Monday, 14 January 2013

Memorial Plaques, Introduction

This Memorial Plaque in Exeter Cathedral commemorates the men from the 1st Wessex Field Ambulance, a medical unit from Exeter & Teignmouth which fought in the First World War. In 1914, the 1st Wessex was designated  24th Field Ambulance and sent to France in November 1914 with a regular Division (quite an honour). The 2/1st Wessex was the second line unit. It recruited and sent draughts to the 24th and later embarked for France in January 1916 as a separate unit.

Also from the West country but with no memorial (that I know of) is the 2nd Wessex Field Ambulance  and it's second line unit 2/2nd Wessex Field Ambulance from Plymouth & Camborne; and 3rd & 2/3rd Wessex Field Ambulances from Portsmouth & Southampton. Both the 2nd & 3rd were also designated 25th & 26th respectively and joined 24th in the 8th Division. The second line units also went to the Western Front in 1916.  The South West Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance also recruited from Somerset & Wiltshire and served with the BEF.

These plaques commemorate the men of the 1/3rd & 2/3rd South Midland Field Ambulances, who were based in Bristol and Gloucestershire. The memorials are to be found in Bristol Cathedral. Both units served on the Western Front from 1915 with the 1/3rd also seeing service in Italy. The West country also recruited staff for TF Hospitals based in the region -  the 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th Southern General Hospitals, (in Bristol, Oxford, Plymouth & Portsmouth) which took in many of the wounded from all battle fronts.

All these units have one thing in common - they are the First War antecedent units to 243 (The Wessex) Field Hospital (V), of which I am a member. In this blog, I will be posting about the men from these units, and also about war dead from my own family. I will also be talking about the history of these units and looking into first world war medicine in a bit more detail.

We in 243 have seen war, too. Members of our unit have served in many modern day conflicts - The Falklands, Bosnia, First Gulf War, Op Telic, and Op Herrick. We have now been involved in two tours in Afghanistan, and many go out as individuals attached to other units. But thankfully, up to now, we have only lost one person - our regular Training Officer who was killed in the Falklands. 

As a whole, the First War units did not lose as many soldiers as some regiments did, but each one was felt in families and in the community. The Wessex, and the South Midland Field Ambulances were Territorial Force units who all trained together before the War, and who all came from the same local area - much the same area from which our modern day unit recruits. Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire & Hampshire, and everywhere in between! Exeter, Bristol, Southampton, Portsmouth, Plymouth and many cities and towns. They were men from ordinary backgrounds - postmen, printers, labourers, miners, with a smattering of doctors, pharmacists and the odd nursing orderly. But they made a difference to so many others who served in the First World War, both military & civilian.

More about their History and deeds later......


  1. Regarding Fred Jacobs. Did he have an Edinburgh connection?

  2. Not that I have found apart from his short service in the RSF. His parents were local to Hampshire & Dorset and I have not gone further back than that.

  3. A framed photo of fred mounted by an Edinburgh framemaker turned up in Edinburgh recently. The frame appeared to be untouched with the framemakers adress label on the rear thats why I thought he might have had a connection here

  4. Fred Jacobs Brother Charles settled in Portobello Edinburgh , several artifacts have appeared via an antique dealer in Edinburgh . Amongst the items were Fred and Charles medals ,Freds in particular had been mounted in a spectacular frame with his Memorial Scroll . There was a photo of Fred wearing his Boer War medals and a photo of Charles in the Cameron Highlanders. A later photo of Charles in the Portobello brass band was also there