The Queensland Railway Ambulance Corps was established in 1892 to train railway employees in first aid. It was considered that railway employees, because of the nature of their employment, were “especially liable to accident, and that the knowledge of the elementary rules of the treatment to be followed to preserve life and prevent undue suffering,” was likely to be of great value to them, as they were often situated far from medical assistance.
Annual competitions to test the first aid skills of members of the Corps were held from 1914. Teams from all over Queensland proudly represented their region. One north Queensland team – the Bowen team - was extremely successful in the annual first aid competitions in the late 1930s.
In September 1939, the Bowen team defeated Charters Towers, Hughenden and Townsville at Rollingstone, before going on to defeat Cairns, Innisfail, Kuranda and Alma Den at the regional final in Cairns. The team members consisted of Messrs E. Moore (Captain), I.A. Fielding, F.R. Andrews, P. Herlihy and R. Ryan (patient). Team member Ivan Fielding won the individual contest, with 53 points, over W. Ross of Alma Den, and G.A. Bell, of Cairns.
The Bowen team then went on to compete against four other teams for the Commissioner’s Shield, in Brisbane, in October. The competition involved a number of set tasks, including making improvised stretchers from whatever material could be obtained. Each team member was allowed one pocket-knife, and each team was allowed one tomahawk (to be used for splitting saplings). Team members could also use their own items of clothing.
You can see in the photograph above that the patient’s legs are strapped down using belts and neck ties, and that the bandaging has been made from the team members’ shirts. Even shoelaces could be used, provided they complied with the competition’s regulation length. Challenges for competitors also included an oral examination on anatomy, and carrying a “casualty” over obstacles on an improvised stretcher.
Rockhampton won the shield that year, with 448 points out of a possible 530. Bowen came second, with 419 points, and Mayne Junction came third, with 410 points. But it was Bowen’s Ivan Fielding who excelled again, winning the St. John’s Ambulance Silver Cup.
Bowen Independent, 15 September 1939; 16 October 1939.
Cairns Post, 14 September 1939.
Brisbane Telegraph, 12 October 1939.
Macno, V., Buchanan, R., and Blake, T., 'More than work', Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 5 (1), 2011, pp. 107-120.