The War of Life
Letter from the Rev. Albert Woods to his wife in Winnipeg (undated); republished in "My Grandfather's War; Canadians Remember the First World War, 1914-1918," William D. Mathieson, 1981
Now let us suppose a man is wounded in the front trench. He is at once picked up by the stretcher bearers, given first aid, placed on a stretcher and brought to the R.A.P., where he is examined, iodine put on his wound and redressed. If the patient is suffering and if the wound permits, a small dose of morphia is given. His Regimental Number, Name and Unit, nature of wound, and Treatment given is indicated on a card and fastened to the patient's tunic.
If the wound is dangerous, or serious, a red card is red, if slight, white, all these particulars are entered in a book kept solely for the purpose by the Battalion M.O. The patient is given a drink of hot coffee and sent on to the Advanced Field Ambulance Dressing Station where he is again examined and sent on to the main Dressing Station by Motor Ambulance, usually about three miles behind the firing line. Here the patient is given a dose of anti-toxin as s preventative of Tetanus. His wounds are redressed, dry socks put on if needed and available. Here he is given plenty of hot food and drink. If he is a serious case he's sent on ac once co the Casualty Clearing Station where necessary operations are performed. Thus I have known patients entered at the C.C.S. only five hours after they were wounded.
The whole system works like an endless chain propelled by an unseen power; there is no confusion under the most severe stress. Every ounce of energy is used to the best advantage, nothing being wasted, the thing moves as in a circle. We do not as a rule credit the Medical men with a keen business ability, but at the front (I know nothing of the conditions as they exist in England) there is no department of this vast and complicated Military Machine that is better organized, more efficiently managed, or has produced better results than the Canadian Army Medical Service. When the Field Ambulances have delivered their patients to the Casualty Clearing Station, their responsibilities cease. The C.C.S.
are aways situated on a railway line and as soon as possible the patients are moved by Ambulance train to one of the Stationary Hospitals and from there to England. At the C.C.S. there is a large staff of nurses, or "angels in white" as we call them, and the patients receive the same attention they would receive in an old established hospital. They are well equipped with the modern appliances, such as X-Ray machines, etc. The best Surgeons procurable are found there. So amongst all the misery of war and within easy distance of its relentless activities are found the more civilized and humane endeavours of humanity; the desire to alleviate suffering. The war of life against death and pain. On the one hand it is science straining every nerve to accomplish man's destruction, on the other hand it is science working overtime to save his his life.