The town of Bailleul, situated a few miles to the rear of the front line of the Messines ridge, developed into a major medical and logistics centre for the British Expeditionary Force. It was frequently bombed from the air and often subjected to long range shell fire.
At the time of the air raid that took place during the night 6-7 July 1917, the town was within geographic area under command of II ANZAC Corps, which in turn came under the British Second Army.
The corps had recently participated in the Battle of Messines and the area was still very active, while a little to the north a huge build-up of force was in progress ready to begin the Third Battle of Ypres offensive.
11 Casualty Clearing Station had arrived from Varennes (Somme) on 20 May 1917 and proceeded to set itself up at the “Ambulance Railway Siding”. This was part of a build-up of medical resources ahead of the Second Army’s offensive that became the Battle of Messines. It was accommodated mainly in tents, with the surgical and other medical facilities in huts.
To date I have not discovered with confidence which German unit carried out the raid. It appears likely to have been part of KAGOHL I, flying from its base at Gistel.
11 CCS war diary (National Archives WO95/343)
During the night the enemy made an air raid and dropped a number of bombs on the hospital, probably seven or eight in number. The casualties were 25 killed and 65 wounded, of them 5 [of the] killed and 2 wounded were of this unit. The cases were taken to the dressing hut, and after being dressed 20 were sent to 2nd Casualty Clearing Station in the town, the remainder were kept here and dealt with. Saw the DMS [Director of Medical Services] at Second Army at Hazebrouck, who gave orders to evacuate all cases and close down. This was done, with the exception of one man who was too ill to move.
II ANZAC Corps DDMS war diary (Australian War Memorial AWM4 1/34/15)
Between midnight and 3.30am, enemy aircraft dropped 88 bombs on Bailleul. His planes came over 5 times, the biggest visit being the second when 43 bombs were dropped. The chief damage done was at No. 11 CCS which was in tents near the Ambulance Railway Siding. The casualties here were 30 killed and 65 wounded, including 2 nursing sisters killed.
Second Army DMS war diary (National Archives WO95/286)
Enemy during the night dropped about 90 bombs on Bailleul, 7 of these fell on 11 CCS, doing much damage and causing heavy casualties, 27 killed and 68 wounded, chiefly patients. 4 of the unit were killed and 5 wounded. 11 CCS was closed for the reception pf patients and the camp is being struck. The nursing sisters were sent to Number 10 Stationary Hospital at St-Omer and the remainder of the personnel distributed amongst other Casualty Clearing Stations.
By 12 July 11 CCS had relocated to Godewaersvelde.
The war diary of 2 CCS makes no specific mention of receiving patients from 11 CCS.
During the period July to November 1917 there were numerous air raids that caused casualties at the Casualty Clearing Stations behind the Ypres-Messines front. This one proved to be the single most costly in terms of human life.
The dead were taken to the nearby Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, where they were laid in what became Plot III, row D. The individual grave numbers are shown in brackets.
Royal Army Medical Corps died as a result of the raid [5 traced: no nursing sisters]:
- Pte 52655 Herbert John Goodall, age 22, from Uttoxeter, bomb wounds to face, chest and shoulder (226);
- Pte 8758 W. G. Smith, age 25, from Wolverhampton, multiple bomb wounds (228);
- Pte 44553 Frank Spencer, age 40, from Newport (Mon), multiple bomb wounds (227);
- Pte 10100 Samuel Tracey, from Maryport, bomb wounds to head and abdomen (231);
- Pte 90294 David Williamson, age 26, from Glasgow, multiple bomb wounds (229).
Others died as a result of the raid [30 traced]:
- Sgt 47902 Frederick Arthur Arnold MM, age 34, from Hove (123 Heavy Battery RGA) (216);
- Pte 5033 John Barrie, aged 28, from Brisbane, Queensland (41st Battalion AIF) (221);
- Dvr 9/409 Edward Gunning Brookes, aged 28, from Dunedin (2nd New Zealand Divisional Ammunition Column RFA) (219)
- Pte 6960 Joseph John Blunt, aged 34 from Canungra, Queensland, Australia (15th Battalion AIF) (213);
- Pte 117 Thomas Andrew Joseph Byrnes, aged 27, native of New South Wales (47th Battalion AIF) (240);
- Pte 25808 James Mearns Cheyne, age 30, from Palmerston North (1/3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade) (225);
- Pte 2306 Arthur Clark, age 25, from Ellendale, Tasmania (40th Battalion AIF) (242);
- Dvr 85593 Clary, aged 34, served as Williams, from Poplar, London (D/311 Brigade RFA) (247);
- Bdr 313023 Alfred Dakeyne, from Hartshill, Staffordshire (1/1 North Midland RGA) (234);
- Pte 36956 John Alexander Donne, age 34, from Murchison, Nelson, New Zealand (3rd Wellington Regiment) (239);
- Pte 23114 George Frederick Earnshaw, killed on his 32nd birthday, from Christchurch (1/3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade) (223);
- Pte 1819 James Michael Foley, aged 29, native of Port Melbourne, Victoria (44th Battalion AIF) (222);
- Pte 37830 Richard Henry Forrest, from Dudley (1st or 10th Worcestershire Regiment: records conflicting) (248);
- Gnr 95142 Samuel Grundy, aged 33, from Leicester (221 Siege Battery RGA) (230);
- S/Sgt-Fitter 313004 Charles Meakin Hammersley from Stoke-on-Trent (1/1 North Midland RGA) (215);
- Pte 32701 Thomas Edward Hawkins, aged 23, from New Selston, Nottinghamshire (7th South Staffordshire Regiment) (235);
- Spr 653 Peter James Hodgetts, aged 22, from South Ballarat, Victoria (2nd Australian Divisional Signal Company RE) (224);
- BQMS 313003 Joseph Howse (1/1 North Midland RGA) (232);
- Pte 2909 William Henry Isle, aged 29, from Brisbane, Queensland (47th Battalion AIF) (222);
- Pte 1633 Ernest Hood Leake, aged 42, from Pyramid Hill, Victoria (3rd Australian Pioneers) (217);
- Dvr 19926 Colin McArthur, age 28, from Freemantle, Western Australia (8th Brigade Austrian Field Artillery) (214);
- Cpl 11/1461 James McDonnell, aged 27, from Ruan, Mataroa (2nd(?) New Zealand Brigade Ammunition Column) (238);
- Sgt 40417 William Samuel McKenzie, from Stratford, London (175 Brigade RFA) (237);
- Gnr 174538 Alfred Perry, from Ilkeston (B/148 Brigade RFA) (249);
- Pte 15771 George Richard Porter, aged 49, from Otane, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand (company cook 2nd Wellington Regiment) (212);
- Gnr 133585 Robert W. Richardson, age 39, from Waterhouse (Durham) (41 Siege Battery RGA) (218);
- Pte 2263 Oliver Frank Terry, aged 29, from Bayswater, Western Australia (51st Battalion AIF) (220);
- Pte 41701 Reginald Meyrick Waites, aged 32, from Cardiff (6th Yorkshire Regiment) (245);
- Rfmn 652185 Walter Anthony Weight, age 20, from Plumstead (1/21st London Regiment) (243);
- Pte 1116 Percy Ernest Edwin Wilkinson, age 23, native of Crafers, South Australia (4th Australian Field Ambulance) (241).
- Dvr 82559 James Mahoney (175 Brigade RFA) (208).
It is especially tragic that many of these victims had only been admitted to the CCS for treatment of relatively minor ailments, such as diarrhoea or requiring dental treatment. Several of them were veterans of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign.
Two men passed away at 11 CCS on 7 July 1917 but of wounds but not resulting from the raid
- Gnr 2/1389 Robert Bestall, age 34, from Wanganui but native of South Africa (New Zealand Divisional Ammunition Column RFA) (244);
- Pte 2839 Thomas James Denyer, age 20, native of Hampshire, England (15th Battalion AIF) (236) died at 11 CCS on 7 July 1917 of wounds but not resulting from the raid.
My analysis of those who were wounded is certainly only partial. These men were certainly among the victims but clearly there are others yet to be identified:
Royal Army Medical Corps wounded:
- Pte 11373 J. Coffey, age 22 (11 CCS admission record states he was serving with 32 CCS; bomb wounds to face and leg)
- Pte 43795 Harold Sinclair (bomb wounds to thigh and hand);
- Pte DM2/164128 George Burke (Army Service Corps attached 227 Siege Battery RGA);
- Pte 164593 (?) N. W. Deighton (Army Service Corps attached 66 Siege Battery RGA);
- Bdr 76309 Stephen Kearney (208 Siege Battery RGA; bomb wound right arm);
- Pte 14519 J. Lee (20th Lancashire Fusiliers, bomb wound right forearm);
- Dvr 157860 (?) D. Mitchell, 25 Divisional Ammunition Column RFA);
- Gnr 67074 Henry Smith (112 Siege Battery RGA);
- Dvr 85593 C. Williams (311 Brigade RFA);
Three nurses of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve), Sisters Louisa Bowles and Cissy Spence and Staff Nurse Louisa Mary Gilbert were awarded the Military Medal for bravery. The announcement was made in the “London Gazette” of 17 September 1917 and they had a common citation which read,
At Bailleul Ambulance Siding. This lady was on duty on the night of the 6/7th July 1917, at No.11 Casualty Clearing Station. For about three hours bombs were repeatedly dropped in the immediate vicinity of, and eventually into the Casualty Clearing Station which was under canvas. There were some 250 patients in the Hospital at the time, 27 were killed and 68 wounded amongst the patients and personnel as the result of seven bombs dropped on the Hospital. Throughout, she continued her duties amongst the patients, helping to calm them and tending to those wounded in the bombardment. She showed most remarkable coolness and devotion to duty, and gave a splendid example under very trying circumstances.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
National Archives MH106 admission register of 11 CCS
Ancestry, Findmypast and TheGenealogist for medal and service records
National Archives of Australia for service records
Australian War Memorial for war diaries of II ANZAC
New Zealand Archives for service records
London Gazette and Scarletfinders for details of awards