5th Australian Ambulance Train

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Brief History

5th Australian Ambulance Train was raised to supplement the 1st Australian Ambulance Train in Queensland. The train was converted by Queensland Railways and the unit to run it was raised in Enoggera in March 1942. Based at Reid River initially, they were used mainly on the Townsville/Charters Towers/Hughenden line with occasional trips to Cairns or Brisbane. In July 1942 they moved their base to Charters Towers. Australian Ambulance Trains were use to transport seriously wounded and extremely sick Allied servicemen from the northern tropics of Queensland to the south from 1942. The average trip from Townsville to Brisbane took 48 hours, with the train reaching a top speed of about 35mph (56km/h). More locally it took even longer when from March 1943, an Ambulance Train was operating out of Rocky Creek, Atherton Tablelands, where a group of military hospitals were established to cope with the influx of wounded and diseased Diggers and United States military personal.

Following a request from the US forces for an Ambulance Train the engine and carriages were operated by US forces from March 1943 to June 1944, after which it was again operated by Australian service personnel. The returned train had significant improvements made to it , and with a capacity of 194 patients the unit worked the Cairns Brisbane main line, linking with the 4th Australian Ambulance Train at Townsville and the 1st Australian Ambulance Train in South Queensland.

It should be noted here that there was no highway from Cairns to Brisbane at this time and medicos faced serious problems when it came to evacuation of thousands of wounded and sick servicemen returning from the battlefields in New Guinea and other islands in the southwest Pacific.



Content has come from The Unit Guide - Volume 4 - The Australian Army 1939-1945, page 4.171 - Graham R McKenzie-Smith - Big Sky Publishing - 2018

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