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Wilfred Owen's Places: Cerisy Gailly

The Site of No. 13 Casualty Clearing Station at Gailly Today.

Cerisy Gailly

To facilitate the rapid evacuation of seriously wounded patients, a railway line ran from the camp to Cerisy and thence to Lamotte-Warfusee, where it could connect with the main French railway system.

The far edge of the field shown in the upper photograph marks the original site of the railway siding into which hospital trains would be shunted.

Cerisy Gailly (2) Cerisy Gailly (3)

Wilfred Owen was sent here in March and again in May 1917.

The German fighting retreat eastwards to the Hindenburg Line began at Serre on 24th February 1917. In some cases the distances to be travelled to the new front line were almost 40 miles. Consequently there was a need for the Casualty Clearing Stations to move forward with the advancing British troops. No.13 CCS was one of those involved.

No. 21 CCS at Corbie had a number of "shell shock" and S.I.W.cases* being treated by a neurologist there -Captain W.Brown RAMC (T). With the departure of No.13 CCS, No 21 CCS was closed and some of the patients and medical staff transferred to the accommodation at Gailly where the unit was re-designated No.41 Stationary Hospital. Thus Wilfred Owen came under the care of a specialist in neurasthenia. The poem S.I.W. was started later in 1917 whilst Owen was at Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh, no doubt prompted by what he had learned of such cases whilst at Gailly.

*S.I.W.:- Self-Inflicted Wound. A serious and punishable offence in the British Army. Usually inflicted by firing a rifle at one’s foot or hand in an effort to create a wound of a type which would disallow future service at the front. Guilt was sometimes established by identifying the nationality of the "ball" ammunition found in the wound. ("Ball" was the lethal ammunition fired in rifles etc. in contrast to the non-lethal "blank" ammunition loaded in such weapons, say for ceremonial purposes. See Line 28 of the poem – "English ball"). A soldier with a similar type of wound which he had received in action, dreaded the battalion M.O. at the Regimental Aid Post erroneously assuming his wound to be self-inflicted with the inevitable military consequences when he arrived at the CCS for treatment.

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