23.11.22 Honorary Assistant Lesley Upham

1901 Coachmakers’ award improved military ambulance waggon design

This month’s look back at the archives is from the Lloyds Weekly Newspaper and the British Medical Journal from 1901.

The present type of military ambulance waggon is admittedly far from satisfying all requirements and has been the subject of some adverse criticism during the present war in South Africa. The Master of the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers recently offered three prizes for improved designs for an ambulance waggon, the principal objects being to reduce the weight and at the same time to increase its ease and carrying capacity. The competition has proved one of the largest and most successful for many years, and the judges obtained the assistance of some military experts in awarding the prizes.

The drawings – which have recently been exhibited at the Baker Street carriage bazaar – were very interesting and many of the suggestions well worthy of consideration. Increased accommodation for lying down patients, either by placing the stretchers in two tiers or by placing them across the waggon instead of lengthways. With the former arrangement there seems to be some risk of making the vehicle top heavy and unstable on rough ground. With the stretchers across the waggon the breadth of the vehicle must be increased or the body must hangover the wheels. In all the designs there is seating accommodation for a few slight cases in addition to the lying down patients or for a larger number when loaded stretchers are not carried.

The first prize in the competition is awarded to Mr Terry Fulham who provides for two stretchers lengthwise, and others placed across the waggon. Mr John Phillipson of Newcastle who wins the second prize has an ingenious arrangement for lowering the size of the waggon to allow of stretchers being placed crosswise, the canvas cover being high when the sides up and support seats for patients, and lowered when the sides are down and the loaded stretchers carried. The third prize goes to Mr Wendel Holmes, who utilises the seat along the side, and a support down the centre of the waggon to support a second tier of stretchers, thus allowing four lying-down cases. Mr JW Vickers (Catford) has slings for stretchers in the method employed for railway carriages (Zavodorski’s).

A very neat looking waggon, with convenient cupboard accommodation, carrying three stretchers abreast is that designed by Mr Cuthbert Clarke. The principle of lowering the sides of the waggon so that these extend over the wheels, and give increased floor area, which was proposed by Surgeon-Lieutenant Colonel JE Squire some 10 years ago, seems to have occurred to many of the competitors as the most desirable means of increasing accommodation for lying-down patients.
The ideal ambulance waggon is yet to be made. There must apparently always be a compromise between carrying capacity and comfort on the one hand, and suitability for rough work over rough ground on the other. Such a competition as that arranged by the Coachmakers Company is most useful in bringing out ideas which may eventually make it possible to fulfil all requirements.