top of page

Unit History

1st Australian Field Hospital, Vietnam War, Patients, Medicine at War
1st Australian Field Hospital, 1st Field Hosp, 1 health Battalion, Call Sign Vampire,ital, 1 Health Support Btn, 1 Close health Btn, 1 Health Btn



1st Australian Field Hospital, Vietnam Nurses, Call Sign Vampire, RAANC, Barbara Black, Medicine at War

View 1969 television news footage of
1st Australian Field Hospital

The opening scene shows Pte Merv Judd and nursing Sister Barbara Black. Both are shown in this image with Red Cross Officer Carolyn Fitzpatrick on the left.

F35135 LT Barbara Francis Black RAANC
died 3 Nov 1971 in Australia
Barbara was the only Australian servicewoman
to lose her life during the Vietnam War.

The 1st Australian Field Hospital was raised at Vung Tau South Vietnam on 1st April 1968 and withdrawn from Vietnam on the 25th November 1971.

Prior to this, the site was occupied by 2 Field Ambulance (1966-1967), followed by 8 Field Ambulance (1967-1968).  When 1 AFH was raised in 1968, 8 Field Ambulance moved to the 1st Australian Task Force Base, Nui Dat where it remained until 1972. 

Lt Col W.J. (Bill) Watson was the first commanding officer of  the 1st Australian Field Hospital. Lt Col Watson designed and produced working plans for the redevelopment and construction of the new Field Hospital, and earned him the nickname ‘Bill the Builder.’


Initially, staffing of 1st Australian Field Hospital comprised 18 officers and 107 other ranks. By early 1970, the medical support team in Vietnam had grown into an extensive and sophisticated organisation with the hospital comprising 63 buildings spread over a 3.2 hectare site within the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group, Vung Tau.

The dedicated radio call sign  “Vampire” was allocated to 2 Field Ambulance, and its use continued with both 8 Field Ambulance and 1AFH. Colloquially, all three units became known as "Vampire Pad".

For the Australian soldier, the name "Vampire Pad" was synonymous with ‘survival’.


The current fighting bat design, still in use today by 1 Health Battalion, was chosen by MAJGEN David Rossi AO Rtd during his tenure as Commanding Officer, 1 Field Hospital, when he ran a competition for a new logo. The winning design was created by Robyn Russell (wife of RSM George Russell). 

Image: Geoff Barnes 1968
Patients recovering outside the wards
1st Australian Field Hospital Vung Tau Vietnam 1968 to 1971, Artwork: Geoff Brand,
1st Austraalian Field Hospital unit plaque, Vietnam War, RAAMC, RAANC, RAADC design, Call Sign Vampire Vung Tau Vietnam 1968 to 1971
bottom of page