Evacuation of the
Instruments and Chart
of death in British Army hospitals 1812-1814
Lists of British
officers wounded and killed in the Peninsula
of men wounded in battle was a major headache for
all armies of the Napoleonic Era.
the injured had to be left on the field until after
the battle was over and even then evacuation was slow.
parties would be sent out on to the field to sort
through the piles of dead bodies for men unable to
crawl back to their own lines.
men spent days on the field surrounded by dead bodies
and other wounded men, suffering from shock, thirst
and their injuries.
they also had to survive the unwanted attentions of
local villagers who would descend upon the carnage
to grab whatever valuables they could before military
police drove them away. Many wounded men had their
throats cut by the scavengers to stop them alerting
a soldier was not badly wounded he would usually walk
to the nearest aid station, more badly injured troops
required assistance from comrades. It was not uncommon
during a battle for a wounded man to be helped away
from the danger by one or two men whose courage was
unable to walk - even with help - had to endure rough
passage on makeshift stretchers. They could be as
basic as muskets or pikes slipped into the sleeves
mountainous areas mules and donkeys were surefooted
enough to carry men, and camels were used by the French
in the Egyptian campaign.
were used in most European countries, but the lack
of decent springs meant the slow trip on rough roads
was often agony for the injured.
surgeons of both the French and British armies tried
to find ways of alleviating the suffering of wounded
men by speeding up the evacuation process.
Dominique Larrey invented
a flying ambulance
for getting men out of a raging battle to safety.
Dr James McGrigor spent many hours trying to persuade
the Duke of Wellington
to improve medical evacuation, but was told that until
the whole wagon-train and commissariat system could
be overhauled there was little chance.
McGrigor did develop prefabricated mobile hospitals
that would move with the army on campaign. This saved
the lives of countless British soldiers who otherwise
would have succumbed to their wounds.