Category Archives: Medical

ARP First Aid Outfit No 4

In the run up to World War Two British companies were quick to take advantage of the growing worry about air raids and produced a wide variety of goods that householders could buy to help protect themselves, their loved ones and their property in the event of bombing. This page from the Daily Mail in early 1939 shows some of the products advertised to the general public as being needed if the bombers came:FetchMany of these products would be of limited use when bombs finally came, but first aid kits were a sensible purchase and although advertised as for ‘ARP’ use, they were also functional for more general accidents round the home. One such first aid kit was the ‘First Aid outfit number 4, which came in a stout cardboard box:imageA large label was pasted to the front with details of the boxes title, manufacturer etc.:imageInside was a variety of first aid supplies:imageAnd the underside of the lid had some basic first aid instructions. These have been tailored slightly for ARP use by including advise on treating gas casualties:imageI am unsure if all the contents of this box are original, or how complete it is, but I suspect it is at least representative of what the outfit originally contained. Amongst other items, the box contains cotton wool, crepe and triangular bandages, a box of Elastoplast brand adhesive plasters, pins, a tin of Vaseline, an eye bath and a thermometer:imageThere is also a small vial of insect repellent which I suspect is not original to the box, but is period so was probably added by the original purchaser.

A wide variety of first aid kits were sold to households in this period, at varying prices and with different contents. Some were far smaller than this set, with just a few bandages and slings, others were far more comprehensive and contained many more items. They were usually sold based on the size of household they were purportedly designed for, but often the retail price was a more pressing factor and a poor family with many children, if they could afford a first aid kit, would have purchased the cheaper sets regardless of the fact that they were marketed as being for a smaller number of people.

No 15 Large Wound Dressing

Over the years we have looked at a large number of different wound and shell dressings on the blog. Some are carried around by soldiers in the field, like first field dressings, others are for use by medics and are either carried in a specific medical haversack or used in dedicated medical posts to dress wounds. Many of these dressings are identical to those produced for the civilian market and not all have the familiar /|\ mark which makes identification harder, but the consensus does appear to be that they are military as well as civilian items and I am treating this example accordingly. The coal mining industry had one of the best developed systems of first aid at the time of the Second World War, mines being very dangerous places. This means that many dressings are called ‘mine dressings’ and the colliery industry seems to have come up with a set of standardised guidelines on what size and shape dressings should be, hence many dressings including tonight’s example, say ‘authorised by mines department’ on them. The Board of Trade’s Mines Department was in existence between 1920 and 1942 which helps provide a rough date for many of these medical items.

Tonight’s dressing is a No15 Large Plain Wound Dressing:imageThis dressing is wrapped in waxed brown paper, with a paper label wrapped around it. The front of this label clearly identifies which dressing this is:imageThe back of the dressing gives some instruction in its use:imageNote the cloth tape at the top for opening the packaging easily with. At one end of the label is a stag trade mark:imageWith the manufacturer’s details on the opposite side:imageRobinsons & Sons were founded in the 1830s and specialised in manufacturing both packaging and cotton based absorbent products such as ladies sanitary products and surgical dressings. A company who specialised in medical supplies would obviously be in large demand during wartime and it seems that Robinsons were given a number of very large contracts to produce dressings for the British Government for both civilian agencies such as the ARP and for the military.arms_med_armymed_5

Medical Technician’s Trousers

Update: My thanks to Richard Aixill for providing some more information on these trousers which has allowed an update.

Most militaria collectors tend to focus on combat clothing or other distinctly military items of clothing. Alongside these though, are a large number of pieces of work clothing that look very similar to their civilian counterparts, but are purchased for military use. Items such as specialist clothing for medical use are normally identical to their civilian counterparts but have labels and markings that indicate they were part of the military stores systems. Tonight we have an example of just this sort of item with a pair of medical technician’s trousers:imageThese are made of heavy duty white cotton and are simple, loose fitting trousers. The waist and fly are secured with white plastic buttons:imageAnd a metal slider is included for waist adjustment:imageSimple slash pockets are included at each hip:imageAnd a buttoned rear pocket is fitted to the seat of the trousers:imageThe label in the waistband of the trousers shows they are military issue as they have an NSN number and gives details of sizing:imageThe 22G code indicates they were issued to the RAF and they date from around 1979. They were manufactured by Remploy, a government owned factory that offered employment to disabled men and women and a firm that won many contracts from the military in the post-war period.

I have struggled to find much information on medical technicians in the Army during this period, I have got a description of what an ‘Operating Theatre Technician’ was expected to do in 1979:

Operating Theatre Technicians are selected from RAMC trained soldiers. They prepare operating theatres and assist surgeons, anaesthetists, and hospital sisters during operations in hospitals and field units both at home and abroad…

A medical technician though was a more general term for any other rank member of the armed forces in a medical role and these trousers were probably worn by both these and those with a more specific role in military healthcare of the period: the white colour indicating their use in a ward or hospital rather than in front line service.

British Army Syringe

The syringe is an essential medical tool used to inject fluids into the human body and to extract them from the same. Today most syringes are single use plastic devices that are thrown away after one injection to prevent the spread of infection. During the Second World War though they were made of glass and metal and were designed to be reusable, having to be sterilised between each use. Tonight we are looking at a military example of one of those syringes. It is housed in a small stainless steel box:imageThe lid of the box is marked ‘JJEFF’ and has a /|\ War Department ownership mark engraved on it:imageThe lid comes off to reveal the syringe itself, in this example the glass part is missing, presumably broken at some point in the object’s history:imageThe syringe and its accessories are mounted on a sprung steel tray that is a tight push fit into the outer box:imageThe syringe is made of stainless steel, with a large plunger running down the centre:imageIt is marked up as being a ‘Plimm Product’:imageAlso included is a small metal tube, but quite what this is for I don’t know:imageThe syringe and all the components unscrew for cleaning, it being much easier to sterilise in little parts than as a whole unit where elements might be hidden under other surfaces:imageSterilisation was not always followed strictly in a busy army setting, as recalled by Percy Bowpitt:

Next came the introduction to Army medical care. In the medical room stood the MO and his orderly, the orderly with a list of names, a swab, a dish of spirit, and a tool that we later found out was for inoculating us. Next to him stood the MO with a huge syringe that contained a cocktail of vaccines against Tetanus, Typhoid, and probably all the diseases known to man. The procedure was quick and efficient but hardly hygienic. First the orderly would give each man a quick wipe on the arm with his swab then a smart dab with his inoculating tool that looked like a miniature branding iron. Then quickly onto the MO. Again a quick dab with the swab, this huge syringe was then inserted into the arm, a squeeze, another dab with the swab and you were sent on your way. The same syringe and needle would be used on every man with the occasional wipe with a swab dipped in spirit.

Alf Wilson was another who endured an injection in the army during World War Two:

Every so often we had to have injections for T.A.B, Tec Tox and Typhus. You lined up in a long line, a medical orderly wiped your arm and then a medical officer gave you a stab. On one such occasion, I moved up in line and had just been stabbed by the officer when someone called to him. He left me with the syringe stuck in my arm for quite a while. The fellow behind me must have been worried about injections, because he fainted. The medical officer didn’t realise what he had done and after the parade we went for dinner and rested up in our tents as normal.

The next thing I knew was a sergeant shaking me. I hadn’t turned up for parade. I was out with a temperature and my arm had swollen up. I explained about the episode with the M.O. and they rushed me to hospital for a day or so.

Large Mines Dressing

Tonight we have an example of the ‘Large Mine Dressing’, a field dressing used for the immediate treatment of wounds:imageThis example is covered in blue paper (sadly now rather damaged) and has instructions printed on the front for its use, along with a large /|\ mark indicating government ownership:imageI have struggled to find out exactly why this type of dressing was called a ‘mine’ dressing. I suspect it was first developed to deal with accidents in coal mines, but I have found out nothing definite. In form though a mine dressing is much like a shell or first field dressing, consisting of a sterile absorbent pad attached to a bandage that allows it to be drawn tight against a wound. A tape is provided at the rear of the dressing to allow the paper packet to be ripped open in an emergency:imageThe following instructions come from a RAMC training pamphlet and are about changing dressings in a hospital- in the field things were seldom this clean and organised, but the general principles would remain the same:

The assistant opens the dressing package, or, if large drums are used, places the necessary dressing material in a sterile dish.

Using two pairs of forceps, the dresser cleans the skin around the wound; he then performs the necessary toilet (removal of stitches, drains or packing and irrigation), and covers the wound with a sterile dressing. Great care must be taken to fix the dressing so it cannot slip.

All sterile material needed by the dresser is passed to him by the assistant with the forceps (Cheatle forceps) which never touch anything that is not sterile. Particular care must be taken that the forceps of the dresser never touch those of the assistant.

The dresser then discards his forceps for re-sterilisation and applies the outer dressings and bandages.

Details of procedure will vary in different hospitals, and on active service in the field modification may be inevitable. But it is important that everyone concerned in the dressing of wounds should understand the general principle.

This type of dressing was certainly issued in ARP first aid kits and it is possible it was for military use as well although any information on this type of dressing seems to be sadly limited. Unfortunately this example is rather battered, but it will suffice until I can find a nicer example for my collection.

Dental Support Assistant’s Scrubs Trousers

Over the years we have covered quite a few items related to medical services in the military, tonight however, I think I am right in saying, is our first object related to military dentistry. The Royal Army Dentistry Corps looks after soldiers’ teeth in the army, and the official British Army website describes the role as:

The Royal Army Dental Corps has taken care of the Army’s dental health for nearly a century and continues to provide high-quality dental care to the Army both in barracks and on operations. Wherever in the world the Army operates, you will find the Dental Officers and Dental Nurses of the RADC.

Whilst the army’s dentists are commissioned officers, the dental nurses (both men and women) are enlisted personnel and whilst working in a dental surgery they wear medical scrubs, with different roles having different colours assigned to them. Tonight we have an example of trousers from these dental scrubs for a ‘Dental Support Assistant’:imageThese are incredibly simple trousers, made in a blue-grey shade of cotton. Dentists wear blue and dental hygienists green. There is a simple drawstring at the waist:imageAnd a pair of elastic tucks in the side to help hold them up:imageThey have a single pocket on the seat:imageAs ever a label gives sizing and NSN numbers:imageThe stores catalogue indicates that these trousers are issued as part of a two piece set with the matching top (sadly I have not found this item yet):CaptureThe Army’s website gives more insight into what a dental assistant can expect from their career:

Army Dental Nurses are dually-qualified Dental Nurses and Army Soldiers, who are responsible for providing Dental Nursing support in barracks and on operations all over the world. Both qualified Dental Nurses and unqualified applicants looking to train as a Dental Nurse can apply…

After you qualify, you promote to Lance Corporal and your first posting will be at a military dental centre, providing Dental Nursing care. Our dental centres are all equipped to a high standard and you are given clinical support and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to help you provide clinical care to the highest standard.

As you gain experience and promote, there are lots of opportunities for Dental Nurses to develop within the RADC. More senior Dental Nurses can gain additional qualifications such as Specialist Dental Radiography, fluoride application or Oral Health Education (OHE). Many work as dental practice managers, doing the everyday management of Army dental centres. Some Dental Nurses are sent to Medical Regiments, which are specialist medical units providing medical and dental care on exercises and operations overseas. The same opportunities exist for Reserve Dental Nurses, including providing Dental Nursing support in remote locations such as Kenya.untitled

Outfit First Aid for Tanks and AFVs

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the small first aid outfit tin, tonight we are looking at its larger cousin the ‘Outfit First Aid for tanks and Armoured Cars’:imageThe similarities between this and the smaller tin are very apparent, both are made of metal, painted black and both have an embossed /|\ mark in the lid:imageThis box is considerably larger than the other example and was carried inside tanks and AFVs in a special stowage rack, here we see the diagram for the interior of a Churchill tank, the first aid box is indicated by the red box:ch3stow2The first aid outfit is hinged along the long axis, opening up to give a large space for medical supplies:imageA Canadian example of the First Aid Tin has the following contents list (apologies for the gaps in this list, but the image was very hard to read):

3x Bottles Aromatic Ammonia Solution

1x 3oz Bottle

4x Tannoflax Tannic Acid Tubes

?x Tabs Morphine Tartrate

1x Container Vulcanite

4x Bandages, Loose-Woven, khaki, 3” x 4yds

4x Bandages, Loose-Woven, khaki, 1” x 2yds

3x Packets Bleached Compressed Absorbent Gauze

3x Shell Dressings

3x 1oz Cotton Wool Compressed

1x Eye Bath

1x Medicine Glass

1x Card 1 ½” Safety Pins

1x tin Adhesive Plaster

1x Scissors, Stretcher Bearers

1x Tin Box

2x Boxes Iodine Ampules

There are two metal tabs along one inner wall of the first aid tin, these were for holding a pair of scissors:imageThe tin has a small wire carrying handle on the side opposite the hinge, and simple wire securing locks, identical in design to those used on the smaller tin:imageThe following advice was issued in the manuals of the time for dealing with casualties in tanks and armoured fighting vehicles:

A medical kit is carried in each AFV, and personnel are trained in its use. If the situation permits, casualties are evacuated from the tank, with an attached field medical card indicating the nature of the injury and the first aid already given. Casualties are then collected by medical personnel. e.g. Regimental Aid Post (RAP).