field ambulance

Light horse field ambulance

A light horse field ambulance was an Australian World War I military unit whose purpose was to provide medical transport and aid to the wounded and sick soldiers of a Australian Light Horse brigade.

Typically an ambulance was commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. All officers of the ambulance were medical doctors or surgeons. Dental units were often attached to the ambulance as well.

The ambulance was divided into two sections, referred to as the Mobile Section and the Immobile Section. The role of the Mobile Section was to travel with the brigade into combat, establish a Dressing Station, retrieve the wounded by stretcher or cart and transport them to the Dressing Station. The role of the Immobile Section was to establish and operate a Receiving Station, to which wounded were dispatched from the Dressing Station. The ambulance's surgeons would operate on the wounded at the Receiving Station. From the Receiving Station, sick and wounded were evacuated first to the Casualty Clearing Station and ultimately to a Base Hospital.


The light horse field ambulances operated in the Middle East theatre; Egypt, the Sinai peninsula, Palestine and Syria. The methods used to transport the wounded had to operate effectively in the sandy, dusty environment. Stretcher : As in infantry field ambulances, stretchers were used for transport over short distances, rough terrain or when bearer animals could not be safely employed due to enemy fire. Cycle stretcher : Unpopular and ineffective, the use of cycle stretchers was abandoned after the Gaza battles. Sand cart : The mainstay of the transport section was the sand cart, featured wide steel rims and was designed to run over soft sand and drawn by 6 horses or mules. It normally carried 3 stretcher cases. The sand cart was poorly suited to operating on the hard, rough ground of Palestine and Syria, and breakdowns were frequent. Sand sledge : Used to transport one stretcher case over sand, pulled by two horses.

Light ambulance wagon : Drawn by a four horse team, the light ambulance wagon was designed by Surgeon Colonel W.D.C. Williams. Wagons of this type were taken to Egypt by some of the field ambulance units during the early days of World War I.

Camel cacolet : The camel cacolet was used to carry wounded over long distances on rough terrain that was impassable to wheeled transport. Two types of cacolet were used; the sitting and the lying down type. A pair of patients would be mounted on the camel, either side of the camel's hump.

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