Call Sign VAMPIRE: The inside story of an Australian Field Hospital during the Vietnam War


Call Sign Vampire: The inside story of an Australian Field Hospital during the Vietnam War

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The inside story of an Australian Field Hospital during the Vietnam War

ISBN: 978-0-646-83599-0

Published & distributed by 1st (Aust) Field Hospital Association Inc.

ABN 42 805 791 858

Authors: Rodney Searle, Denise Bell, Paul Danaher, Gregory Anderson


Physical Details: Hard Cover with dust jacket, encased in a burgundy presentation sleeve embossed with the Fighting Bat Logo • Weighs over 2kg • Pages: 280 (High Quality) • and hundreds of photos • Size: 30cm x 30cm


Genre: Australian Military History – Vietnam War – Medical & Nursing


Th​is​ book is a comprehensive overview of the 1st Australian Field Hospital based at Vung Tau, South Vietnam. The unit itself was raised in Vietnam 1 April 1968 and returned to Australia 25 Nov 1971.

Call Sign VAMPIRE​ -​ The inside story of an Australian Field Hospital during the Vietnam War  provides a window into the frenetic world of a military hospital in a war zone. an environment where time was of the essence and life often hung in the balance.

This complex and detailed unit history is told through a compilation of operational facts, the personal accounts of those who served and the soldiers they treated. The images add a visual depth that cannot be conveyed in words. Combined, the words and images reflect every aspect of life within the 1st Australian Field Hospital.

The narrative is compelling and, at times, confronting but is testament to a cohesive team united in purpose and aims. Throughout this book, the reader will gain understanding of how the hospital was not just about the medical teams but also about personnel such as the cooks, the clerks, the drivers and how everyone fitted together like cogs in wheel to ensure that the hospital ran smoothly and efficiently.

The story begins with a brief background on the war and includes an overview of both 2 Field Ambulance, and 8 Field Ambulance, and the trials and tribulations they encountered in the lead up to the 1st of April 1968 when 1AFH was raised. The next 15 chapters detail the flow of patients through the hospital beginning with Field Medics to Dustoff, where we acknowledge the service of the medics in the field, the helicopter pilots and the medics who flew with them.

The story continues with Vampire Pad to Triage, Theatre, Wards, Doctors, Nurses, Medics, Outpatients, Psychiatry, Pathology, Xray, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy (incl 1Fd Med & Dent), Dental  and Chapter 16 Medevac.

From chapter 17 the story takes the reader into the workings of other areas of 1AFH, and its subsidiary partners, such as the Red Cross, Chaplains, HQ & Admin, Admissions and Discharge, Q store, 1Fd Hyg, Transport, Catering , Messes, Boozers, Entertainment & Sport ending with Pack Up and Return to Australia.

Interspersed through the book are “Insert” chapters beginning with “It Wasn’t Always Australians We Cared For.” , “Graham Edwards AM”, “Medical Civil Action Program” “Poetry & Art” and the “Supply Chain.”

The book finishes with an Honour Roll of all who served with 1st Australian Field Hospital and its co-located units.

Call Sign Vampire captures not only the essence of daily life at the 1st Australian Field Hospital but also the humanity, compassion, empathy and an unparalleled level of teamwork by those who served with the unit during the Vietnam War.





“This book embodies not only our teamwork, but our compassion and empathy as we dealt with the confronting human cost of war head on.” Lt Col Michael Naughton OBE (Rtd), Commanding Officer 1AFH 1969/70


“The women and men who served there, who treated, cared for, looked after all the wounded and sick, are in my mind the true heroes of the Vietnam War. I will never forget the unknown nurse who spoke to me in a dark ward as I woke from surgery extremely distressed and vomiting. ‘You’re safe here Private Berry’. I thank them all daily.” Michael Berry (7RAR)


“Well , I have just about finished reading all the print in the book, and that probably sounds a bit daft, but it is very easy to drift through it, doing mostly the great visuals, (and I’ve done plenty of drifting!), but the text is just wonderful … and the research and work that has gone into it is extraordinary. There is just so much information about the many aspects of the Unit’s operation that I was quite ignorant of, and I find it all quite riveting!

“The style and brilliant presentation, with so much personal input, must surely make it unique in the genre” Ruth Devine (Lt Ruth Page, RAANC, 1st Australian Field Hospital SVN 69/70)


“Take a bow all involved.  One of the most outstanding unit book on a Vietnam unit I have ever read. What a great publication and it is certainly a collectors must have.” Graham Edwards AM (7RAR)


“Who should read this book? Anyone who was a patient in either 2 Field Ambulance, 8 Field Ambulance, or 1 Australian Field Hospital. You will learn a lot about what was going on in the background during your stay as a patient in these establishments. I would add that anyone who is a relative or a friend of one of the patients should also read the book, it will help you understand what it was like to be there and give you a very good appreciation of the wonderful work that the medical staff did to keep our diggers alive and help them recover. And of course, anyone who worked in Vietnam as a member of the medical fraternity, whether a medic, a surgeon, a nurse, or a member of the Red Cross.” ……. Karl Metcalf (7RAR)


“Much has been written about Australia’s role in the Vietnam War. There are many written histories by academics, journalists, historians, and first-hand accounts by veterans. All are valuable to our knowledge and understanding as a people and as a nation, but something was missing. Who cared for our sick and wounded?  How was it done?

Call Sign VAMPIRE fills a long-held void. A space where the premier Australian medical unit of the age is showcased by its veterans.  The 1st (Aust) Field Hospital Association is to be commended for publishing an outstanding record of the hospital’s achievement, a story of and about its members, and their commitment to the survival and welfare of the Australian and New Zealand Digger, who admire them beyond words.” ……… MAJ Geoff Jones Rtd (RAAMC)


“Soldiers who found themselves as patients may well be amazed of the behind the scenes which occurred to restore them to good health or prepare them for evacuation home.” …. Kathy Mortimer former FLTLT, RAAF