Site 12 - The Sick Quarters

or Casualty Air Evacuation Centre

The Hospital site Today is the site of a PRIVATE FARM and some of the original ministry concrete can be seen from the main road.   The original entrance is grassed over and little remains of the original roadway in.

Images taken via Google Mapping

The role of the Flying Nightingales is explained at length as a separate article - their role was to care for the wounded men who were being transported back from the front line to 46 Group's hospital unit which was based at Blakehill.

The hospital was situated on the northern side of the airfield, off the B4040 Malmesbury road - it was a large establishment with operating theaters, most of the beds being under canvas.

Local sources describe how many people from Cricklade would stand in a nearby bridleway and watch the ambulances bring the wounded soldiers into the CAEC.

 

Burn cases would be taken immediately to Salisbury where they would receive specialist treatment.

Site Survey carried out on the 30th June 2018

(originally published via Facebook)

 

By the 30th June 1944, 233 RAF Squadron of RAF Blakehill Farm along with the 73 Air Dispatch corp, and nursing orderlies known as the Flying Nightingales had completed 384 flying hours and 119 sorties to transport equipment to Normandy with the recovery of 1398 casualties since the 13th June.

Today also marked another chapter in my Blakehill Farm research. Taking advantage of the parched conditions, I was granted permission to survey the remains of the medical site (Dispersal Site No. 12) with the kind permission of land owner, Phillipa Woolford.

Without obviously excavating the site, we used surviving site plans, building schedules and archaeological dowsing techniques to identify the linear crop mark in her small paddock were remains of the hospital site blast shelter - nearby in the left corner of the paddock was the site of a large water tank. The ambulance garage and mortuary was roughly where the driveway to her home now stands and it was confirmed that her farm buildings cover the site of the hospital nissen huts. An area marked as a dark feature on the aerial photo was a small depression which was the site of the wash house and latrine, suggesting the depression is caused by demolition and collapsed drains, and would explain a strong dowsing response.

I have attached photos of the survey with Phillipa's permission, using additional enhancements to demonstrate the lost features.

Possibly the most emotive remaining feature is the small 5m x 9m section of concrete road, the entrance/exit of which is lost in the verge of the B4040, where the wheels of military ambulances and vehicles carried the wounded from Normandy into and out of the site. Another section of track is nearby, pictured with my Royal Enfield, forming part of the traffic system that by today, 74 years ago would have by now seen over a thousand broken men return from the horrors of war.

It didn't end here. Sadly, the carnage was to continue - Arnhem was on the horizon.

Today we remember the events of the end of June 1944 and thank Phillipa and her families kind permission - join me in raising a glass to the men, the aircrews and nurses who brought them home to this small Wiltshire field, from D Day at least.

Their story will never be forgotten whilst this project continues.

Road remains

Water Tank Crop Mark

Crop Mark of Open Blast Shelter - see example photo

Hospital Location

Wash House

Crop Mark of Open Blast Shelter 

Crop Mark of Open Blast Shelter 

Crop Mark of Open Blast Shelter 

Example of an Open Maze Blast Shelter similar to the type at the medical site - situated close to the hospital buildings, it would not have provided protection in a direct hit, but could be easily and quickly entered to give some level of protection from bomb blast.  

Kindly donated by Phillippa Woolford during the survey at the RAF Blakehill medical site, was this 29cm clear glass internal screw top bottle with a criss-cross design on the neck and LEESE & CO SWINDON around the base - found during post war building work at the site

Original ministry concrete road surface

5m x 9m remains of original road 

Second portion of remaining road surface - ministry concrete

The lost entrance on the B4040 where original roadway passes into site - dent in hedgerow marks entrance/exit

The ghostly image of the ambulance station and medical centre mourge 

The ghostly image of the ambulance station and medical centre mourge