Bob Bald was transport NCO for 8 Field Ambulance in Vietnam between 1967 and 1968. The below is some of his recolections of Land Rovers from that time.
First, a little history. 8 Field Ambulance was originally raised at Puckapunyal on the 5th of April 1966 to replace 2 Field Ambulance who had already embarked for South Vietnam, I joined the unit not long after that date. Transport section was manned by a 2nd Lieutenant, Transport Sgt, two Corporals and around 20 drivers. Vehicles consisted of ambulances, short and long wheel base Landrovers, around a dozen or more Mk 3 International trucks, trailers, mobile generators, water tankers, domestic vehicles such as utes and staff cars. When we had orders for Vietnam service, our transport section was trimmed to 2 Corporals and ten Drivers, vehicles that 2 Field Ambulance had were transferred to us on arrival (our total unit strength was around 150 personnel). The hospital was at Vung Tau, we also had a forward detachment within the 1st Australian Task Force at Nui Dat, about 30 clicks north of Vung Tau. With the transfer of 8 Fd Hospital to 1st Aust Hospital in April 1968, 8 Field Ambulance with a revised roll, were then moved to 1 ATF Nui Dat.
I see you are seeking information on the medical equipment issued to ambulances in Vietnam. Unfortunately there is not much that I can tell you as the vehicles were not equipped with any medical items. When conveying casualties equipment like oxygen bottles etc, were placed on board prior to the trip and taken out when the vehicle returned. On other occasions like convoy support duty and medical evacuation, medics assigned to the vehicle would have a medical "Section Kit" that was stowed on board. Other duties such as Civil Aid Programs, a doctor and several medics would accompany the ambulance in another vehicle and of course have the medical
All vehicles were operated by RAASC personnel (transport drivers) who had very limited medical knowledge, their job was to drive and maintain all vehicles within the unit. When ambulances were required a medic would be assigned to each ambulance. In my time in Vietnam 8 Field Ambulance had three enclosed ambulances (referred to as "Blood Boxes") that could accommodate four stretcher patients or eight sitting patients, one other new ambulance was at the RAAOC Ordinance Vehicle Park as a spare. Also we had several long and short wheel base Landrovers that could be fitted with frames to fit one or two stretchers. Blood Boxes were restricted in what they could be used for, mainly due to the confinements of the vehicle, in suspect areas open vehicles were normally the preferred vehicle.
I have found the registration of 3 Blood Boxes, 108-650, 112-240 and 114-198. All three were transferred from 2 Field Ambulance. 114-198 was a new unit.
In some photographs you can see some red on the grill, they are sirens. Most of the work with ambulances was the transfer of patients to and from US 36 Evac Hospital (a far superior and better equipped hospital than ours), which was a distance of about 10 clicks each way, mostly through crowded roads of Vietnamese civilians. We put in a request for sirens which was approved for three ambulances, this saved us from yelling out through the side window at locals to get out of our way, sirens also gave us the "go through" at the main gates at the US Airbase and the Australian camp. Also another reason was when battle casualties arrived by chopper (called Dust Offs), blood matching was one of the first thing things attended to. As 8Fd had no blood bank, we then had to grab the esky and as we called it "Race for Blood" over to 36 Evac who would have been notified and were waiting for us, door opened blood in and we were off, it become a competition between drivers who could do the return trip in the shortest possible time. The siren switch was the old type starter switch and you had to hold your foot on it to keep it going.
Another point of interest that you may not know. During our training for Vietnam, ambulances had all "Red Cross" markings and "Red Light", covered by a clip on green covering made out of canvas, in the photo of 108- 650 in convoy you can see the eyelet clips. Reason for this I believe was, all drivers and medics were armed, hence it would have been against the Geneva Convention to display those markings, Vietnam not being a declared war of such, therefore didn't come under those rules, this is only my opinion and I could be wrong, later visions of Blood Boxes never had eyelet clips.
In 1987 at the Welcome Home Parade in Sydney, ex-members of 8 Fd 67/68 were again reunited, it was then decided that we raise a group to be called the "Active Eight Social Club", this group of mainly original unit personnel, have been meeting every Anzac day for the past 19 years, at present we have over 70 financial members ranging from doctors, nurses, medics, cooks and drivers. We have our reunions which run for a week in different states each year, Batemans Bay in NSW was the venue this year and next year it will be in Hahndorf SA, 2008 is scheduled for Canberra, we march under our own banner and we have a committee, I have been the Active Eights Secretary/Treasurer since the inception of our group.
| Yours truly as a 22 year old Corporal,
dressed as a typical Aussie in shorts GP
boots and socks!
|Convoy medical support, first combined
and Australian vehicles on Highway One after
the Tet offensive in January 1968.
| Another view of the same convoy.
| Med-Cap (Medical Civil Aid Program)
village of Nam Binh.
|Driver, Pte Ronnie Warren seated and
Pte Bob Manning at Nam Binh.
|Two of our ambulances at Vung Tau airstrip,
unloading medivac patients on to a specially
outfitted RAAF C130 E Hercules for
evacuation to Australia.
| Damage from a side swipe. Remember
drove on the opposite side of the road.
| A SWB ambulance with stretcher frame.
| Another Transport NCO, Steve Breen
|| A rare photo of a Blood Box pre olive
Vietnam. For a closer look click here.
Many thanks to Bob Bald for these photos of 8 Field Ambulance in Vietnam 1967 - 1968.