Vintage truck: Ford Model T ambulance

By: Dave Lott

Vintage truck: Ford Model T ambulance Vintage truck: Ford Model T ambulance
Vintage truck: Ford Model T ambulance Vintage truck: Ford Model T ambulance
Vintage truck: Ford Model T ambulance Vintage truck: Ford Model T ambulance
Vintage truck: Ford Model T ambulance Vintage truck: Ford Model T ambulance

The First World War was a terrible waste that killed and maimed many people. There was, however, some advancement made in patient care during this global conflict. Thanks to the recent invention of the motorcar, many were saved that would have otherwise died.

The Ford Model T was the car of choice when the war broke out in 1914. It was massed produced and very reliable. Apparently Henry Ford sold his cars to both sides of the conflict, claiming that war was a politicians making and that business was business, no matter what.

If that's true or not, I'm not sure, but the Model-T was certainly a regular sight on the Allies' side of the campaign – and thankfully so.

Many a soldier owed his life to these as at the time, the modern vehicles could transport the wounded to hospitals safely behind the front line in the quickest times then known to man. The minutes compared, with hours by horse and cart, could sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

By the time the Americans officially entered into WWI, there were already 1000 American volunteers driving over 1200 ambulances that were attached to the American Field Service (AFS).

A year earlier, a group of American volunteers had attached themselves to the American Hospital in Paris. They became known as the American Field Ambulance Service, the first such service, and they drove 10 Ford model-T vehicles set-up as ambulances. These unarmed volunteers evacuated many wounded from the battlefield, often under fire. This noble service was sustained through fundraising efforts back in USA.

During WWII the AFS was again re-activated, serving in France, Italy, Greece, Palestine, Syria, Kenya, Burma, India and North Africa. As a sign of thanks, they were the only non-Kiwis to have free entry to the New Zealand club in Rome. That action in itself shows how highly the Kiwis considered these courageous volunteers. The AFS also helped evacuate survivors from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

By the end of both wars, 4696 AFS volunteers had served, 237 were decorated for bravery and 52 had lost their lives. During this time, they had transported over one and a half million patients.

The unit

To recognise the history of the AFS and to support current fundraising efforts, the AFS setup an ambulance based on the WWI layout. The ambulance we see today has a replica body but has an authentic 1917 Ford Model-T chassis and running gear. This vehicle however never served during the war.

The ambulance has a current WOF and registration, and can be driven when required. The American Field Service, who runs a student exchange between different countries and America, owns it.

This model-T travels the entire length of New Zealand, both driving in parades and also seen in static displays, like it was at the NZMVCC convention in Auckland this year. Readers in Wellington would have seen it at this year's 100th anniversary ANZAC service.

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