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The Organisation of the RAMC during the Great War
  1. Dr RL Atenstaedt, MA MPhil MSc DPhil MB BS MPH DFPH, Specialist Registrar in Public Health Medicine National Public Health Service for Wales1
  1. 1Institute of Medical and Social Care Research Ardudwy, University of Wales Bangor Gwynedd LL57 2PX Robert.Atenstaedt{at}


Introduction At the 90 year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, it is important to remember the members of the RAMC who served in the Great War, especially the more than one thousand Medical Officers who gave their lives.

Leadership The RAMC during the First World War was a Corps led by some able officers such as Sir Arthur Sloggett in France and Sir Alfred Keogh in London. Sir Douglas Haig was in overall command, his leadership style impacting on the RAMC.

Recruitment of MOs There were problems in filling the ranks of the Corps, both before the conflict, as well as well as during the War, and a significant number of civilian medical practitioners were recruited to the RAMC. Shortages were only really addressed when the Americans joined the conflict.

Training of Civilian MOs The great need for MOs meant that there was little time for formal training of civilian MOs and many felt unsuited for war work. This was recognised by the authorities, who gradually set up centres of instruction.

Work of RMOs The workhorse of the organisation was the Regimental Medical Officer, who had an important role in disease prevention and the conservation of manpower, in a type of conflict (trench) that required a ready supply of personnel. Although an important role, some doctors found the job frustrating.

Casualty Evacuation During the War, the RAMC managed to improvise an efficient system for handling casualties, the aim to give speedy treatment and to return the men to the front in the shortest possible time.

Conclusions The RAMC during the Great War was a highly structured and efficient organisation, geared towards maximising its available manpower, important in trench warfare.

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