Category Archives: Medical

British Army Vehicle First Aid Kit

First aid kits seem to have been appearing on the blog with some regularity over the last few months, and tonight we have what I am reliably informed by a former British Army driver is the first aid kit fitted in heavy army trucks such as those made by MAN. This first aid kit is as simple as they come, consisting of a simple green woven nylon bag with a flap lid:imageThe words ‘First Aid’ are printed on the front in white lettering along with a medical cross so there is no doubt as to the contents:imageThe rear of the bag has four strips of Velcro, presumably to allow the bag to be fastened somewhere inside a lorry’s cab nice and securely until needed- the Velcro would allow it to be removed very quickly in an emergency:imageInterestingly this bag has also had some additional information written on it in black permanent marker, here stating ‘First Aid Kit, 10 Person, no5’:imageQuite what the significance of this writing is, unfortunately, remains a mystery. I do not have a packing list for this bag, but typical contents would include bandages, sterilised wipes, field dressing etc. As ever, if you know more about this first aid kit, please leave a comment below.

The British Army’s website gives some information on the level of casualty care provided during operations in Afghanistan, this basic first aid kit being the bottom rung of a well thought out ladder of care:

All soldiers are trained and equipped to provide First Aid, both for everyday situations and to look after each other on the battlefield. Teams of soldiers engaged in high-risk activities will have the support of one or more Army Medics, also known as Combat Medical Technicians. (CMT).

Soldiers also have access to a Regimental Medical Officer (RMO), who is able to provide the same level of medical attention as a General Practitioner. RMOs are trained in the management of trauma and their presence ensures the most seriously injured receive highly skilled medical attention at the earliest opportunity.

Medical teams

The medical training, equipment and facilities are among the best in the world. In addition, individual medical training not only gives extra confidence to the soldiers on patrol, but enables them to react quickly and correctly to situations, meaning they are better equipped to look after each other and save lives.


Hospital Underpants

Tonight I have one of those objects which seems really obvious at the outset, but has generated a lot of debate amongst collectors over the years. For a long time it was assumed that these blue underpants were for issue to female troops:imageHowever the consensus now seems to be that these underpants were actually for men and were issued to those recovering from injuries in hospital. Dressings and physical incapacity made it difficult to get underwear easily on and off some patients. These underpants are fastened at one side by cotton tapes that can be undone to make it easier to get them on or off:imageThe top tapes act as a drawstring around the waist, whilst the lower tapes help hold the pants secure. The Second World War saw great advances in medicine when it came to saving damaged limbs, and arms and legs that would have been previously amputated were now being saved, as reported in the Picture Post:

War is pointing the way. In the old days a surgeon lopped off a limb with a compound fracture, and then the patient made the best of it. One surgeon a hundred years ago is supposed to have cut off no fewer than 200 limbs in a single day; that is more than a modern surgeon amputates in the whole of his life, and today the Consultant in Orthopaedic Surgery to the Royal Air Force, Dr R Watson Jones of Liverpool, has reported that “in a series of Royal Air Force hospitals there was one amputation per 1,000 severe limb injuries, including infected wounds and compound fractures.” The wounded soldier, therefore, is easy in his mind on one score – the odds are heavy against him having to lose a limb. Further in war we cannot afford the wasteful practices of peace when a patient was treated for a fracture, discharged without any clear idea of his disability and how to treat it, and went to the courts to get compensation under the impression that his accident had made him a permanent cripple. The country needs sound men, not cripples.

With the greater number of soldiers with seriously injured legs recovering in hospital, specialist underwear would have been increasingly important. The dark blue colour is typical of hospital clothing- hospital blues and dark blue dressing gowns were also standard army issue. A simple white label is sewn onto the front of the underpants indicating they have a 34” waist and were made in 1943:imageAs is sometimes the case, I am struggling to find anything further on these- I can find no period sources or materials to indicate when they were introduced or declared obsolete, who was actually issued them or how they were received by patients or medical staff.

MTP Medical Trauma Pouch

We seem to have had quite a number of medical items on the blog recently, and tonight is no exception, with an MTP Medical Trauma Pouch: imageYou might recall we looked at an earlier iteration of this pouch a few weeks back here. This pouch is clearly serving the same purpose, but is a more up to date design that has taken into account some of the shortcomings of the earlier design. One of the problems of the earlier design was that if it was opened whilst still attached to the belt, one of the smaller front pockets was upside down and potentially items could fall out when it was opened. To counter this problem, on the MTP version when opened out only the top half folds down, which then reveals the second smaller pocket with a top flap opening across the pocket so everything remains vertical for access: imageTwo small side pockets have been added to the pouch to separate out items that are needed for easy access. Judging by the shape I would think these were used to hold the morphine syringes: imageAs well as a change in colour from olive green to MTP (there is a DPM version in between that I don’t have yet), the fixings on the rear have changed to allow this pouch to be fully compatible with PLCE web gear: imageBeneath the top flap are two plastic ‘T’ bars for attaching to the belt: imageAnd on the top are the same fasteners you see on PLCE pouches allowing the yoke of the PLCE set to be attached: imageNote also the medical cross symbol on a printed label on the top flap. The top flap itself has a clear plastic liner that creates another small pocket to allow small items such as alcohol wipes to be easily stowed here: imageThe lid is secured with a black plastic ‘Fastex’ buckle on the front: imageInterestingly nearly all of these pouches I have seen have an incorrect label sewn to the rear. Although this is an MTP pouch, the labels frequently describe them as DPM: imageThis suggests that the manufacturer’s forgot to update the label printing when they updated the camouflage! The contents of this pouch would be similar to the example we looked at earlier. This is a suggested packing list from the contents card:

1 x Pouch, Medical, 3-compartment

1 x Suction Easy

1 x Resuscitation aid face shield

1 x Adult Triage Label Pack Individual 5 Triage labels 5 Dead

1 x Chest Seal Asherman single use

2 x Morphine auto injector 1 x Pencil, Skin marking

2 x Emergency Bandage Trauma

1 x Tourniquet System Self applied CATS

1 x Scissors bandage universal Tufcut

2 x Bandage triangular calico

4 x Gloves medical examination/procedure size medium

1 x Hemcon Bandage

Military Marked Tongue Depressor

A tongue depressor is an instrument used by medical staff to press down a patient’s tongue to allow them to view the pack of the throat. They have been in use for centuries and although most commonly made of wood, Ivory and stainless steel have both also been used to make them from. Wooden throat depressors are usually only used once before being thrown away, the material not allowing them to be easily sterilised for reuse. By contrast stainless steel can be easily sterilised alongside other medical instruments and British medical staff have used both types over the years. Tonight we have a metal tongue depressor to look at:imageThis tongue depressor is a long piece of metal, gently curved to match the contours of the mouth. This example is undated, but does have a nice /|\ Mark indicating British military ownership:imageMedics captured by the Japanese in Hong Kong had few instruments to look after their patients and this included tongue depressors, which were in short supply even before war broke out, as recalled by a Canadian nurse Kay Christie:

They had four tongue depressors, four wooden tongue depressors and one metal one for a whole ward. All of our boys had a sort of flu, and this was before hostilities began. The Medical Officer was going round looking at their throats and then he’d put down the tongue depressor and I’d take it and break it. After I’d broken three, the orderly, the British Army orderly, said, “Sister, you don’t break those…we boil them and use them again. That’s a ward allotment.”

The tongue depressor was also used in the applications of ointment to the back of the throat, as described in the 1944 RAMC training pamphlet:

Painting the Throat- Requirements: a swab holder or Spencer Wells forceps; a tongue depressor; small cotton wool swabs; throat paint; a receiver; and, if necessary, a torch or other light.

If able to sit up, the patient should face the light; otherwise a torch should be used to illuminate the throat. Hold down the tongue gently with the tongue depressor. Using a swab firmly held in the swab-holder or forceps, paint the throat quickly but gently. If more than one application is needed use a fresh swab each time. Substances commonly used for painting are iodine paint 5 per cent; glycerin and tannic acid; carbolic lotion (1 in 60); Mandl’s paint.

Osprey Mk IV First Aid Pouch

The conflict in Afghanistan proved to the British Army that there was a definite need to give soldiers their own first aid kits to give them something better to deal with  combat injuries than just a first field dressing. We have looked at the DDPM MOLLE first aid pouch here, and it was a definite improvement on what earlier soldiers had been issued with. When the new MTP Osprey system was introduced though a new and much larger personal First Aid Kit was issued with it:imageThese large and distinctive pouches can often be seen fastened to the hip of Osprey armour systems:imageThe pouch has a large medical cross on a patch of the front of it:imageThis is sewn to a small pocket on the outside of the main pouch:imageOn the rear are the ladder straps and loops of the MOLLE system used to attach the pouch to the rest of the wearer’s kit:imageA small label is sewn here giving the NSN number and item details:imageThe main pouch is opened by using a zip that surrounds the sides and top of the pouch:imageInside is another pocket, secured with Velcro:imageThe main part of the pouch though has elasticated straps to allow a range of items to be easily stored inside, here an ‘Israeli’ type dressing:imageOther typical contents include the CAT tourniquet we looked at earlier in the year. This whole panel is removable from the main pouch by pulling on the top handle- the whole of the back is Velcro attaching it to the main body of the pouch:imageThis allows the main contents of the pouch to be easily removed for access without having to take the whole pouch off the webbing system which could be awkward and time consuming.

With the gradual replacement of the Osprey system with the new Virtus armour, and with the scaling back of overseas commitments, these pouches are starting to find their way onto the collectors market and are far easier to find than they were just two or three years ago. Many examples are heavily used and marked with the original owner’s name, number and blood type; their large size and versatility has made them popular with cadets, hikers and preppers and it can be a struggle to find a mint example at an affordable price.

Military Hospital Postcard

During World War One there was a great need for more hospital beds to treat wounded soldiers, many schools and public buildings were requisitioned and turned into hospitals. Tonight’s postcard is of one of those buildings, the Langworthy Road Military Hospital in Salford, Manchester:SKM_C45817092908111The school was one of five in the area that were offered up for conversion into hospitals. At the time it had about 1100 pupils of all ages and these were moved to Sunday Schools in the area, having half days of teaching throughout the week to free up the building. Looking at our postcard we can see that a large sign has been added over one entrance listing it as a military hospital:SKM_C45817092908111 - CopyWhilst a flag pole in the grounds flies both the Union Flag and the Red Cross Flag indicating it is a hospital:SKM_C45817092908111 - Copy (2)The hospital had 154 beds for other ranks patients. One interesting story with a link to the Langworthy Road Military Hospital was related in the Salfordonline newsite as part of their 100th anniversary coverage of World War One:

It was January 1916 when Mr Thomas Howard, or Jackson as he often called himself, appeared at Salford Magistrates Court charged with larcency and acting under ‘false pretences’.

Howard was serving as a private in the 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers when he took it upon himself to use his acting skills and conmanship to prey on the vulnerable in his home town.

In the first case against him, the court heard from Richard Bowker, a tramguard by Salford Corporation. Howard approached the tram with his arm in a sling and his head tightly bandaged in white cotton: he was limping and telling anyone within earshot that he was a wounded soldier home on leave.

He asked the tramguard the best way to get to Bolton, it being late at night.

Mr Bowker, a sensitive chap by all accounts, took pity on the poor unfortunate and allowed Jackson to stay the night at his home, where he was fed and allowed to sleep on a couch downstairs.

The following morning Mr Bowker’s wife went downstairs to wake the war hero and Jackson was missing along with a shirt which had been hanging up in the kitchen.

The court then heard testimony from an unnamed barmaid from the Priory Hotel on West High Street in Pendleton.

She told how Howard had limped into the pub swathed in bandages, telling her that he was being treated at the nearby military hospital on Langworthy Road.

Her sympathy was aroused by the soldier telling her of his “great pain” in recovering from injuries suffered in France at the Battle of Loos.

She dutifully supplied him with free food and drinks in the pub, as they might for any other local lad who had laid down his life for his country. Howard then took from her a loan of four shillings – no doubt to treat his dear old mum – but was never seen again.

The final case against this shirker was the most serious of the lot.

A widow named Maude Perrill who lived at Gibson Street, Pendleton, fell for Howard’s somewhat dubious charms when he appeared to faint when passing her house, again swathed in bandages and crying out in ‘pain’.

Maude’s own teenage son had been killed at the Battle of Loos – the same that Howard pretended to have been injured in.

She let him into the house and gave him a tot or two of brandy which appeared to revive him.

Incredibly enough, Ms Perrill allowed the ‘wounded hero’ to stay at her house for nine weeks! He would leave her home every morning to allegedly have his bandages changed at the military hospital.

One morning, presumably when Howard had had his fill, she noticed that her son’s watch and gold chain were missing from the nightstand.

She called in the local police, including Detective Inspector Clarke, who would later support her in court.

His team found that Howard wasn’t receiving treatment at the military hospital on Langworthy Road – nor at the temporary hospital at Worsley Hall, as he had claimed.

Further enquiries revealed that he had also visited several shops in Pendleton ‘collecting’ bandages for the apparently short-stocked hospitals overrun with casualties.

It was never discovered whether he was using all of these donated gifts to dress his ‘injuries’ daily, or whether he simply sold them on the street – his record could indicate either, as it turned out.

Howard was eventually arrested in Salford wearing a dummy sling for his arm and soiled bandages.

At the time it was revealed that he was a deserter from his regiment and had a shocking miltary record for theft, among other petty and more serious crimes.

The army asked the court to deal with him on the larcency charges and they would deal with him for desertion.

The Magistrate ordered Howard to be remanded in custody for a week and agreed with the army’s wishes.

Sadly, there appears to be no record of what punishment this rascal received, but you can guarantee that he would receive a warm reception when he arrived back at the barracks of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers!

Medical Trauma Pouch

In addition to the standard combat PLCE set, other items of olive green webbing were issued that were associated with, but not officially part of the main set. One piece of associated equipment was a piece of medical kit, the First Aid Trauma Pack that offered a wider selection of medical equipment than could be carried by a standard infantryman whilst still being a small enough pouch to fit on a belt.

Like other elements of the PLCE set, this pouch is made from olive green Cordua nylon, with a black Fastex buckle to the front:imageThis pouch looks conventional enough from this angle, but looking at it from the side illustrates it’s much greater depth and bulk than a normal pouch:imageA single strip of green nylon webbing is sewn to the rear as a belt loop:imageThe unusual nature of the pouch is revealed when it is opened up:imageInside are two smaller pockets, and one much larger example to hold the various medical supplies. This example comes filled with a great variety of medical equipment; bandages, field dressings, airway tubes, gloves, slings etc:imageI believe this is the original and correct contents for the pouch, minus one or two small items. What is clear is just how much stuff is stowed in this pouch and indeed it is pretty dense and weighty when it is full. Markings on the pouch are limited to a printed panel giving description and date of manufacture, 1990 in this case:imageThese pouches were also produced in DPM later on and were popular with non medical troops as a utility pouch- the large capacity and three pockets being much appreciated.