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South African Forces
South African Forces


1 Forward Field Hospital*

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1 Forward Field Hospital* - (0 members)

1 Forward Field Hospital (1FFH) [Afr: 1 Voor-veldhospitaal] was established during Operation Savannah, at Cela, in Angola, about 70 kilometres behind the front, on 20 November 1975 (as per the first entry in the war diary), and the name was changed to 1 Forward Surgical Unit (1FSU) [Afr: 1 Voor-Chirurgiese Eenheid] on 22 December 1975. Their first task was to equip the existing hospital properly so that the wounded could be stabilised and the local population treated. Already on 23 November 1975 the first casualties were brought in to 1 Forward Field Hospital. There were 14 wounded South Africans and 22 UNITA, victims of the battle of Ebo. With the withdrawal of Task Force Zulu and battle groups Boxer and Orange early in January 1976 the Cela-hospital was evacuated and the wounded were taken to Silva Porto and Sá de Bandeira.


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History

RE: 1 Forward Field Hospital*

On 20 November 1975, more medical personnel under the command of Colonel T.A. Dippenaar departed from Rundu for Cela with 1 500 kilograms of medical supplies. At Cela there had been five medical doctors and nine medical orderlies. During the next few days they were reinforced by another ten medical officers and thirteen other personnel.

Their first task was to equip the existing hospital properly so that the wounded could be stabilised and the local population treated. It was known as 1 Forward Field Hospital (non-officially as 1 Forward Surgical Unit) and was about 70 kilometres behind the front.

Already on 23 November 1975 the first casualties were brought in to 1 Forward Field Hospital. There were 14 wounded South Africans and 22 UNITA, victims of the battle of Ebo. The hospital and its personnel were barely ready for such a large number of casualties. The medical team worked through the night. A shortage of plasma resulted in the officers themselves having to donate blood. The Ebo casualties brought the realisation that a helicopter was essential for the evacuation of losses. The first casualties only arrived at the hospital five-and-a-half hours after the contact after a trip on the back of an open truck over very bad roads. The Air Force responded rapidly and stationed a helicopter at Cela for the evacuation of casualties the very next day.

After this first trial the medical team were not nearly again caught so unprepared. Other than the battle casualties, 14 cases of battle fatigue and 11 cases of shellshock were also treated even though there were no psychiatrists in the team. The services of a psychiatrist, Colonel A. Weideman, were made available between 12 and 15 December while he visited Cela. Two categories of shellshock cases were identified: patients that displayed symptoms of hysterics and the inability to stand up or supply their names, and the second group which had shown signs of aggressiveness and negativity with a determination not to return to the front. The first group were treated with psycho-therapy and rest, the second kept in solitude due to their aggressiveness and negative influence.

Cases of malaria were also treated at the hospital – by 29 November there had already been 23. It was mostly due to negligence because malaria-tablets had not been taken regularly. In the section for outpatients, between 20 and 60 members of the local population were treated daily, a valuable service provided to the community.

Major J. Olivier was the health officer at 1 Forward Field Hospital. He was responsible for general hygiene, testing of water samples taken (also from nearby bases), had water tanks cleaned and conducted regular meat inspections. On one occasion the canned food contained in some rusted cans in Portuguese ration packs, resulted in some cases of food poisoning.

Photo: Colonel (Dr.) T.A. Dippenaar with assistants in 1 Forward Field Hospital's theater working on a Cuban Prisoner Of War
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Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET

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