Category Archives: Medical

Royal Navy Shell Dressing

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)

RAMC/RADC Recruitment Leaflet

Recruiting leaflets are always interesting items to pick up for a collection as they very much reflect the period they were written and what the military at the time thought would attract potential recruits. Those from the 1930s were generic leaflets that emphasised free food, accommodation and the opportunity to play sport whilst seeing the world (such as this one). By the late 1970s the British Army had developed more targeted publicity materials and this leaflet dates from 1979 and is specifically designed to encourage recruits to consider a career with the Royal Army Medical Corps of the Royal Army Dental Corps. The cover is dominated by a large photograph of personnel from the RAMC on exercise treating a patient on a mock battlefield.skm_c45817022309580-copyThe leaflet opens out into a large single sheet. One side of this has a large selection of photographs showing various aspects of what a member of either corps might find themselves doing once trained:imageOpening the leaflet we have a brief outline of what each corps does and potential opportunities for recruits:skm_c45817022309590More detailed information is then given of each of the specialisations and what they entail:skm_c45817022309591Finally the back page of the leaflet has a large photograph of the British Military Hospital, Hong Kong and a stamp indicating this leaflet was originally given out at the Army Careers Office in Ipswich:skm_c45817022309580

CAT Tourniquet

A tourniquet is a piece of medical equipment that puts sufficient pressure on blood vessels to stop major arterial bleeding following severe trauma. These days a tourniquet is standard issue for British soldiers on active service and the standard issue example is called the ‘Combat Application Tourniquet’ or CAT:imageThis tourniquet, which saw extensive use in Iraq and Afghanistan, was revolutionary when it was introduced in 2006 as it allowed the injured soldier to apply the tourniquet to himself simply and easily for the first time. A medical study reported:

Four years continuous UK military experience in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003-7 was analysed for the impact of tourniquets in first aid. 107 tourniquets were applied to 70 patients. Most applications (64/70 patients) occurred after 2006, when tourniquets were issued to individual soldiers. 87% (61/70) survived their injuries.

The CAT tourniquet is an American product that uses a windlass to apply pressure to the effected region of the body:imageThe tourniquet is passed around the limb and tightened by pulling the end through a plastic buckle as far as it will go:imageThe plastic windlass is then twisted to increase the pressure, plastic hooks hold it in place one it is tightened, with a Velcro strap over the top securing it:imageThis Velcro strap is white and has a space to write the time the tourniquet was applied- it is vital to know how long it has been applied to prevent tissue damage from blood deprivation:imageThe following diagram shows in detail how to use the tourniquet:tourniquet-cat-3This particular example dates from 2012:imageAnd was manufactured in the US, hence the NSN number:imageThese tourniquets have become ubiquitous in both British and US military service and soldiers’ faith in them is so high that some have taken to wearing them, loosely tightened, around their limbs before going into combat. All troops are trained in their use and it is typical for them to be carried in the pocket or on the front of MOLLE vests so they are readily available in combat.

Modern First Field Dressings

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:imageWe 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:imageThe 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:imageThis 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:imageAgain the reverse is in French:imageAs 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.

MOLLE Medical Pouch

We return to the MOLLE system again tonight, with a detailed look at the personal medical pouch. This pouch is made of lighter weight nylon than the ammunition pouches we have looked at before, but has the same IRR desert DPM finish to the outside:imageThe lighter weight material is unsurprising as the pouch is designed to hold much lighter contents than a regular ammunition pouch. In service it was expected to carry two field dressings and a pair of morphine injectors, loops being provided inside the pouch for the latter:imageA special panel is attached to the lid of the pouch for the soldier to write his name, number and blood type on:imageThe lid is secured with a black plastic Fastex fastener:imageAs is the case on all these pouches, an eyelet is fitted in the base to allow water to drain out:imageAnd on the rear are a pair of MOLLE straps:imageThese differ from other pouches in having plastic ‘T’ clips inside them that can be accessed by unvelcroing the straps:imageThis allows the pouch to be worn on a PLCE belt, often worn in theatre as a trouser belt. This allows all troops to carry their medical kit with them, even if they are out of armour and not wearing a MOLLE vest. This particular pouch was manufactured in 2006:imageIt appears that the standard practice was to wear the medical pouch on the right hand side of any belt of vest. By having everyone wear them in the same place it was easy for a casualty’s oppo to find his first field dressing and apply it quickly. Clearly this rule was not heeded by the owner of this set of Osprey body armour, where the pouch is mounted centrally:505px-osprey_body_armour

RAMC Coloured FS Cap

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:imageThese 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:imageThe 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:imageTwo brass buttons are sewn to the peak:imageInside this cap has an oilcloth lining and is clearly of reasonably good quality:imageAs 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.

Surgical Towel Clamp

The range of medical instruments used by surgeons is vast, and like everything else military issued examples are normally marked to show ownership. My thanks go to Darren Pyper for his help in identifying tonight’s object as a ‘Surgical Towel Clamp’:imageThis medical instrument has curved ends to it, which can open to grasp things:imageA latch mechanism allows it to be secured in the closed position, with one arm having a single raised ridge:imageAnd the opposite having a pair of these ridges just above the finger loops:imageThese interlock preventing the clamp from opening until the operator moves them slightly apart by hand to open the instrument. The /|\ mark is stamped onto the instrument indicating military ownership:imageThis instrument is losing a little of its plating, but is still in excellent condition. Sadly it is impossible to date it as the bqasic designs have not changed in decades. I must confess I know nothing about surgical instruments, but a quick search reveals a ‘towel clamp is a perforating clamp used for grasping tissue, securing towels or drapes and holding or reducing small bone fractures’. This instrument is but one of many different and varied tools used by surgeons and medics, I must confess the number is overwhelming so I will content myself with picking a few up as they appear cheaply and they will go nicely with my slowly expanding selection of medical items.