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Men of the Indian Subordinate Medical Department in the First World War

In my previous blog I discussed commemoration of all those who had fought in the First World War (WW1) and, in particular, the fact that these service personnel can each be remembered by us on the website Lives of the First World War  (LOTFWW) – which will close to new entries in March 2019 when, I understand, it will be temporarily unavailable for a few months whilst being moved to the Imperial War museum platform. It will then remain there as a permanent memorial.

As a personal project, I have created a community on LOTFWW to highlight the work of the Indian Subordinate Medical Department (ISMD). This is a work in progress with more names being added as research continues. These men would have been born and trained in India but their careers are difficult to trace as, although they have medal record cards,  there are generally no traditional army service records for them as they were technically civilians. Some military records may be found for those of officer rank.

What is making the project more of a challenge is that many medal cards only refer to Christian names by initials and, so, it is a matter of looking at other records – marriages, burials, probates etc – to clarify identity. Fortunately, many of these personal records can be found amongst the India Office records of the British Library (London) and a good selection have been digitised on the subscription website findmypast. During my research some interesting stories have emerged.

Edwin Augustus Bedell (c1860-1917) started his career as an apothecary in the subordinate medical department and had achieved the rank of Captain by the time he died in 1917. His brother, Frederick Francis Bedell likewise became an officer in the same department having achieved the rank of Major by the time of his death in 1918. Three of Edwin’s sons followed their father’s steps and served in the ISMD – Percival Stanley b 1885, Hubert Charles  b 1886  and Herbert John (b 1890). Sadly young Herbert lost his life in 1918 to influenza.

Many of the gallant men I am researching died in service during WW1 and their names and details of their ultimate sacrifice can be found amongst the entries on the websites of the Commonwealth War Graves commission and the British Legion’s Everyone Remembered. One such man was Henry Alexander Fox who was the medical in charge of the Fort of Ferozopore.

Elsewhere I am reading of dedication and courageous events in the course of duty. John Wilson Woodsell was awarded a military cross for “determination in tending to the wounded under very heavy fire. His devotion to duty saved many lives.” Percival James Conquest sadly died of pneumonia in 1918 at the war hospital in Moradabad “where he had been employed for some time”.

Not all these men were of European descent. Many of Indian Nationality also served in the ISMD and were awarded medals and their names  appear in my community. I hope also to be able to find some details to add to their stories.

Did you have an ancestor that served in the Indian Medical Department during WW1? Do remember him on LOTFWW and get in touch if you would like me to assist you in researching his background and creating his life story. Already some relating images have been added –  and it has been really interesting to see these. Alternatively if you would like to join the project then just create a free account on LOTFWW and get going by adding background facts. Time to do this is running short so let’s try together now to highlight the work of this particular department.

Another colleague has created communities to commemorate the work done by Anglo Indian soldiers and, again, if you have an ancestor that served in this area or this is a subject of interest do join in with these projects.

I look forward to uncovering more stories maybe,  with the help of some who will be reading this article.

Further Reading

  1. Fibiwiki –  Indian Subordinate Medical Department 

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