The Red Cross introduced the battlefield motor ambulances during the First World War and they quickly replaced the horse-drawn variants. 

Somme ambulances
Image from the Somme showing both horse-drawn and motor ambulances in use. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

This article first appeared in the Leigh Chronicle in August 1915 and provides an insight into the valuable work of the Red Cross during the war. Including supporting motor ambulances. 

‘The motor ambulance for wounded soldiers at the Front subscribed by the people of Leigh, at the instigation of the Mayoress ( Mrs.Ashworth), was on exhibition in Leigh on Friday. The van was in charge of Lieutenant C. Kenneth Murchison, of Hargrave Hall, Hunts., who, to use official military phraseology, will drive the car in France as a “volunteer owner driver”. The car was driven to all parts of the Borough, and left on Saturday morning for Birkenhead. It has cost about £600, and will accommodate four lying-down cases, or eight to ten men standing. Owing to the heavy roads in Flanders the chassis is similar to those built for heavy haulage motors, the usual chassis being too light.


Some idea of the great work being accomplished by the British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John of Jerusalem will be gleaned from the following facts:-

1,000 motor ambulances, cars, lorries and cycles are working in France, Belgium, Malta and Egypt, at a cost of £5,000 weekly.

Three fully equipped railway hospital trains are running in France.

Thirty hospitals have been established on the Continent.

The Red Cross Hospital at Netley contains 745 beds, and has treated over 3,000 cases in eight months.

The King George Hospital in Stamford Street SE., contains 1,650 beds, and cost about £100,000 to construct; it entails a weekly expense, for personnel alone, of £500.

13,000 hospital orderlies are at work at home and abroad.

1,800 trained nurses are at work under the Societies’ management.

Nursing staff for 24,000 beds has been provided.

Over £100,000 worth of hospital and medical stores, as well as gifts worth £200,000 (including 1,500,00 garments) have been sent to France, Belgium, Malta and Egypt (for the Dardanelles), West Africa, East Africa, Northern Rhodesia, China, Serbia and Montenegro.

Grants have been made for blinded and disabled soldiers.

Wounded and missing men and prisoners of war are traced.

The administration is largely voluntarily and very economical. The upkeep of so many ambulances is naturally very heavy, and funds are urgently needed.’


To trace any family members who worked with the Red Cross and to learn more about their valuable role in the First World War and today, please visit –



Image courtesy of the Imperial War Museum – Ref: Q3975 –

Article courtesy of Wigan and Leigh Archives and Local Studies