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298th General Hospital

Hospital

The 298th General Hospital (the first of the more permanent large medical units which arrived in the United Kingdom –ed), which began to function November 11, 1942, at Frenchay Park near Bristol, was the third General Hospital to be established in England. Because it was located close to a major port on the west coast (in the Western Base Section –ed), it gained valuable experience with battle casualties before D-Day, which proved of great benefit in its later work in France and Belgium. Starting in the spring of 1943, the patients first received were evacuated from North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. During 1943 while operating Hospital Plant # 4166, the 298th Gen Hosp received 573 battle casualties, of which three out of four injured servicemen were patients suffering complicated fractures of knees, elbows, and ankles, in short chiefly fractures of the extremities requiring long-term treatment. About 80% of these patients were British, it being the policy of the British to send to the 298th General Hospital the most seriously ill patients from each Hospital Ship, because the proximity of the hospital installation to the port eliminated the necessity of a long trip by train or ambulance.
Shortly after the arrival of the 298th General Hospital, local women of the nearby village were encouraged to train as volunteers to help in the Hospital. The British Red Cross recruited and identified these volunteers and a training program was set up in which a number of Medical Department Doctors and Nurses and the American Red Cross participated. Thirteen (13) women received their qualifying certificates in May 1943 and another further 24 in July 1943, enabling them to work in various parts of the Hospital, including the Library and Handicraft Section. The ladies also coped with flower arrangements and accompanied patients to social functions if necessary. The 298th General Hospital staff assisted by local civilians planned a market garden and planted trees, shrubs, flowers and grass around buildings and also improved paths and roadways.
US Army medical units handled casualties of both nations (Britain/United States) at the Bristol Channel ports. Between 17 December 1942 and 8 April 1943, Company C, 53d Medical Battalion, operating under the supervision of the Bristol Port Surgeon, discharged 7 Hospital Ships arriving from North Africa at Avonmouth, moving over 2,100 casualties, among which 660 Americans, to the nearby 298th General Hospital.

hese patients required considerable attention and the exercise of keen surgical judgment. They had been wounded on an average of 6 to 8 weeks before their reception. Many had not received wound debridement within the optimum time, and, as might be expected, the incidence of wound infection and osteomyelitis was significantly higher than in battle casualties later treated on the Continent. Since Penicillin was not yet available, all the patients received sulfonamide therapy. The plan of treatment, because of the time lag, was chiefly to carry on with the closed plaster technique until the wound and the fracture had healed. Every endeavor was made to improve the general health of the patient during this time. Drainage operations were performed as indicated, and the position of the bone fragments was improved whenever that was possible. It was the opinion of the Hospital staff at this time that the closed plaster technique was of great value in the management of war wounds and fractures and that Plaster-of-Paris casts served adequately for transportation.
After the pressure of the North African campaigns had subsided, a new task lay ahead involving planning medical support of the American build-up in the British Isles. This involved calculating the numbers of hospital beds required in accordance with the increases in troop strength, and determining the location of Medical Department installations to suit changes in troop density in the various locations. Arrangements were furthermore made for MC Officers stationed in ETOUSA to attend courses in the various medical specialties taught at British institutions, such as the Royal Army Schools for Doctors and Dentists at Aldershot, Hampshire, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as at British Army Hospitals. Two (2) Schools were established within the Army’s American School Center, Shrivenham, Berkshire, in February 1943. The first was The Medical Field School emphasizing CWS courses, hygiene, sanitation, combat medicine, surgery, and the other The Army Nurse School training Nurses in all aspects of their work. Special courses for Officers and Enlisted Men were provided (in various specialties) at selected General and Station Hospitals. Apart from the training issues, a heavy task was to obtain in crowded Britain sufficient buildings to accommodate incoming US Army fixed Hospital units and to provide sufficient beds for military patients once the Invasion of the Continent began. The British Government turned over to the Army Medical Department (Reverse Lend-Lease –ed) a number of Hospital Plants constructed for the Emergency Medical Service, and large-scale construction was undertaken to meet the requirements for 90,000 hospital beds called for under the “Bolero” Plan. Thanks to the concentrated efforts and the assistance of the British Ministry of Works and Planning, British civilian contractors, the Royal Engineers and the RAMC, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, 58 fixed US Army Hospitals were operating in the British Isles by end of 1943 ( in total; 3 Evacuation, 4 Field, 17 General, and 34 Station Hospitals –ed).

On May 10, 1944, the 298th Gen stood down from operations in Great Britain. When the personnel listened to radio reports of the recent Normandy Invasion, the men were disappointed and had to wait for another number of weeks before receiving alert orders! By May 16, orders were confirmed, with the 298th Gen Hosp now being gradually moved to its final staging area prior to crossing the Channel to France (this also included the 5th General Hospital –ed). According to plans, the FIRST General Hospital, the 298th, was to land in France by D+15 (June 21, 1944 –ed) and set up for operation in Cherbourg, in the Cotentin Peninsula.
Finally, new orders came to move up to Colwyn Bay, North Wales, for more training, including chemical warfare and anti-gas procedures. It was already May 1944. The 298th General Hospital left Frenchay and a selected group of staff and personnel were sent for a few weeks to North Wales for fitness and other special training, after which they spent 2-3 weeks at Brockley Combe Transit Camp, south of Bristol, prior to embarkation to Normandy in July 1944. Frenchay Park was eventually taken over for a short time (May 1944 to August 1944) by the 100th General Hospital, which then left for the Continent in August 1944 and was set up in a Normandy cow pasture for the next seven weeks.
The organization was to stay at Frenchay Park until May 16, 1944. During that period the Hospital was visited by quite a number US and British Army Officers. Bob Hope performed at the Hospital during one of his USO tours in the United Kingdom. After the 298th’s departure Frenchay Hospital continued to serve as a general training center for newly-arrived US medical units, and a great deal of attention was paid to training programs as well as to inter-Allied cooperation and goodwill. US Army Medical Officers attended professional and scientific meetings with their British and Commonwealth colleagues in Bristol, Bath, Oxford and London during this period (for those interested, Frenchay Hospital was officially handed over to the British Authorities during an official ceremony dated August 17, 1945 –ed).
The unit personnel finally embarked at Plymouth on July 15, 1944 and waded ashore on Utah Beach the next day, once more separated from its equipment assembly (this had happened before also when shuttling between Wales and England). The unit would only receive the missing equipment assembly July 22 after landing on the Continent.

Mid-July 1944, the 298th crossed the English Channel, landing at Utah Beach, Normandy, France, where it would treat Allied casualties throughout the summer. The organization was assigned to occupy the Cherbourg Naval Hospital that the 12th Field Hospital was rehabilitating. The Hospital first moved into billets and houses in Cherbourg on July 17 and eventually prepared to relieve the 12th Fld Hosp while continuing cleaning and refurbishing the premises with US Engineers beginning extensive modifications and repairs needed to fit the old plant for a 1,000-bed General Hospital..
The 298th General Hospital finally opened for receiving patients July 29, 1944 amid noise and debris as the renovation and repairs would continue until October. In the meantime the unit, besides caring for patients in temporary medical facilities, kept busy with a host of minor but necessary repairs and tried to make do with always unreliable water and power supplies.
When the 298th General Hospital was moved to Cherbourg, France, where it operated from July 29, 1944 to October 28, 1944, it supplied Station and General Hospital medical service to large numbers of American troops stationed in this port area. The personnel had no lack of emergency surgical patients yet was able to use its own ambulances to return recovered men directly to their units, or, if the organization to which they belonged was nearby simply discharged the patients and let them find their own way back. Casualties requiring extended care went by ambulance to the Biniville Holding Unit and Advanced Landing Ground 24-C (ALG constructed by the 830th Engineer Aviation Battalion, July 12-17, 1944 –ed) for eventual evacuation to England. The 298th also cared for many battle casualties and acted as a Holding Hospital unit for patients to be evacuated by Hospital Ship to England. A maximum of 30 days was allowed for the treatment of any case. Orthopedic injuries included:
Acute non-combat incurred injuries of the bones, joints, and soft issues. These cases were numerous, as many thousands of troops were working/serving at the port.
Minor battle incurred wounds. Many lightly wounded battle casualties were treated, with the objective to return them directly, or as quickly as possible, to duty.
Serious battle-incurred injuries. Patients with this type of injury were treated in large numbers before their evacuation to England.
Other war-connected injuries. Many patients were received who had been wounded by mines or booby-traps left in place by the Germans or in the course of handling and dismantling captured German ammunition and supplies.

The 298th General Hospital spent 36 months overseas (mainly in the European Theater), training in the continental United States, traversing the Atlantic to cross over to the United Kingdom, and serving with pride in France and Belgium until fall of 1945. The unit was finally inactivated at Camp Kilmer, Stelton, New Jersey, October 5, 1945.
September 21, 2012, a special Plaque was inaugurated and dedicated to the heroic personnel of the 298th General Hospital who provided outstanding medical services while operating at Alleur (Liège), Belgium.

Structure

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Stations

Station Location Date
Based Bristol November 1942 – July 1944
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Revisions

Date Contributor Update
09 April 2021 02:12:50 466thHistorian Changes to stations
Sources

https://www.med-dept.com/unit-histories/298th-general-hospital/

Date Contributor Update
09 April 2021 02:10:04 466thHistorian Created entry with type, category, name and description
Sources

https://www.med-dept.com/unit-histories/298th-general-hospital/

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