A.E. Van Zyl



Until relatively recent times the attention of military commandershas been given over largely to considerations of tactics and weaponry, to the exclusion of the welfare of the ordinary soldiers who must ultimately carry out their Qrandplans. In earlier times no arrangementswere made for the treatment of injuries suffered by the common soldier, for once he was incapable of holding a weapon or moving with the army he became, not so much an embarrasmentas an encumbrance,something to be dis- .carded or disposed of as quickly as possible. Fatal casualties were therefore frequent, for the wounded were usually left to succumb to their injuries or were murdered and robbed by a civilian population wNch regarded almost all soldiery with hostility.

Only gradually did military leadersbecomeaware of the need to preservethe wounded for service in later battles, yet even then the basic skills required to heal the sick and injured were lacking, and the first efforts strike us now as pictureque rather than effective

Even in the armies of the great European powers the proper provision of military medical services is of recent date. fn Britain the CrimeanWar stands out lin popular memory with its legend of Florence Nightingale. From Britain the innovations of organised military medicine travelled quickly to the colonies, and to South Africa, where Imperialand colonial troops saw service together

The volunteer colonial forces in South Africa were soon provided with their own small medical corps, and these, augmentedby the Royal Army Medical Corps, saw considerable service ;in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.On the Republicanside the efforts of the Transvaal Red Cross, staffed mainly by foreign volunteers, are of note.

Once the war was over the colonial volunteer system was extended to include the Transvaal as well, and in 1912 the first steps were taken to launch a uniform South African African Medical Corps to take its proper place in the Union Defence Force.


SOUTH AFRICAN MILITARY MEDICINE; Welfare of the ordinary soldiers; South African African Medical Corps; military medical services

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5787/6-4-842


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