Shell dressings have come up a number of times on this blog over the years, with both British and Indian wartime examples being featured. Tonight we have a pair of post war Canadian examples and has so often been the case with the various Cold War Canadian objects I have covered, my thanks have to go to Andrew Iarocci for his help in supplying me with them. The first of this pair is a Mk III shell dressing dating from November 1954:This particular design of shell dressing had been introduced in the Second World War and unlike other Empire dressings it came is a sterile sealed packet, rather than just a sewn cotton cover. The packet has an easy tear corner, indicated with a big arrow, so the user can get the dressing out easily in a hurry:This particular dressing was made by Bauer and Black of Toronto:The dressing has instructions printed in English and French, with the initials of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps prominently displayed above them:Our second example dates form almost thirty years later and the same sterilised sealed packet is still used to protect the dressing, although by now this was the norm for armies across the world. The most obvious difference is that it is now made in a much greener shade than the 1950s example, useful as these were frequently taped onto the yoke’s of the men’s webbing:Note as well that the nomenclature has changed from ‘Shell Dressing’ to ‘Dressing, First Aid, Field’. This dressing was made in May 1982 by Kendall of Toronto:The rear of the packet has the same instructions, but again in French:This makes a great deal of sense when you remember that Canada is bi-lingual with a large French speaking population. By printing the dressings in both languages, only one design was needed for all their troops.
In 1992 there was a restructure of army medical services in the British Army and male nurses were transferred from the Royal Army Medical Corps to the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. Male nurses are still relatively uncommon, but are a growing part of the corps and they have certain items of specialist clothing for their work. Tonight we are looking at a man’s nursing jacket from the QARANC:This is a white cotton tunic, secured up one side and to the neck with removable white plastic buttons:These buttons are secured in with small split rings to allow them to be removed easily for washing. The design of the button itself is very similar to those used on World War 2 era denim uniforms, again these were designed to be easily removable for laundering. The back of the jacket has a sewn in half belt to provide a more structured fit:A single patch pocket is sewn on the breast and on this is affixed an embroidered patch showing the Corps’ cap badge in red on a grey field:The only other insignia on the jacket is a red on grey patch with a lance corporal’s stripe on it on one sleeve, this indicates a healthcare assistant- all qualified nurses are ranked at least a full corporal:Inside the tunic is a label indicating size and NSN number with a space for the owner to write his name and number:In recent years the QARANC has been involved in every conflict the British Army has fought in, offering vital medical support to Britain, her military allies and civilians in theatre. The British Legion’s website gives us one case study of a QARANC nurse, Ben Poku:
After signing up, Ben did three months of basic training which came as a shock. It was unlike anything Ben had experienced before.
“It’s tough, but it prepares you so that you’re ready when you go to a new or hostile environment.”
It was when Ben started passing the basic infantry tactics that he knew he was ready to become a soldier. Though he’d joined up to be a nurse, Ben found himself in the artillery doing an infantry role before he knew it.
But the desire to help those in need hadn’t gone away though. After three years in the artillery, Ben took the chance to pursue his dream of becoming a nurse. So in 2003, whilst Ben was training on artillery guns in Germany, he started the process of transferring over to the prestigious Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps. As the nursing branch of the British Army, QARANC can trace its origins back to Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
Ben went ahead to study at the Defence School of Healthcare Studies, getting his nursing degree while he was also being deployed in Iraq. While there he treated multi-nationals, such as Iraqis and Americans, as well as British troops.
“It was a challenge to go over there in a nursing role and apply the training I was doing, but it was a great introduction into becoming a nurse.”
Ben’s childhood dream has come true. He’s been a nurse for over a decade. In that time he’s worked abroad as well as around the UK.
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)
Recruiting leaflets are always interesting items to pick up for a collection as they very much reflect the period in which 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.The 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:Opening the leaflet we have a brief outline of what each corps does and potential opportunities for recruits:More detailed information is then given of each of the specialisations and what they entail:Finally 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:
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:This 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:The tourniquet is passed around the limb and tightened by pulling the end through a plastic buckle as far as it will go:The 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:This 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:The following diagram shows in detail how to use the tourniquet:This particular example dates from 2012:And was manufactured in the US, hence the NSN number:These 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.
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.
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:The 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:A special panel is attached to the lid of the pouch for the soldier to write his name, number and blood type on:The lid is secured with a black plastic Fastex fastener:As is the case on all these pouches, an eyelet is fitted in the base to allow water to drain out:And on the rear are a pair of MOLLE straps:These differ from other pouches in having plastic ‘T’ clips inside them that can be accessed by unvelcroing the straps:This 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:It 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: