WWII Flying Ambulances Saved Many a Soldier's Life The 8th Army's great advance from Egypt into Tunisia was marked by many outstanding features, of which the speed of the advance is perhaps the most noticeable. But a fact which appears to have escaped attention is the small number of dead. Below, John Allen Graydon explains why the mortal casualties had happily been so few. That we suffered so few fatal casualties in North Africa is due in large measure to the brilliant work by the R.A.M.C., and the splendid manner in which they cooperated with the "Flying Ambulances" of the R.A.F. During the Polish campaign of 1939 the Germans utilized aircraft in this way, and so kept down the number of fatal casualties. Over two years we had improved considerably upon the German method. It can now be revealed that nearly 3,000 badly wounded British and Empire soldiers were saved from death by the speed of the Flying Ambulances. The planes had shock and sound proof cabins, equipped with nursing and medical stores, special blood transfusion gear and heating apparatus. Aboard the aircraft, doctors, when a patient was in danger of dying, have been known to perform emergency operations while flying through the air at over 200 miles an hour. In past campaigns head wounds were a source of special worry to the medical services. Unless a badly wounded man suffering from an injury of this kind was rushed to a base hospital and given the best possible treatment, he usually died. In the Middle East, however, only one-tenth of the men suffering from head-wounds had so far failed to survive. The speed of the Flying Ambulances, which rushed men from the front line to hospitals well in the rear, had made this great achievement possible. That is why, from the point of view of the medical services, the Egyptian and Libyan campaigns were so successful. Similarly, in Tunisia, the Air Ambulances speedily conveyed those who needed urgent treatment from the front-line dressing stations to the hospitals at base. General Freyberg, New Zealand's V.C. leader, who always went into action with his men, was saved from possible death when wounded in the neck. Only prompt action by a Flying Ambulance enabled him to be tended by specialists before it was too late. The British machines have trained medical orderlies aboard who, in their quiet way, had performed some of the War's greatest deeds. Never forget that for the most part the hospital planes travelled back to base unescorted, often over enemy held territory. On more than one occasion, when attacked by Axis aircraft, the orderlies would have had to carry on "their normal duties in a “care-free manner." One lad with whom I talked had two bullets enter his left leg, but he said nothing until they reached base and the last of his patients had been taken into a ward. Then, weak from loss of blood, he collapsed. On one occasion a young pilot, assisting to take aboard the wounded men, had something of a shock when he saw amongst them his own father, a major in an infantry regiment. The wounded man was in a dangerous condition, and the pilot, when he took the air, knew that everything depended upon his ability to get to base in record time. Is it to be wondered at that he piloted his machine like a man inspired? Flying Ambulance, bound for a base hospital on the N. African front, receives a badly wounded 8th Army man. Within a matter of minutes he would be receiving expert surgical attention. Such aircraft saved the lives of many wounded soldiers Enemy fighters twice got on to his tail, but on both occasions the youngster, with his precious cargo safe, eluded the enemy by taking cloud cover. He landed at base several minutes ahead of the previous record time for the trip; his father was rushed to the operating theatre, and, thanks to his son's skill, was once more on duty. Two Boston bombers were forced down after attacking an enemy-held drome in the desert. Several men were wounded; but the observer of one machine walked 22 miles in 30 hours and reached an airfield. He notified the authorities of his comrade’s position, and a doctor was flown to the scene aboard a Lysander. Quickly he tended to the sick and wounded, and by the time an ambulance plane arrived the stranded airmen were ready to be taken aboard and flown to base. Thanks to the Flying Ambulance's prompt action only one man, killed by German fighters, was lost. On many occasions the R.A.F.'s ambulances performed some outstanding deeds on the Home Front. Sometimes, when a sick man needed special treatment, these craft flew him through the night so that he might reach a specialist. Nothing was too much trouble for the R.A.F. when it meant saving a human life. I can recollect hearing, when in the Shetlands, how the Flying Ambulance attached to a certain R.A.F. station flew to the rescue of a coastguard who was badly injured by a cliff fall. The doctor who examined him was of the opinion that he needed special treatment, but that the journey over 40 miles of rough road might prove fatal. A signal was flashed to the nearest R.A.F. base, and the C.O. ordered a Flying Ambulance to proceed to the coastguard's assistance. Touching down near the station, the ambulance quickly took aboard the injured and unconscious coastguard, and he was flown 300 miles to Edinburgh. That coastguard was soon back at his important task. The Flying Ambulances, when first constructed, were considered something of a "stunt." Modern war has proved them to be, however, one of the greatest successes on the “Medical Front."