A ship is a self-contained unit, with limited resources and so every member of a ship’s crew has to have some basic knowledge of what to do in an emergency as there is usually no outside support. Most ships carry only limited medical staff, so the Royal Navy has long seen emergency first aid as being an essential skill for its officers and ratings as it is impossible to say when or where an accident might occur and who might be the first on the scene. This becomes ever more imperative in wartime, and ships during World War Two had first aid kits distributed throughout them to enable immediate assistance to be rendered to the injured. These first aid kits contained of a number of shell dressings and tonight we are looking at an Admiralty issued example:The shell dressing itself is identical to the army example we looked at here and the ARP example here. The difference between those examples and this one is that here the shell dressing is clearly marked ‘Admiralty’. The instructions on the packet remain the same however, and this example dates to August 1944:Going into action, distribution stations were set up around a ship with medical supplies that could be taken straight to an incident, these stations could also act as satellite sick bays if needed. First field dressings and shell dressings were given directly to men at more isolate locations. The following advice was given to medical officers on board ship during the war in regards to dealing with wounds:
Dressing of Wounds. Casualties during and immediately after the action will reach the Medical Officer in two ways: (a) less severely wounded cases will find their own way, and may arrive with no dressings at all on wounds that are still bleeding; and (b) cases of graver injury will be assisted or carried to the dressing station; these cases are likely to have had some First Aid dressing already applied at the place in the ship that were wounded.
To the first case he will apply the patient’s own First Aid dressing, after ligaturing any spurting artery or twisting it with a pair of artery forceps, relying upon the pressure of the dressing to stop less severe bleeding. For these initial dressings gauze taken straight from the packet and moistened with flavine 1 in 1,000 can be used, or the wound lightly dusted with sulphanilamide powder (not more than a heaped teaspoon used in toto)
Tonight we are taking a look at a pair of field dressings used by the British Army at the turn of the 21st Century. These two dressings are issued in sealed packets to keep them sterile and are in two different sizes:We have covered the very similar Falklands War era First Field Dressing here, and these are an evolution form them with updated packaging and instructions. The larger of the two measures 20cm x 19 cm and comes in a sealed sterile packet:The instructions are printed on the front:
TO OPEN: Tear apart the corner indicated by the arrow. Hold the folded ends of the two exposed bandages firmly in either hand and gently pull the pad open. Without changing the grip, apply the surface of the pad to the wound.
The same instructions are repeated on the reverse in French:This bi-lingual packaging seems fairly common across NATO, reflecting the frequent co-operation between the UK, USA, Canada and France. The other dressing is smaller, measuring 10cm x 19cm:Again the reverse is in French:As ever ARRSE has its own unique spin on the first field dressing:
Sterile Dressing which has two tapes attached, used for securing the dressing in place. Comes in two sizes and is contained in a little brown packet (Hint & Tip: If you’re in the brown stuff the inside of the packet is sterile and can be used to help stop severe bleeding). Each Squaddie should carry two of these little babies (usually in the top left breast pocket of their smock). Will absorb a pint of liquid, as some squaddie in Bosnia found out when a drunken mucker dropped one into his beer (note: it’s still sterile once wringed out due to the alcohol killing bacteria. Beer tastes minging though).
Probably one of the few things that we use that the NHS would love to have.
These dressings were used extensively in the War on Terror, but have now been replaced in front line use by vacuum packed Israeli designed dressings.
The different coloured FS caps used during the Second World War varied from quite plain to very brightly coloured examples. The Royal Army medical Corps used a cap that fell somewhere in between, with a maroon and dark blue cap:These caps were worn off duty to add a bit of regimental colour to the otherwise very drab battledress uniform. The cap itself is made of wool, and the lack of piping to the crown indicates it is an other-ranks example. The design of the cap is the same as other period field service caps and was worn on the side of the head, over the left eye:The brass Royal Army Medical Corps cap badge is passed through a hole in the cap, and is positioned in the upper, maroon, portion of the cap:Two brass buttons are sewn to the peak:Inside this cap has an oilcloth lining and is clearly of reasonably good quality:As well as being worn by men, these caps were also popular with army nurses, similar examples were also worn by the Canadian Royal Army Medical Service but it seems that these had gold piping for both officers and men. These caps were never officially issued, instead being privately purchased by the soldier, as such many (especially those of OR quality) are unmarked and it is impossible to say who made them or when.