5th Field Ambulance

From Our Contribution

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Two Ambulances of 5th Field Ambulance show damage caused by high explosives AWM P01456.002
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Shoulder patch

Brief History

The Unit was raised at Liverpool (Sydney) camp on the 15th Mar 1915. The Unit then moved to Queens Park, Waverley where all branches of training was carried out. On the 12 May 1915, one Officer and thirteen other ranks left for EGYPT on board HMAT A32 Themistocles. The Ambulance Transport Sub Divisions and part of C section departed Sydney on the 31 May 1915 on board HMAT A31 Ajana, and the main body of the Field Ambulance departed on the 25 Jun 1915 on board HMAT A40 Ceramic. A mishap occurred with the Ajanain that due to the extreme heat in the Red Sea, the ship berthed at Bombay to give the horses a spell, but on entering the docks it struck the lock gate and buckled her bow. This gave the all the troops aboard a week in Bombay whilst repairs were carried out.

Disembarking in Suez, the troops were railed to Heliopolis, where they went into camp. Following training and equipping, the field ambulance departed for Gallipoli (minus its transport element) and arrived at Anzac Cove, before daylight, on the 22 Aug 1915. Eight Officers and 198 Other Ranks disembarked in the early hours of the morning with the last party reaching the shore just after daybreak. For the remainder of the day, the unit rested in Reserve Gully. At 7.30pm, it left for Hills Point and their first task was for the stretcher bearers who were called on to assist in carrying wounded from Hill 60. On the following day, the Field Ambulance set up its first Dressing Station by establishing an Aid Post at Waldrons Point, the first ambulance post to be set up by an Australian Division. Overnight they processed 307 casualties through the Aid Post. This consisted of a small operating tent where 6 Medical Officers and staff were working continuously. The stretcher-bearers had to carry patients approx. 5 kilometers and the unit suffered its first casualty when Pte. W. Ramage was killed while collecting wounded in no mans land. On 7 Sep 1915, B section moved to Popes Post while A and C sections went to Rest Gully. Later, B section moved to Mule Gully. While some volunteers remained to the last to treat injured men, the majority of the unit left Gallipoli on 15 Dec 1915. Of teh 2,934 patients treated by the unit, 969 of them later rejoined their units for duty. Christmas was spent on Lemnos., with return to Alexandria on 8 Jan 1916.

Back in Egypt they traveled by train to Tel-el-Kabir, where the transport sub-divisions rejoined before the unit moved to Ferry Post on the Canal. The unit left Moascar for France on 17 Mar 1916 aboard HMT Arcadian and arrived without mishap at Marseilles on the 22nd. The following night the unit left by train for Northern France. The impressions of this 3-days journey will never be forgotten as the troops witnessed smiling faces, waving handkerchiefs and blowing kisses from every farmhouse and village and railway station they passed through. Gifts of flowers and fruit were pressed on them. The destination was a small French village about 25 miles from the front line. In the distance could be seen the flashes from the guns and flares and the reports of the shell explosions would float back to our lines.

On the 1st of July, the unit moved to the SOMME to take part in the attacks on Pozieres. The unit, during that time, was in charge of the evacuation of a Divisional front and all patients passed through their HQ at Becourt Chateau. The unit then moved back to Canaples where recuperation and reorganisation took place. Here a new C section was formed and the unit was brought back to its former strength. On 29 August the unit was back in the line. The battle was still raging and the unit worked with stretcher bearers from other Field Ambulances on a line of evacuation running through the place where Pozieres had once been, out to Mouquet Farm. After a week or so, the unit left for Vardencourt and from there took over part of the line in the Ypres sector. A fairly quiet month was spent there before they were sent back to the SOMME for the winter.

After a rest at Ribemont, our HQ took over the post in the German-made dug-outs under the remains of the famous Contalmaison Chateau. their Advanced Dressing Station was at Martinpuich. A number of stretcher squads from our unit formed part of the column pursuing the Germans who withdrew to the Hindenburg Line, tasked with keeping in close touch with the enemy. Their next engagement was at Bullecourt where the stretcher-bearers of ALL the ambulances engaged earned special praise for their magnificent work under constant observation and enemy shellfire. Unfortunately, more casualties were suffered here than in any previous action. After Bullecourt, the Australian units received a well earned rest and during May, June and July 1917 before returning to the front in time for Passchendaele.

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Forty two men lost their lives while posted to this unit. The unit was disbanded in England in 1919






Individual Honours

  • 3 x Distinguished Service Order
  • 1 x Distinguished Conduct Medal
  • 44 x Military Medal
  • 4 x Bar to Military Medal
  • 7 x Meritorious Service Medal
  • 10 x Mentioned in Despatches
  • 3 x Belgium Croix de Guerre
  • 1 x French Medaille des Epidemies, Silver


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