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Ambulances: How Did They Appear?

Ambulances have long been full-fledged road users, roaming the streets around the clock and saving people’s lives. Modern ambulance vehicles are specifically designed for the various types of emergencies that paramedics face on a daily basis.

For an adequate response, the transport must be equipped with special equipment and devices that can save a person’s life in a critical situation. At the same time, this wasn’t always the case. History shows that it took a lot of time and effort to get what we have today. Let’s take a look at the history of first response vehicles.


First Mentions of Ambulance Transport

There are references to people using first-generation ambulances as early as the 20th century. In general, such a vehicle was a hammock stretched between two horses. The makings of ambulances as we know them today began to take shape around 1887. At this time, London and other European capitals began to offer transport for the sick and infirmed and initially resorted to specially made and modified horse-drawn carriages. The urgent need for rapid transportation of patients became apparent as early as 1881 after a terrible fire in the Viennese Ringtheater.

By the end of the 1880s, many cities around the world were inspired by the English experience. For example, in the French municipality of Saint Louis, city councils modified streetcars to include a nurse’s work area with two beds. The tram lines were located in such a way that all 16 hospitals in the city could be reached directly.

In Germany, a real medical train was introduced in 1902. It was a little more difficult than organizing streetcars in America, since the train had an entire operating room. In addition, the authorities gave priority to these trains over all others when it came to road rules.

How World War I Changed the Ambulance Service


In the early 1900s, motorized ambulances began to appear in cities. However, it only became common after the First World War. Because of the many casualties, the Red Cross and the military themselves realized that they needed modern vehicles to transport the wounded.

The new transportation proved excellent on the front lines of the First World War. It inspired officials to adopt this experience in peacetime for the civilian population. In addition, the invention and widespread use of two-way radio enabled the creation of dispatch services.

World War II and New Challenges

Just before the outbreak of World War II, a different kind of ambulance entered the scene. We mean a military aircraft that was converted into a means of transporting patients from remote areas. In many cases, women served on these planes. They continued to perform their duties during the Second World War and after it ended.

In the midst of World War II, the quality of medicine associated with ambulances fell sharply. Since medical workers were needed on the war fields, many cities and municipalities had to send their doctors. As a result, there were not enough specialists to take care of those who required medical care at home. This became especially painfully evident in countries involved in the war.

With a shortage of doctors, transportation, and equipment, many cities were forced to get creative. For example, civilian vans and cars have been turned into makeshift ambulances. Those who knew at least a little about medicine, were able to provide emergency care, or simply learned quickly, had to fill the role of junior medical personnel. Many wrecked cars used in wartime became the reason for the creation of military vehicles with medical applications.

Modern Ambulances


By the mid-1950s, public health authorities began to realize that the care received on the way to the hospital was just as important as the care provided in the hospital itself. As a result, ambulances were turned into mobile hospitals.

Over time, ambulance appliances became more and more extensive, with defibrillators, monitors, foldable stretchers, and ventilators becoming standards. Furthermore, the equipment depends on the class of the car (A, B, or C, where C is almost an intensive care unit). Van and truck chassis began to be used to make up for all the extra weight. Today, we can see that all the innovations established in medicine and engineering are adapting to their usage in emergency situations to save lives.


As you can see, the ambulance concept has come a long way in the last 120 years. During the wars, it saved a large number of people’s lives. With the flow of time, the ambulance vehicles were improved due to achievements both in the automotive industry and medicine. The key point is to reach people who are struggling for medical assistance as soon as possible and stabilize their health.

However, the world continues to change and face new challenges, so ambulances will have to adapt to the growing needs of humanity. It’s interesting to see what the ambulance will look like in another 120 years.