Stage 2: The Battlefield

While none of the troops in the Medical Corps fought in battle, they were directly responsible for treating the men who did. In fact, avoiding the direct dangers of the battlefield could have been one of the reasons so many Lancaster men enlisted in the 111th instead of an infantry unit. The troops who fought in the trenches endured bombings, shellings, and chemical weapons unlike any experienced in earlier conflicts. Troops in the Medical Corps also managed to avoid the horrors of the trenches. They did, however, face their own unique set of horrors: the 111th became familiar with every battlefield injury. When faced with injuries as serious as those inflicted by the enemy, the diseases contracted in daily life seemed minuscule. Battlefield wounds required most, if not all, of the Medical Corps’ supplies, attention, and expertise.

Hollinger’s Dairy:

Wed. Jul. 24, 1918
Not much doing this morning
Detailed to work at Bas with dix huit {eighteen}
altogether. Packed up and bought
chocolate etc. left a bag behind with this
etc. Got on ambs at 6 + went to a place above Corpis
above Epieds. Helped in last band in Bas but no
[___]
work. Slept in barn under shellfire + gas etc
all night. No damage. Seemed to be lost.
3 Kabras du front. Fr {The French} out making much noise
(This although Shaf Bald + I walked around walls
+ came back of Chte

Mustard Gas:

Although gas attacks were outlawed by the 1899 Hague Declaration and the 1907 Hague Conference, mustard gas was used in the war. Because it was not considered a “poison or poison weapon,” both sides still used it[1]. Once a canister of mustard gas was deployed, it spread on its own and engulfed everything in its path.

Considering the use of trenches in the war and the fact that mustard gas was difficult to detect, it became a most versatile and effective weapon. Whereas the gas was not severe enough to kill people who inhaled it, it could cause severe inflammation in the lungs and blisters on the skin, nose, eyes, and mucous membranes[2]. Sustained exposure resulted in respiratory tract infections, blindness, diarrhea, as well as second and third degree burns. If troops were exposed to the gas for too long, it eventually damaged the DNA in their bone marrow, thereby causing a decreased production of both red and white blood cells. Sometimes it produced cancer, bone disease, and death years after exposure[3]. (Click here to see mustard gas wounds. Warning: graphic images.)

Hollinger’s Diary:

Mon. Feb. 11, 1918 
very warm
Moved back to Co. {Company} again so that Inf {infantry}
could dig trenches on our site. Body of Engineers either
left or went on 9 day hike
Hard work moving our + the other tents + baggage back to Co. {Company}
street.

Trenches:

Although Hollinger never fought in the trenches, the men with whom he served did. The 111th’s deployment near battlefields ensured that Hollinger’s company was familiar with trenches and the conditions that they presented for troops. Trenches were deep, interconnected pits in the ground that were a few feet wide and miles long. Men would live in the trenches for days, if not weeks at a time, separated from the enemy by No Man’s land. This style of warfare was indicative of WWI: painstakingly slow, grueling, and unavoidable.

Hollinger036trench2_Fotor

Hollinger’s Diary:

Mon. Oct. 28, 1918
Woke up by M. g. {machine guns} firing on one of Jerry {German}.
Obs avions {obervations planes}. Sent to Essey on
same detail. Sat out front for
papers. Ludendorf[4] resigns.
Trois casse d briere Finis a de soir {Three mugs of beer.
Finished in the evening} 
Pumpkin pie for supper
Jerry passed overhead a number of
times but didn't drop any {bombs} on the town

Jerry the Bomber:

Jerry the Bomber was the colloquial name given to the German bomb planes. The most popular model in 1917 was the Albatros, a biplane fighter that was constantly being redesigned to fix structural problems.

Hollinger’s Diary:

Thurs. Jul. 25, 1918
Chased out early. Later went to Reg {Regiment} a + 6 were
detailed to adv {advance} basement there in fads {First Aid 
Dressing Station} over
next battle field. Bas {base} at farm house with big dugout
stayed there in sight of Bosh {Germans} for the could see our
obvs[5] falling on Bosh. Walked back on front of FA {First Aid} + the
mortar B+ much noise. Big shells land nearby.
Another crew went out with rations + got shelled
No damage. Slept in barn at arty {artillery} place all afternoon
As were leaving in evening big air battle took place
overhead. Some shelling done. Stayed in base dressing
Left later + went to Bezu[6] Saw some little tanks

 

MG45_Folder11_03_battleaftermathFotor[7]

Bombs and Shelling:

Both sides in the conflict relied on a variety of weapons. Everything from grenades, to chemicals such as mustard and tear gas, to expanding bullets, or Dum-Dums, were used against the enemy. Despite wartime laws designed to reduce or eliminate the use of uncivilized weapons like mustard gas and Dum-Dum bullets, they nonetheless made an appearance on the battlefield. Soldiers who served in the Medical Corps, like Hollinger, had to be ready for all types of injuries. To see Dum-Dum bullets, click here. (Translation: The notorious Dum-Dum bullet, the work of Germany’s enemies.)

 

Once a soldier was wounded, he waited for the bearers to find him and carry him to medical care. Click here to learn more about the bearers.

[1]Thomas Graham; Damien J. Lavera (May 2003). Cornerstones of Security: Arms Control Treaties in the Nuclear Era. University of Washington Press. pp. 7–9. ISBN 0-295-98296-9.

[2]http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/sulfurmustard/basics/facts.asp

[3]Ibid.

[4] Erich Ludendorf, German general.

[5] Abbreviation for observation balloon, an aircraft that flew with the intention of gaining military intelligence.

[6] Besú-Saint-Germain

[7]“Postcards from France,” Folder 11, WWI Collection, Lancasterhistory.org.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s