Australian medical services

A Royal Australian Army Medical Corps corporal and four stretcher bearers were with each Australian infantry company in Korea...

They operated from a casualty collecting point near the company headquarters. Their task was to provide first aid, then carry the wounded man to the Regimental Aid Post (RAP). The RAP held the Regimental Medical Officer, a sergeant, an orderly and four more stretcher bearers. The RAP was close behind the front line and preferably on a road. Up the road from the rear came the jeeps of a Field Ambulance. The field ambulance vehicles transported wounded to a Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) ten kilometers behind the front.

This was the ideal procedure, but in war the weather, the terrain and the enemy conspire against the ideal. In the Korean winter the roads were blocked with snow, and mountain tracks, even in good weather, could be impassible for an ambulance. The alternative, carrying a wounded man on a stretcher over mountains for long distances was so tiring it sometimes required eight bearers. Evacuation might have to be done under enemy fire — at Kapyong the Australian RAP was fired on by infiltrating Chinese troops while the wounded were being moved to the rear.

In the first few months of the war before the Australian casualty evacuation system was established, Australian casualties were delivered to an American Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH). One unfortunate effect of sending Australian wounded through the American system was that relatives in Australia might not be notified for weeks. Once the Australian evacuation system was established in January 1951 those wounded not expected to recover in three weeks were taken from the CCS to Japan by RAAF aircraft. They then went by hospital train to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) Hospital in Kure. The hospital was staffed by Australian, British and Canadian personnel. Some patients were then returned to Australia by air.

The last two years of the war was a period of trench warfare. There was less fighting and the number of battle casualties was sometimes exceeded by injuries caused by road accidents, frostbite, trench foot, and even snow blindness.

Medical services had improved since WWII. Evacuation to a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) directly from the front line by helicopter was sometimes possible. This together with the advent of new antibiotics and the increased use of plasma meant the proportion of seriously wounded Australians who survived the Korean War was greater than in any previous war.

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Australian medical services, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 20 June 2024,
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