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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Utilisation of Field Ambulances in Desert Warfare

Utilisation of Field Ambulances in Desert Warfare

An investigation into the utilisation of field ambulances in desert warfare was undertaken by GHQ MEF after the Second Libyan Campaign. It was concluded that the infantry field ambulance was insufficiently mobile or flexible, and that it should be capable of holding and treating a considerable number of patients. Suggestions included an increase in ambulance cars to fourteen, a reduction in the number of stretcher-bearers, and the elimination of some of the G.1098 equipment.

It was considered that, when a field ambulance was called upon to function as part of an independent brigade group, a surgical team with its own transport and equipment should be attached; and that in any case one officer at least in a field ambulance should be capable of undertaking major emergency surgery. This would also entail the provision of surgical instruments sufficient for the purpose.

Some of these recommendations were later implemented when supply and other difficulties were overcome.

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The experience gained in the Libyan campaign at some cost was applied in later campaigns. Fortunately, the same unequal and unforeseen conditions were not repeated, except for a day or so at Minqar Qaim in June 1942; and then the shorter lines of communication, together with fewer wounded, enabled the ADSs to accompany the Division in its break through the surrounding enemy, taking the wounded with them back to the Alamein line.