Medicine at Sea

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Medical staff on a ship have to deal with any situation from common illnesses to casualties from major incidents. Working at sea also presents difficulties not experienced ashore, however during the 20th century advances in medicines, equipment and working practices have helped improved care.

Bigger ships have a team of Medical Officers, Surgeons and Sick Berth staff. On frigates and destroyers, there is usually only a Medical Assistant (MA) - known for many years as the Sick Berth Attendant (SBA) and previously the Loblolly Boy.

During wartime hospital ships help deal with large numbers of casualities. Royal Marine Bandsmen who act as stretcher bearers and the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNNS) supplement naval medical staff. This saw female nurses involved in conflicts such as the Falklands before the WRNS (Women’s Royal Naval Service) served at sea.

Select a theme below to listen to first hand accounts.