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The Battle of Keren - Medical support in a complex environment
  1. Lieutenant Colonel A Yates, MA RAMC, SO11
  1. Medical Operations (Plans/Commitments), Headquarters Land Forces, Erskine Barracks, Wilton, SALISBURY Wiltshire SP2 0AG andrew.yates213{at}


Rapid developments of capability seen in the contemporary operating environment are a constant during any period of conflict. The Second World War is littered with numerous examples of adapting systems developed following the First World War and making them more suitable for a more mobile, modern form of warfare. The East African campaign during 1941 saw a number of developments to an accepted field medical system. Established as a neat, linear structure from point of wounding through to hospital care, it was adapted to support a battle waged in a complex environment. The Battle of Keren, in Eritrea, was the decisive battle of the East African campaign, and is a remarkable example of rapidly exploiting success, with Commonwealth forces taking full advantage of Italian reluctance to become decisively engaged. To maximize success, support to the fighting echelon had to be, at least, as agile and able to adapt to circumstances presented resulting in the first significant land success of the war. It provided a vehicle for the Army Medical Services and Indian Army Medical Corps to develop a system of treatment and evacuation in an extremely challenging situation, a system that continues to have relevance today.

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