Untold lives blog

13 June 2023

Medical equipment required for a military expedition: doolies, dandies and kujawahs

In any military expedition, the logistics of supply and transport are crucial to the success of the endeavour.  One report in the India Office Records gives a flavour of this as it relates to transport of the sick and wounded.  The report is in a thick volume of papers relating to the Abyssinia Expedition of 1868. 
 
Opening page of Report on Camp Equipage and Sick Carriage ‘Report on Camp Equipage and Sick Carriage’,  1 June 1868 - IOR/L/MIL/5/542
 
The ‘Report on Camp Equipage and Sick Carriage’, dated 1 June 1868, was written by Captain Holland, Assistant Quarter Master, General Army Headquarters, Abyssinia Field Force.  It lists the numbers of the various different types of sick carriage despatched for the Expedition as follows: 401 doolies, 40 ambulances, 241 kujawahs, 175 camel saddles, 144 mule pads and 128 stretchers.  There were also 39 European hospital tents and 50 hospital marquees.  Plus, an additional 8 swing cots, 128 dandies and 2129 McGuire’s hammocks for the conveyance of the sick and wounded.  Interestingly, the report gives brief descriptions of all these types of carriage, and some even have little sketches showing what they looked like.
 
Sketch of a doolieSketch of a doolie IOR/L/MIL/5/542
 
Doolies: very much used in India, they weighed 123lbs, were made of teak with cane bottoms and short legs suspended from a bamboo pole by a light iron framework, and covered by waterproof canvas.  Usually carried in India by six bearers, their weight and bulk made them unfit for service in hilly country without roads. 
 
Ambulances: drawn by bullocks, they were heavy and were only fit for use on roads. 
 
Sketch of a dandieSketch of a dandie IOR/L/MIL/5/542
 
Dandies: consisted of a light wooden framework with a cane bottom with two pieces of iron at either end supporting the bamboo pole. Weighing 54lbs, they had nearly all the advantages of a doolie, their portability making them more suitable over bad roads in hilly country. Fastening a blanket across the pole made a temporary cover.
 
Sketches of a swing cot and a hammockSketches of a swing cot and a hammock IOR/L/MIL/5/542
 
Swing cots: a framework of light wood covered with canvas, the whole being supported by a bamboo pole, they weighed 45lbs, and only required four bearers. Well adapted for carrying men suffering from slight ailments or injuries, but not suitable as sleeping cots, and uncomfortable for patients when placed on the ground, especially in wet weather. 
 
Hammocks: very useful for carrying men who fell out of the line of march from fatigue or temporary ailments, but not adapted for wounded men or for patients suffering from serious illnesses.  Same disadvantage as swing cots in not being placed on the ground in wet weather. 
 
Kujawahs (camel chair): used for the conveyance of two sick men on each camel.  A good means of conveyance for sick men in a camel country.  However, gave no protection from the sun or rain.  Similarly, camel saddles afforded conveyance for two men sitting astride on each camel.  Fitted with good backs, and in camel country they were a very suitable means of conveyance for men suffering from fatigue or slight ailments, and who were able to sit up. 
 
Mule pads: weighing 35lbs, generally used for the conveyance of men who had fallen out of the line of march. 
 
The report also gave details of the different types of camp tents used by the Expedition Force:
155 European soldier double poled tents.
312 European soldier single poled tents
863 Native soldier double poled tents
329 Native soldier single poled tents
323 English circular double fly tents
676 English circular single fly tents. 
 
John O’Brien 
India Office Records
 
Further Reading:  
Abyssinia Expeditionary Force 1867-1868: Letters and enclosures from Lord Napier, December 1867-November 1868, shelfmark IOR/L/MIL/5/542. 

 

Untold lives blog recent posts

Archives

Tags

Other British Library blogs