Evacuation by Air of Wounded Soldiers reblog from 2014

Medivac, or Medevac, is now common plus, those of my generatio or older well remember the opening sequence of the film MASH and, or at least the TV spin off. For those who are younger http://vimeo.com/57248653. I was not going to mention but not only the best films, but we went to see the best bands too. We have all seen scenes of helicopters evacuating wounded soldiers from Afghanistan, medivac has been part and parcel of military operations since the Korean War,…and earlier.
The first recorded evacuation by air, of a wounded british soldier from the frontline happened at Bir el Hassana on the 17 February 1917. A Lance corporal had injured his ankle. the unit had come under fire from Bedouin Arabs. unable to ride a camel and too far from a casualty clearing stations something else had to be devised or the lance corporal would surely die. When everything usual had been thought of and rejected something new had to be thought of. Who thought of the idea is not known. it was the Royal flying Corps, the R.F.C. who came to the rescue. The Lance Corporal would be Medically evacuated by air. The Aircraft to be used was a B.E.2c. Slow, but extremely stable the B.E.2c had been designed by Geoffrey de Haviland-who later designed the Mosquito of WW2 fame. By todays standards the B.E.2C was flimsy, there are one or two still flying although I think they may be replicas. By 1917 they were mostly relegated to second line duties, or to flying at night. they were the best planes available. The Lance Corporal was flown directly from Bir el Hassana to the hospital at El Arish. The very first of a long line of wounded British soldiers to be evacuated by air, from the frontline, had been successfully completed. The next would have to wait until world war two.

So what was it like to fly in a B.E.2c? this is an observer’s account

  1. “The BE2C was a sturdy machine which could be put into a dive, but this had to be
    done with care. There was at that time a craze in design for what was called automatic
    stability which was embodied in the BE2C. If you stalled one of these machines it
    went into a dive from which it recovered automatically and bobbed up like a cork in
    water. All very excellent but it required elbow room to do it; if you made a mistake
    near the ground that was that. This capacity to withstand a dive, or rather a powered
    descent, was however very useful for returning against an adverse wind. The nose
    could be pushed down to give a speed of over 100 miles an hour, but this process, of
    course, brought the aircraft continually nearer to the ground, and after a long flight
    entailed crossing the trench zone very low indeed. Here the partridge on the wing
    enjoyed another sport. Intensive machine-gun and rifle fire at once began, and gave
    the bird the sensation of being at the wrong end of a rifle-range without the usual
    protection, as the bullets zipped through the wings. The only safeguard was the small
    wooden seat on which you were sitting, and the smack of a partly spent bullet could
    occasionally be felt upon it. The instinct of manhood in this disturbing situation was
    carefully to compress treasured possessions within this exiguous area of protection.” (My Life – Oswald Mosley)

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