RCMS Trivia


The first CFHSTC Honorary Colonel was a member of the British Trans Arctic Expedition in 1968-69

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The origin(s) of the Royal Canadian Medical Service (RCMS) motto Militi Succurrimus


While the most recent history of the Canadian Forces Health Service gives credit to Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Grasset as the person to suggest the Motto of the CFHS, Militi Succurrimus. Tony did not propose the name but submitted it to the CFHS. The person proposing it was Michael Warrington. In 2007 Canadian Medical Association Journal[1] has a statement from Michael. “In 1976, while serving as medical officer in the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own), I was asked by the area surgeon, LCol Anthony Grasset, if I had any ideas for a motto for the CFMS. We had both studied medicine at Middlesex Hospital in London, UK. The hospital’s motto Miseris Succerrere Disco (I am learning to succour the distressed) was inspired by a quotation from the Aeneid by Virgil (70-19 BC) at the part where Queen Dido says to Aeneas when he was cast upon her shores: ‘Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco’ (Knowing something of misfortune myself, I am learning to succour the distressed). I suggested that we adapt this motto. On 10 August 1988, the CFMS adopted Militi Succurrimus (We succour the soldier) as its motto.”
On Aug. 10, 1988, the CFMS adopted Militi Succurrimus (We succour the soldier) as its motto.
[1] Canadian Medical Association Journal 06 November 2007, Volume 77, No. 10
NOTE: The above information was updated July 5, 2014, based on information provided by Dr. John Blatherwick, former Honorary Colonel 12 (Vancouver) Field Ambulance

The Origins of the Field Ambulance


Fd AmbThe Field Ambulance originated as a mobile unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps. It was situated quite close behind the fighting front, and received wounded and sick men. Some had received rudimentary treatment at the front-line aid posts. The job of the Field Ambulance was to treat men who could be quickly returned to unit (the lightly wounded or sick) but in general to prepare the men for a move rearward to a Casualty Clearing Station.
fdamb mapThis sketch map, from “The war story of the Canadian Army Medical Corps” by J. George Adami, gives a good impression of the location of Field Ambulances with respect to the position of the front line. Facilities (Advanced and Main Dressing Stations) operated by the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Field Ambulances can be seen at Wieltje, Ypres and Vlamertinghe while the fighting troops are forward of the Grafenstafel Ridge. In between are the regimental aid posts.
In 1914, each infantry Division had three Field Ambulances, each of which was divided into three Sections. In turn, those Sections had Stretcher Bearer and Tented subsections. The Field Ambulance comprised 10 officers and 224 men, as shown below. In no way should modern readers confuse this with our current-day usage of the word ambulance, meaning the vehicle.
A Section
A Section comprised 65 men in total. It acted as a headquarters for the Ambulance as well as carrying out teh medical tasks.
  • Lieutenant-Colonel in command of the Field Ambulance and A Section
  • Captain or Lieutenant in command of Stretcher Bearer subsection
  • 1 Sergeant and 1 Corporal
  • 1 Bugler
  • 3 Privates (wagon orderlies) and 36 Privates (bearers)
  • Captain or Lieutenant in command of Tent subsection
  • Quartermaster, Sergeant-Major, 2 Sergeants, 2 Corporals
  • 15 Privates (including a cook, a washerman and 2 orderlies)
  • 1 Sergeant, 10 Drivers and 4 officer’s batmen attached from the Army Service Corps
  • 1 ASC Driver for the cook’s wagon
This is “A Section” of 129 Field Ambulance ‘somewhere in Flanders’.

B and C Sections
The two Sections comprised 128 men in total.
  • Captain or Lieutenant in command of Stretcher Bearer subsection
  • 1 Sergeant and 1 Corporal
  • 1 Bugler
  • 2 Privates (wagon orderlies) and 36 Privates (bearers)
  • Major, Captain or Lieutenant in command of Tent subsection
  • Quartermaster, Sergeant-Major, 4 Sergeants, 2 Corporals
  • 13 Privates (including a cook, a washerman and 2 orderlies)
  • 2 Sergeant, 18 Drivers and 6 officer’s batmen attached from the Army Service Corps
Also attachedThe Field Ambulances relied heavily on horses for transport and had an establishment of 14 riding and 52 draught and pack horses. They worked the 23 wagons, 3 water carts, 3 forage carts, 6 GS wagons, 10 ambulance wagons, and the cook’s wagon. The Ambulance also had a single bicycle.
Neither officers or men carried weapons or ammunition.
By the end of 1914, each Field Ambulance also had 7 motor ambulances. A workshop to maintain them was added to the Division, although in 1916 it was absorbed in the Supply Column.
Associated but not part of the Field Ambulance
A Sanitary Section (a unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps consisting of a Lieutenant or Second-Lieutenant, 2 Sergeants, 2 Corporals, 20 Privates and 1 batman) was added to each Division in early 1915. Its job was to maintain as far as possible clean water supplies, cooking facilities and billets. The Sanitary Sections came under Corps or Army control from March 1917 onwards.
 m 1989  until the final edition published in 1998

2 Responses to “RCMS Trivia”

  1. Henry Ziabek says:

    This is interesting and will look at becoming a member.

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