Sketch by Jack Chalker

Training

On the 15th January 1940 the unit, with around just 30 men in total transferred to Necton Hall, Norfolk.  This hall has now been demolished it is sad to say.  The unit stayed at Necton until May 14th 1940 and during this period the 196 rapidly began to take shape as a unit.  The 5th March 1940 saw the largest number of men enlisted to the unit.

During the period at Necton, more men came from the 161 (EA) Field ambulance and some from other units such as 2/5th (East) Battalion, The Essex Regiment.  The men were sent on courses and equipment such as War Department Motorcycles and vehicles and clothing were gathered.  Men were promoted within the War establishment to Staff Sergeants, Sergeants, corporals and Lance Corporals. 

As this compliment of men were increased the 196 and it’s training were put to use, as Germany had now invaded France and the Low countries and the first Luftwaffe raids were seen over East Anglia. 51 men moved to establish Advance Dressing Stations (ADS) at Loddon, Coltishall and Acle in Norfolk.  With the move of the ADS’s, the HQ of the unit was based at White House in Trowse on the 15th May 1940.  The unit was formed into three companies, A, B and HQ.  Each company was broken down into three sections.  Each section contained a Medical Officer, a Sergeant, two other Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) and fourteen men.  There is also a cook, a Lance Corporal motorcyclist and three Drivers from the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC).  Each section from A & B companies formed Advanced Dressing Stations (ADS), that collected wounded from Regimental Aid Posts (RAP) and transferred these to the Main Dressing Stations (MDS).  The MDS was usually formed from the HQ Company.

On the 31st May 1940, the headquarters then moved to “Coonoor”, 151 Yarmouth Road, Thorpe, Norfolk.

In July 1940 the unit was based at Witton House in Witton near Norwich having moved there on 6th July. On the 5th July Lieutant Colonel Huston reported for duty as the officer commanding the 196 Field Ambulance.  He would stay as the last officer to command the unit.  They stayed at Witton for a few months, not moving on again until December 1940, nearly a year since the unit was formed.  The MDS was based at Witton House and there were two ADS’s at Acle  - “A” Coy, and Barton Hall - “B” Coy.  There was also detachments of Regimental Aid Posts at Rollesbury and Great Yarmouth.  Private John Margerum remembers tearing down the “Acle straight” when Great Yarmouth was raided by the Germans, to help with the injured at the hospital there.

It appears that between moving from Witton to Newton Hall, Newton, Cambridge in December 1940, the unit was based at the Old Hall, Hethersett.  “A” coy moved from Somerleyton Hall to Chatteris, Cambs and “B” coy from Witton to West Wratting, Cambs.  This continued into January 1941 with the HQ operating a Main Dressing Station (MDS) and “A” and “B” Coy operating ADS‘s at Chatteris and West Wratting.

On 3rd January 1941 the unit moved to Yeltholm, Kelso, Roxburghshire, Scotland. It was reported that weather conditions were poor with snow and ice present during this time.   Some of the unit were given leave during January during some severe weather conditions at times.

In April 1941 the whole unit stayed in Bury, Lancashire at “Two Brookes Mill”, Hawkshaw until August 1941. The Nursing medics of the unit attended a course in Manchester at a rate of 12 men every 14 days.  Training continued throughout July with courses on Law, messing, clothing and equipment as well.  There was also joint exercises with other units from the 18th Division and Western command. 

The unit moved on the 13th August 1941, by road and rail, to it’s final British location of Norton Manor, Prestigne in Radnorshire, with all of the unit arriving by the 18th August.  There it pitched in a tented camp and continued training as part of the 54th Brigade, 18th  (East Anglia) Division. Here the unit had it’s picture taken outside the manor.

On 24th September Lieut Col Huston was told that the unit would proceed overseas at an early date as part of the 18th Division.  The unit was then given embarkation leave at 30% of the unit a week, starting 26th September 1941.  This leave lasted for seven days.

By the 27th October 1941 the unit was back to together at Norton Hall. Around 0830hrs they marched through the streets of Prestigne to a special troop train, that took them to Avonmouth and the Bristol Channel.  This was the final step on the 196’s journey of Britain.

 

Next

Liverpool to Halifax

 

 

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[196 Field Ambulance] [Training] [Liverpool - Halifax] [Halifax - Singapore] [Battle Singapore] [Captivity] [Roll of Honour] [Photo]

 

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