Feature Article on Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps Field Ambulance

Founded in 1854, the Hong Kong Volunteers comprised not only combatants, but also a medical unit called the Field Ambulance. The Field Ambulance was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Lindsay Ride (1898–1977) before World War II, with the aim of providing medical aid in the field, when needed. It initially had an intake of more than 100 people of various ages and nationalities, many of whom were medical students. Training consisted of both military and medical skills, such as treatment of wounds, bone fractures and medical emergencies.

When the Japanese attacked Hong Kong in December 1941, members of the Field Ambulance were quickly given orders to serve in different areas. They were exposed to the same dangers as regular troops. Lieutenant Dr Solomon Bard (1916–2014) recounted: ‘On the 10th, the Mount Davis Battery, not far from our position, was heavily bombed by Japanese planes, and I was ordered to proceed there for attachment as Battery medical officer.… On the 14th, an armour-piercing shell, possibly fired from a cruiser, penetrated our protected ‘sanctuary' in the Battery Plotting complex, and fortunately failed to explode, so that some 60 of us sheltering inside escaped from being blown up; we evacuated the complex, since it was no longer safe.'

During the Battle for Hong Kong, members of various units of the HKVDC lost their lives, and most of the survivors became prisoners of war. Lieutenant Dr Albert Rodrigues (1911–2006) was detained in Sham Shui Po Camp. During the days of imprisonment, he managed to find joy amid hardship, expressed by these words he penned: ‘The surrender came soon after, followed eventually by the imprisonment of the whole garrison in Sham Shui Po barracks. There I shared a room with Dr Solomon Bard till the end of the war. I taught him French, and he in turn taught me some of his native Russian!'

The revamped exhibition of MCD will cover the story of the HKVDC Field Ambulance as well as those of some other units having served in Hong Kong.

A pre-war training camp for the HKVDC Field Ambulance. (Image courtesy of the HKU Archives)

Dr Solomon Bard (rear left) and Dr Albert Rodrigues (back centre)  in Sham Shui Po POW Camp in 1944. (Image courtesy of Dr Solomon Bard)


Newspaper clipping about a training camp held by the HKVDC Field Ambulance, in the 5 March 1940 issue of South China Morning Post