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1st Health Support Battalion
Callsign Vampire logo used by 1HSB
Callsign Vampire logo used by 1HSB
Active 1 April 1968 – Present
Country Australia
Branch Army
Type Combat Health Support
Size One battalion
Part of 17th Combat Service Support Brigade
Garrison/HQ Holsworthy Barracks, Sydney
Anniversaries 1 April
Unit Colour Patch 75px
File:NATO symbol for medical unit.jpg

The 1st Health Support Battalion (1HSB) is a unit of the 17th Combat Service Support Brigade of the Australian Army. It is based at the Holsworthy Army Barracks in Sydney.[1]


1HSB is a rapidly deployable medical facility able to support all contingency as requested by the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The role of the 1HSB is to provide Level 3 combat health support to land-based forces in joint, combined and inter-agency operations. A Level 3 facility provides the first formal initial wound surgery (surgical resuscitation) and medium to high intensity nursing care in the area of operations. It also provides a definitive diagnosis of the casualties condition.[2]

Current compositionEdit

1HSB currently consists of:

  • HQ
  • Clinical Company
  • Clinical Support Company
  • Operations Support Company

Raising the unitEdit

1HSB has its historical roots dating back to Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War.

In April 1966 during the Vietnam War the 2nd Field Ambulance was raised at Vang Tau. A year later, 8th Field Ambulance took over from 2nd Field Ambulance. Another year on, 1 April 1968, 1st Australian Field Hospital was raised and took over the Australian military hospital at Vang Tau from 8th Field Ambulance (for more details on the units involvement in the Vietnam War, see the Vietnam section below).[3]

In December 1971 the unit returned to Australia and was located at Manunda Lines, Ingleburn in New South Wales, Australia. At this time, the unit name was changed to the 1st Field Hospital (1 FD Hosp).[4]

In January 1996, 1 FD Hosp was relocated to a purpose built medical facility at the Holsworthy Army Barracks in Sydney.[5]

On 16 August 2000, 1 FD Hosp underwent a change to its current name, the 1st Health Support Battalion (1HSB).[5]

1 April has been retained as 1HSB's anniversary to celebrate and commemorate the service of the unit since the raising of the 1st Australian Field Hospital in Vietnam in 1968.

Call Sign VampireEdit


Radio operators in Vietnam allocated the Call Sign "Vampire" to all the Australian medical units at the Vung Tau base: 2nd Field Ambulance, 8th Field Ambulance and the 1st Australian Field Hospital.

The fighting bat logo (pictured left) was originally used by the 2nd Field Ambulance. This is a different logo that is in use today by 1HSB. The current design of the bat logo (as seen at the top of this page) was as a result of a competition organised by the Commanding Officer of 1st Field Hospital, Major General David Rossi AO (Ret), during 1977–1979. The criteria for the design was that it could be easily identified by the unit and involved the use of the Call Sign Vampire and a distinguishable piece of history from which to build upon.[4]

Operational historyEdit

Vietnam War (1966–1971)Edit

Between April and June 1966, during the Vietnam War, the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (1ALSG) had set up a logistics base on the coast of Vung Tau in Vietnam. This base was to support the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) who had set up an operational base at Nui Dat, approximately 20 miles inland from Vung Tau in the centre of Phuoc Tuy Province, south-east of Saigon.[6]

At the logistics base at Vung Tau, a restricted Field Ambulance was set up comprising half a stretcher bearer company and a 50-bed hospital. It was raised on 1 April 1966 and known as the 2nd Field Ambulance. An Australian medical unit was now at war for the first time since 1945. The unit had approximately 100 personnel, a mixture of regular and conscripted soldiers. Prior to the raising of the 2nd Field Ambulance, medical support for the Australian troops was provided by the Americans.[3]

In February 1967, mass casualties arrived at the hospital from three different incidents almost simultaneously. This exposed the limitations of the hospital's operating theatre with three operating tables in a single Kingstrand hut. The modern weapons used during the Vietnam War were producing severe, multiple contaminated wounds with massive tissue damage, much greater than had ever been experienced by Australian Army clinicians. Surgery was often performed at the same time as the initial resuscitation efforts.[2]

On 1 April 1967, the 2nd Field Ambulance at Vung Tau was taken over by the 8th Field Ambulance. It was located in two areas with the main hospital element at the Vung Tau base and a detached forward company at Nui Dat.[3] 171 battle casualties were admitted to the hospital over a period of six months (4 September 1967 to 3 March 1968). There was only one fatality during this period, but it should be noted that most severely injured soldiers with poor prognosis were treated at 36 Evacuation Hospital, the major United States medical facility in Vung Tau.[2]

As Australia's military commitment to Vietnam increased, so did the medical services supporting it. On 1 April 1968 the 1st Australian Field Hospital (1 Aust FD Hosp) was raised. The word "Australian" was used in the unit name so as to differentiate it from the American Field Hospital. This unit became the main Australian medical unit in Vietnam. On the raising of the 1 Aust FD Hosp, 8th Field Ambulance moved to Nui Dat where it had already established a forward company.[3]

The Australian military hospital at Vung Tau expanded from 50 beds to 106 beds, including:

  • 50-bed surgical ward
  • 50-bed medical ward
  • 6-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) [3]

The hospital was fully functional with the necessary military hospital facilities and services including Triage which could take up to 6 simultaneous casualties and could expand to 16 if necessary, Operating Theatres with 3 operating tables, Pathology, X-ray, Dental, Pharmacy, Regimental Aid Post (RAP), Physiotherapy, and Psychiatry. These services were supported by a Q Store, an orderly room, administration, messes and accommodation.[3]

Personnel of 1 Aust FD Hosp consisted of regular and conscripted soldiers from the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps (RAAMC), Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC), Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps (RNZNC), transport drivers of the Royal Australian Army Service Corps now known as Royal Australian Corps of Transport, Chaplains Corps and the Catering Corps. The surgical capacity was maintained by the Citizens Military Force (CMF) specialists from the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force, today known as Reserves, plus civilian specialists who did three-month tours. General Medical Officers were made up mainly of Australian Regular Army (ARA) and CMF full-time commissions. Also attached to the site were 33 Dental Unit, 1 Field Medical & Dental, 1 Field Hygiene Coy and a unit of the Red Cross. Most permanent medical personnel served in country for 12 months.[3]

An increase in use of fragmentation weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades and mines resulted in a doubling of battle casualties from March to August 1969 compared with the previous six months with battle casualties accounting for 33.1% of all admissions in 1969. In October 1969, 36 Evacuation Hospital closed, requiring the surgical facilities of 1 Aust FD Hosp to cope with all casualties, including severe injuries previously treated by the US facility. As history has shown in most military conflicts, disease cases in the Vietnam War outnumbered battle casualties. Other presentations to 1 Aust FD Hosp included cases of Malaria, Scrub Typhus and sexually transmitted diseases to name but a few. [2]

The high standard of para-medical services provided by 1 Aust FD Hosp was such that nearly 99% on patients who reached the hospital alive survived their injury or illness. This is a remarkable achievement, given that many of the casualties arrived at the hospital barely clinging to life with severe injuries. The use of medical evacuation ("Dustoff") helicopters enabled a soldier to be receive emergency treatment at the hospital within thirty minutes of being wounded or injured in the field. This was only possible due to the air superiority of the helicopters, they had mostly unimpeded, rapid access to combat zones.[3]

Australia's combat role in Vietnam ended on 7 November 1971 with the withdrawal of most of the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR) from Nui Dat. On 25 November, most of the medical personnel were withdrawn from 1 Aust FD Hosp. The hospital remained in operation until 14 December 1971 when the last Australian grounds forces returned to Australia.[7]

From the time of the arrival of the first Australian military members in 1962, some 50,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam. 520 died as a result of the war and almost 2,400 were wounded.[8]

The numbers of personnel serving in the medical units at Vung Tau were:

  • 26 personnel served with 2nd Field Ambulance (1 April 1966 – 1 April 1967)
  • 196 personnel served with 8th Field Ambulance (1 April 1967 – 1 April 1968)
  • 651 personnel served with 1st Australian Field Hospital (1 April 1968 to the end of the war) [6]

Personnel deployed to Vietnam received the Vietnam Medal for recognition of service in the Vietnam War and the Australian Active Service Medal 1945-1975 for recognition of service in a warlike operation.

Namibia (1989–1990)Edit

1 FD Hosp health service personnel were deployed to the then South West Africa in April 1989 until March 1990 as part of the Australian contingent of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG). UNTAG was deployed as a United Nations peacekeeping force to monitor the peace process, and ensure free and fair elections leading to Namibia's independence, and the ending of South Africa's illegal occupation.[9]

The Australian contingent was largely made up of engineers from 17th Construction Squadron.

Australian military personnel deployed to Namibia were awarded the Australian Service Medal (ASM) with the Namibia clasp for recognition of service in peacekeeping and non-warlike operations. Following a review in 2001, the ASM was upgraded to the Australian Active Service Medal (AASM) for recognition of service in a warlike operation. Personnel also received the United Nations UNTAG medal.[10]

Gulf War (1990–1991)Edit

The Gulf War commenced on 2 August 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Following an announcement on 10 August 1990 by Prime Minister Bob Hawke, the Australian contribution to the Gulf War centred around the ADF deploying a Naval Task Force to the Gulf area, named Operation Damask. This was part of a larger multinational response involving 34 nations in support of United Nations Security Resolutions.[11]

Australia's Naval Task Force included the ships HMAS Darwin, HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Success which were deployed in Operation Damask I, HMAS Brisbane, HMAS Sydney and HMAS Westralia deployed in Operation Damask II, and HMAS Darwin deployed again in Operation Damask III. A Clearance Diving Team and Task Group Medical Support Element (TGMSE) were also deployed.[11]

The ADF raised the TGMSE under Royal Australian Navy (RAN) medical command as a contribution to the coalition medical support requirement. The TGMSE's were assigned to the American hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH-20). The personnel were doctors, nurses and health administration personnel, predominantly from the RAN, supplemented with Army and Air Force personnel, including members of the Reserve forces.[11]

USNS Comfort arrival in the Gulf in September 1990. The Australian TGMSE personnel undertook normal medical duties and participated in operational medical exercises and drills including training for the handling of casualties of biological and chemical warfare.[11]

Although large numbers of casualties did not occur, medical personnel were required to manage seriously injured and ill personnel including the casualties from the boiler room explosion on USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) on 30 October 1990. 10 sailors died, 6 at the scene and 4 on board USNS Comfort.[11]

USNS Comfort was also called upon on 25 February 1991 when a SCUD missile attack from Iraq destroyed a US Army barracks in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 soldiers and wounding another 110.[12]

There were 3 TGMSE rotations:

  • TGMSE 1 deployed on 13 September 1990 and completed service on 4 January 1991.
  • TGMSE 2 deployed on 31 December until 15 March 1991
  • TGMSE 3 deployed on 13 January until 15 March 1991 [11]

A total of 59 ADF personnel were involved in the TGMSE, including 3 personnel from 1 FD Hosp.[11]

Kurdistan, Iraq (1991)Edit

On 16 May 1991, 75 ADF personnel, including 2 from 1 FD Hosp, were deployed to Kurdistan, northern Iraq on Operation Habitat, Australia's contribution to the multinational response known as Operation Provide Comfort.[13]

The goal of this mission was to defend approximately 4 million Kurdish people fleeing their homes in the aftermath of the Gulf War and supply them with humanitarian aid.[11]

Cambodia (1992–1993)Edit

Somalia (1992–1995)Edit

Rwanda (1994–1995)Edit

Operation Tamar, part of United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR)

Solomon Islands (1995–1996)Edit

Bougainville (1997–2003)Edit

Operation Bel Isi, Combined Health Element for the Peace Monitoring Group.

Vanimo, Papua New Guinea (1998)Edit

Operation Shaddock

East Timor (1999–2000)Edit

Timor Leste (2002)Edit

Operation Tanager/Citadel, United Nations Military Hospital ASC6

Sinai Peninsula, EgyptEdit

Solomon Islands (2004)Edit

Operation Anode, part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Sumatra, Indonesia (2005)Edit

Pakistan (2005)Edit

Operation Pakistan Assist, part of the International response to the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

Lebanon (2006)Edit

Fiji (2006)Edit

Papua New Guinea (2007)Edit


External linksEdit

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