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By Stewart Emmens on

Mud, Blood And Concrete

I’ve recently returned from a fortnight’s holiday in Belgium (….a terribly underrated destination – no, really). While there, I persuaded my family to spend time exploring the World War One battlefields around Ypres.  I was particularly interested in surviving evidence of frontline medical services.

Essex Farm Advanced Dressing Station
Remains of the Advanced Dressing Station at Essex Farm, north of Ypres, Belgium (Stewart Emmens)

This was once an Advanced Dressing Station (ADS), at a site known as Essex Farm. One of the largest surviving groups of military buildings in the area, these damp, claustrophobic structures were comparatively comfortable. Built in 1916, they replaced a more temporary station established the year before.

Close to the frontline trenches, it provided basic care for those wounded with each of the rooms having a designated function.  The largest were reserved for stretcher cases, those awaiting evacuation and for applying dressings and performing emergency operations.  Smaller rooms provided a kitchen, toilet and an area to treat the ‘walking wounded’.

Room interior - Essex Farm
Interior of Dressings room / Operating theatre at Essex Farm (Stewart Emmens)

The ADS was one of a chain of facilities that an injured soldier could pass through. From here, the wounded would be evacuated back to Main Dressing Stations, Casualty Clearing Stations and Base Hospitals further behind the lines.

Bandages and dressings
First World War British bandages and dressings in our Blythe House store (Stewart Emmens)