1st Wessex Field Ambulance was formed in Exeter in 1908 when the Territorial Force came into being. 2nd & 3rd Wessex Field Ambulances were also formed at Plymouth & Portsmouth respectively. On the outbreak of war, the 3 ambulances were embodied for service immediately (as they were at Annual Camp) and re-named 24th (was 1st WFA) 25th (was 2nd WFA) & 26th (was 3rd WFA) Field Ambulance. It is incorrect to name them as 1st/24th Wessex .They were all put under command of 8th Div which was a regular Division and all served throughout the war with that Div. This in itself was a great honour for a Territorial Field Ambulance to serve in a Regular Div and as such were the first TF Field Ambulances to disembark in France on the 6th November 1914.
The 2nd line Wessex Field Ambulances remained in the UK to recruit and train men. This was the 2/1st Wessex FA & the 2/2nd & 2/3rd respectively. They went to France in January 1916 as units in their own right and served with the 55th Division leaving a 3rd line to take their place in the UK and which remained so throughout the rest of the war.
The 24th Field Ambulance earned themselves a unique place in TA & Medical history when they were awarded a French Croix de Guerre for an action at the end of the war in St Amand-les-Eaux when they treated & evacuated several thousand French civilians from the town whilst it was being heavily shelled by the Germans. No other Medical unit has been honoured in this way and I do not think that there are many TA units with the award. We, as 243, have the honour to wear the ribbon of the medal on our No 2 & Mess Dress. We also celebrate the award with an annual all ranks Dinner at the Guildhall in Exeter where the medal itself now resides, having been presented to the Town Council in 1922.
After the war, the 24th, 25th & 26th were "disbanded" and all six units reformed as the Wessex Field Ambulance. After several different guises, they fought in WW2 as 128, 129 & 130 Field Ambulances (and now joined by the FA of Bristol & Somerset). Again, after the war there was much amalgamating and disbandment until 211 & 219 (Wessex) Field Hospitals were amalgamated in 1996 to form 243 (The Wessex) Field Hospital (V), of which I have been a member for 27 years.
Amendments and Corrections to the Memorial Plaque names.
I have been trying to find out for a very long time how these names were picked to go on the memorial in Exeter Cathedral, as there are several mistakes, both in initials and spellings, and in the actual choice of names, as there are several men missing from the list as well as some added who seemed to have died from natural causes a few years after the end of the war. There is no evidence that those men died from the effects of war, but we cannot be certain.