on the construction of the Hospital is ‘progressing satisfactorily’ and that it should be ready to accept patients within a fortnight. However, with the demand that will be placed on the Hospital still uncertain, he is unhappy to find that a new mortuary is yet to be constructed at the site of the Hospital and suggests it should be built within 6 weeks.

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D.M.S., L. of G.

I have the honour to report my arrival at Etaples to take

over charge of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital.

I have inspected the condition of the hospital and find the work

progressing satisfactorily, and hope to be ready to open in about a

fortnights time.

The staff and male personnel have also arrived at Boulogne and are

expected here to-day.

I was, however, disappointed to find that the building in close

contact with the hospital, intended as a Mortuary was still being

used as such, notwithstanding that the Order of St. John’s were given

to believe some months ago that its use as such would be discontinued

and a new general mortuary built at some distance off, opposite

the cemetery.

This mortuary, I find, has not yet been commenced, the contract

xxxxxxx having been made only on the 16th of this month – less than a

week ago – and I am informed will take six weeks to complete.

Under these circumstances, I would suggest that some other tempor-

-ary arrangements be made for a mortuary at some further distance

from the hospital. There is a stubble field some two or three hundred

yards along the road towards the cemetery in which a tent might be

erected temporary for the purpose.

I have seen this ground with Lieut-Colonel McMunn and we both

discussed this matter together and are in agreement on it.

As it is quite xxxxxx uncertain when a heavy demand may be made on

the hospitals, if it will be of any assistance to the Works Department,

I can arrange for the erection on the ground already selected of a

General mortuary 120ft. by 20ft., divided into three compartments,

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Second page of report

central compartment concreted, free ventilation along full length

of eaves on both sides, and four roof ventilators, height to eaves

8ft. – to be completed in 14 days.

This would ensure the full accommodation of the hospital

being utilized which would be impossible under existing circumstances

as there is no room for a man to stretch out his arms between the

present mortuary and the wards opposite it.

In the matter of cost, I would suggest that the extra cost

incurred in providing this larger mortuary should be borne by the

W.O., the St John’s Hospital giving up its private mortuary free

of cost, of which the new mortuary would then become merely an


(Sd) James R. Andrew Clark,

Colonel A.M.S.


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Copy of letter to


  1. of C.



I am informed by A.D.W. that the contract for the mortuary

about to be erected opposite the cemetery had been placed in the

hands of a French contractor and it is expected that the building

will be completed in 6 weeks time dating from 16th. inst.

(Sd) J.R. McMunn.

Lieut-Colonel. R.A.M.C.

for A.D.M.S., Etaples.



The outbreak of war on 4th August 1914 created a high demand for medical services and personnel. Voluntary aid was essential to the cause, and the Order of St John became an important organisation in the war effort with over 45,000 St John men and women volunteering during this period.

With the approval of the War Office, the Order established a Hospital close to the town of Étaples, which had become the largest British military base on the Western Front. The Hospital was staffed solely by members of the St John Ambulance Brigade and beginning on 21st July 1915, weekly reports of the ‘condition and work done by the Hospital’ were written by Chief Commissioner James R. A. Clark.

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First page of report

22nd July, 1915.

My Lord,

I have the honour to report my departure for France this

day to take over charge of the St. John Ambulance  Brigade

hospital at Etaples.

The last load of equipment was dispatched from our Ware-

houses on Tuesday, and there remain only some few goods which

can be forwarded through 83 Victoria Street, or such other

way as may seem best to the Director of Stores.

The Staff and personnel leave for France this evening. The

Female Nursing Staff will remain at home pending communication

from me that their quarters are ready to receive them, which I

hope will be within the next ten days.

I propose with your approval forwarding to you as Director of

the Ambulance Department a letter, weekly, reporting the

condition and work done by the Hospital. I propose that this

letter should be posted at Etaples every Monday. It should then

reach you on Wednesday morning at the latest. I shall be glad

to adopt any other arrangement that may suit you better.

I shall be glad to be informed how often a statement of the

accounts of the Hospital out there should be submitted for the

information of the Finance& General Purposes Committee. I would

suggest monthly, made up to the end of the month.

Colonel C.R. Tyrrell A.M.S., The Commissioner of the

Brigade at present working at the War Office, will as already

approved carry on the work of the Brigade during my absence.

He has arranged with Mr. Darvil Smith, the Secretary of the

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Second page of report

Brigade, to take all papers to him at the War Office daily as Colonel Tyrell’s duties will not allow his leaving the War Office.

I have the honour to be,

My Lord,

Your Lordship’s obedient servant

James Arthur Clark

Chief Commissioner

The Director General,

Ambulance Department,

Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.