Convalescent Depots in France

Casualties would generally be moved to one of these Convalescent Depots after being discharged from a nearby General or Stationary Hospital, before they were then moved to a Base Depot ready for redeployment. It is however also evident from their war diaries that these depots did on occasion also admit casualties local casualties directly.

Number 1 Convalescent Depot

5 August 1914: mobilised at Aldershot
14 August 1914: Sailed from Southampton, arrived next day at Le Havre attached to 2 General Hospital
24 August 1914: relocated to Sanvic Camp near Le Havre
2 September 1914: sailed for Saint-Nazaire
4 November 1914: moved by railway via Rouen and Abbeville, arrived at Boulogne next day
5 November 1914: established at Marlborough Camp*, Boulogne
14 January 1919: war diary ends with stores being handed over

*The origins of the name of the camp may relate to the Duke of Marlborough but a crossroads location south-east of the Colonne de la Grande Armée (north of Boulogne) is marked on late 19th Century maps as Malborough and there is today a small housing estate of that spelling nearby.

With thanks to the Wellcome Collection for the use of this image under  Creative CommonsCC BY 4.0 . It is said to be a photograph taken from the top of the Colonne de la Grande Armée and shows a convalescent camp. Boulogne centre can be seen beyond. From its location this can be presumed to be Marlborough Camp and Number 1 Convalescent Depot, later a Demobilisation Depot.

Number 2 Convalescent Depot

18 December 1914: war diary starts at Rouen
13 May 1919: war diary ends at Rouen with staff demobilised and stores handed over

Number 3 Convalescent Depot

19 June 1915: depot began to form at Le Tréport
14 March 1919: depot ceased to exist

Number 4 Convalescent Depot

1 December 1914: depot began to form at Parc d’Or, Le Havre
24 March 1919: final patients discharged

Not just rest and recovery for convalescent men: the January 1918 training schedule at 4 CD. War diary National Archives WO95/2119. Crown Copyright.

Number 5 Convalescent Depot

5-26 July 1915: depot took over a site at Wimereux formerly used by 8 Stationary Hospital and admitted its first patients
1 August 1915: extended into adjacent site recently evacuated by 1 Canadian Stationary Hospital
3 September 1915: was reporting an average of 700 patients
25 September 1915: expansion of capacity to 1500 patients was received
28 June 1916: orders received to evacuate to a temporary site at 1 Convalescent Depot
7 July 1916: orders received to a new site “opposite 3 Canadian General Hospital”. Work of transfer to the site at Cayeux began and it was soon occupied
10 August 1916: 38 officers and 777 men of the 1/8th Worcestershire Regiment who had been gassed near Ovillers-la-Boisselle were admitted for 8 days rest. On arrival they were also found to be verminous and had no change of clothing available
16 March 1919: depot closed

Number 6 Convalescent Depot

11 June 1915: depot for 1500 patients opened at Etaples, situated very close to 46 (Isolation) Stationary Hospital and 56 General Hospital.
16 May 1919: depot closed

Plan of the original site in June 1915, war diary of 6 Convalescent Depot, National Archives WO95/41230. Crown Copyright. The rectangles are lines of huts.

Number 7 Convalescent Depot

June 1915: depot site (initially a tented camp) began to form at Dannes-Camiers
11 August 1915: depot declared ready to receive patients (first ten arrived two days later)
November 1915: site was evacuated by this CD and handed over to be used as 14 and 24 Infantry Base Depots. All stores an equipment handed in and it appears that this CD temporarily ceased to exist.
Exact date unknown but appears to be June 1916: this CD reopened at Marlborough Camp, Boulogne
11 January 1919: depot had been cleared and site became Marlborough Camp Demobilisation Depot


Note: numbers 8 and 9 Convalescent Depots were based in Salonika


Number 10 Convalescent Depot

5 April 1917: establishment of the depot site at Écault (8km south of Boulogne) was authorised. Construction soon began
7 May 1917: first patient admitted
17 January 1919: depot closed

Number 11 Convalescent Depot

8 April 1917: depot began to be formed at Buchy (28km north east of Rouen), although construction had long since been started. The site straddled the road from Buchy to Saint-Saëns, near the Montérolier-Buchy railway station
10 April 1917: first patient admitted
31 January 1919: war diary ends

Number 12 Convalescent Depot

23 June 1917: depot opened on a site at Aubengue (north east of Wimereux) and received its first 101 patients who had been transferred from 7CD, even through construction of the depot was still in progress
31 May 1919: war diary ends

Number 13 Convalescent Depot

4 August 1917: depot opened on a site at Trouville and 999 patients arrived on the day from numbers 1, 7 and 10 CDs.
This depot’s war diary (TNA WO95/4121 includes an excellent report on the activities of a depot)
10 February 1919: the depot was to all intents closed by this date
Between 4 August 1917 and 3 February 1919 a total of 66798 soldiers passed through this depot.

Number 14 Convalescent Depot

30 August 1917: depot opened on a site at 5km south of Trouville
6 September 1917: first 506 patents admitted
31 January 1919: depot’s war diary ends, with small numbers of patients still being admitted and discharged

Imperial War Museum photograph Q11192. With thanks. Soldiers in their huts at No. 14 Convalescent Depot at Trouville, 16 August 1918.

Number 15 Convalescent Depot

25 October 1917 1917: a number of officers and men arrived from 11CD to commence operation of this 1000-bed depot, situated at Trouville
13 November 1918: depot closed and the site was turned over to become a German prisoner of war camp

Number 16 Convalescent Depot

17 January 1918: depot began to form at Musso Camp, 11km from the port of Marseilles, a site with huts formerly occupied by the British West Indies Regiment
30 January 1918: first patients admitted
31 March 1919: depot’s war diary ends

From “Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps”

An excellent two-part article published in the journal in 1920 and written by Lieutenant-=Colonel L. Graham Brown describes the work of the convalescent depots in detail.

Some extracts:

The locations chosen

“In their choice of sites the authorities are to be congratulated. Such sites could not be chosen haphazardly. From the point of view of beauty, healthiness, and congeniality many parts of France afforded choice; but this in itself was insufficient. Along with general hospitals, upon which they depended for their supply of patients, convalescent depots were limited in this choice of locality chiefly by the consideration of easy railway communication, not alone with the Front, but also with base ports and towns, such as were concerned with the provision of food, stores and material, and the collection of drafts and reinforcements. There were, indeed, instances of convalescent depots standing alone, but usually the practice was to group general hospitals with these into the same approximate area, the whole area conforming to the above mentioned facilities of railway communication.

The next consideration was that of the patient. He needed a healthy location, the environment of town life, which he might occasionally be permitted to experience, though always at the expense of some physical effort on his part, such as in walking to and fro, and a maximum of camp space in the form of playing fields to enable him, whenever possible, to partake in his large numbers of adequate healthy and vigorous exercise.

Hence, to meet all these requirements,  a typical site chosen might be described as follows: It was on a hill, near the sea, and within two or three miles of a town, the town itself being either a Base Port, or within easy communication of the latter by rail, road or water. It was away from the immediate environment of war, though necessarily not absolutely immune from air attack, whilst, by means of its neighbouring town, it formed a link in the great ,chain of railways that went to make up the lines of communication in France. That convalescent depots should have been located near such ports as Boulogne, Le Havre, Trouville; and Marseilles, it will be seen, as a foregone conclusion.”

The buildings of a depot (in addition to the huts or tents accommodating the patients)

“They comprised: the Administrative Offices, viz., those of the commanding officer, his adjutant, and his orderly room clerks; the guard room and police quarters; large dining halls, capable of seating 2,500 men at a single sitting, and with kitchens, washing up rooms, vegetable preparation rooms, butcher’s shop, and pantry attached; barber’s shop, dentists’s surgery, dispensary, fire station, Expeditionary Force Canteen, Quartermaster’s stores; bath-houses with hot and cold water laid on, laundries and incinerators. In addition one must include a self-contained establishment on a small scale for the lower ranks of the permanent staff personnel, and also a serjeants’ mess for all warrant officers and non-commissioned officers above the rank of corporal who at any time happened to be on the nominal roll of personnel or patients of the depot ; and; lastly, the officers’ mess and quarters which, as a rule, were set apart in some appropriate spot, near the main depot buildings.  A light decauville railway, connecting with some wayside station on the wide-gauge railway,’ ,served to bring both patients and stores to the depot, and this proved a saving of considerable time and expenditure of energy on the part of road-transport vehicles.”

Table of permanent staff personnel: total of 196 for a typical depot of 2,500 patients

  • 1 Lieutenant-Colonel (RAMC) commanding depot
  • 3 Majors and 3 Captains (RAMC) five in charge of divisions of the depot; one in charge of sanitary and other depot departments
  • 1 Captain (Regimental) adjutant and quartermaster
  • 1 Lieutenant (Regimental) assisting above
  • 1 Captain (Regimental) chief physical training instructor
  • 1 Captain (General) dental surgeon
  • 3 Captains or Lieutenants (Regimental) general duties
  • 3 Captains or Lieutenants (Regimental) to conduct drafts from CD to Base Depots
  • 3 Captains (Army Chaplains’ Department) religious services and voluntary duties
  • 1 volunteer (Red Cross) to act as searcher for information regarding killed and missing soldiers
  • 1 Sergeant-Major (Regimental) to assist adjutant
  • 5 Sergeant-Majors (Regimental) to assist the divisional medical officers
  • 1 Sergeant-Major (Army Gymnastic Staff) to assist PT officer
  • 1 Quartermaster-Sergeant (Regimental) to assist QM stores
  • 20 Company Sergeant-Majors (Regimental) each in charge of a company of the depot (c.250 men)
  • 20 Company Quartermaster-Sergeants (Regimental) each in charge of a company QM stores
  • 1 Quartermaster-Sergeant (Regimental) for Orderly Room department clerical work
  • 1 Sergeant-Major (Regimental) bandmaster
  • 5 Company Sergeant-Majors (Army Gymnastic Staff) each attached to a division as PT Staff
  • 20 Sergeants (Army Gymnastic Staff) each attached to a company as PT instructor and in charge of games
  • 3 Sergeants (Regimental) master cooks
  • 4 Sergeants (Regimental) respectively tailor, butcher, shoemaker, carpenter
  • 1 Sergeant (RAMC) in charge of dispensary
  • 1  Sergeant (Regimental) in charge of depot police and guardroom
  • 1  Sergeant (Regimental) in charge of pay department
  • 1  Corporal (Regimental) in charge of barber’s shop
  • 1  Corporal (RAMC) in charge of sanitary squad
  • 1 Corporal (Regimental) in charge of concert party entertainers
  • 2 Corporals (Regimental) assistant clerks in orderly room and pay department respectively
  • 20 Privates (Regimental) as cooks
  • 5 Privates (Regimental)  as sanitary squad
  • 5 Privates (Regimental) as officers’ servants
  • 28 Privates (Regimental) as bandsmen and entertainers
  • 5 Privates (Regimental) as clerks in various offices
  • 6 Privates (Regimental) as depot policemen
  • 5 Privates (RAMC) as medical orderlies
  • 2 Privates (RAMC) as dental mechanics

Links

Casualty evacuation chain

Base Hospitals in France

The Le Havre and Harfleur Base