Monthly Archives: October 2013

When Was The First Recorded British Ambulance Flight?

First air ambulance aircraft

The Airco DH.9 (from de Havilland 9) – also known after 1920 as the de Havilland DH.9 – was a British bomber used in the First World War.

The first recorded British ambulance flight took place in 1917 in Turkey when a soldier in the Camel Corps who had been shot in the ankle was flown to hospital in a de Havilland DH9 in 45 minutes. The same journey by land would have taken some 3 days to complete. In the 1920s several services, both official and unofficial, started up in various parts of the world. Aircraft were still primitive at the time, with limited capabilities, and the effort received mixed reviews.

Exploration of the idea continued and France and the United Kingdom used fully organized aeromedical evacuation services during the African and Middle Eastern colonial wars of the 1920s. In 1920, the British, while suppressing the “Mad Mullah” in Somalialand, used an Airco DH.9A fitted out as an air ambulance. It carried a single stretcher under a fairing behind the pilot. The French evacuated over 7,000 casualties during that period. By 1936, an organized military air ambulance service evacuated wounded from the Spanish Civil War for medical treatment in Nazi Germany. The first use of medevac with helicopters was the evacuation of three British pilot combat casualties by a US Army Sikorsky in Burma during WW2.