With a Field Ambulance in the Great War (1914-1919)

The personal photographic record kept by my Grandfather, Private Harry Belson, R.A.M.C., illustrating the campaign history of a First World War field ambulance corps in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine.

HB_0818 HB

Private Harry Belson, R.A.M.C., Suez, 1917


The Three Campaigns


From Grandpa’s copy of the “Brief Record of The Advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force”

Private Harry Belson enlisted 1914 at Walthamstow Drill Hall in the 54th Division (T) Field Ambulance R.A.M.C. He went on to serve in three campaigns:

1915 (August): Gallipoli, Suvla Bay and ANZAC, with the 161 Infantry Brigade (Essex);

1916-17: Suez Canal and Palestine, with the 162 Infantry Brigade (Suffolk);

1917-19: Palestine, with the 163 Infantry Brigade (Norfolk);

all forming part of the 21st Army Corps

“I marched the whole distance from Kantara on the Suez Canal at the beginning of 1917 across the Sinai Desert, through Palestine into Lebanon to a small seaside resort called Junie, 20-30 miles North of Beirut in October 1918, a distance of roughly 400 miles which does not include our various ‘excursions’ round and about the interior during the course of the campaign.”

The above quote and those that follow have been transcribed from Grandpa Harry’s own notes. Some date from the scene and time of the action they describe, some from the immediate aftermath of the War, while others date from the years following the publication of the various histories listed below (my grandfather was an assiduous keeper of newspaper cuttings and writer of marginal notes). Spellings of place names may therefore vary from current orthodoxy.

Acknowledgements and References

The following historical accounts had sat on my bookshelves for years, with numerous newspaper cuttings between their covers. My grandfather’s extensive marginal notes appear in the first three of these volumes.

A Record of the 3rd East Anglian Field Ambulance (Four Lines), Namely: 1/3rd East Anglian Field Ambulance; Special Reserve (Category “B”); 2/3rd East Anglian Field Ambulance; 3/3rd East Anglian Field Ambulance; During the Great War 1914-1919.

A Brief Record of The Advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, under the Command of General Sir Edmund H. H. Allenby, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., July 1917 to October 1918, Complied from Official Sources and Published by The Palestine News (Government Press and Survey of Egypt, Cairo 1919).

With the 1/5th Essex in the East: Lt.-Col. T. Gibbons, D.S.O. 5th Bn. The Essex Regt. (Benham & Co. Ltd., Colchester 1921).

Tales of a Field Ambulance 1914-1918, Told by the Personnel (Borough Printing and Publishing Co., Southend-on-Sea, 1935).

The Suvla Bay Landing, John Hargrave (Macdonald & Co. Ltd., London, 1964).


© Paul Barham, May 2018