Musicians And Medics: Testing The Army's Largest Field Hospital

The new field hospital is designed to operate in places where there is a chemical, biological or radiological threat.

The Army's new field hospital, designed to protect against chemical, biological, and radiological contamination, has been erected in its entirety for the first time.

Forces News has been given special access to Exercise Jorvik Look at Dishforth Airfield in North Yorkshire, as 34 Field Hospital prepares to be held at 'very high readiness' to deploy.

This hospital formation is the largest the Army would deploy, yet 50% lighter than the old canvas alternative and is safe to operate in places where there is a chemical, biological or radiological threat.

Major Jill Winters, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, explained: "The unique selling point of this facility is its portability.

"Everything that you can see has been commissioned and brought together, both in shelter design and construction, by the staff that are working inside it.

The liners can be taken down and washed, unlike their canvas predecessors.

"It has the ability to withstand all threats and all hazards, but it also has the ability to be cleaned.

"The fact that it's so white in here is because we can take down all these liners and wash them.

"That is completely different from any of the conventional canvas structures that we've had previously.

"This hospital actually works a bit like a submarine - every single compartment has its own climate control system, so we can move our patients into the best environment that we need to look after them, or we can alter that environment to suit their needs."

Exercise Jorvik Look validates the unit, ensuring they are ready to be put at very high readiness to deploy.

The exercise brings together personnel from medical and nursing corps, as well as engineers, logistics specialists, signals and also musicians from the British Army Band Colchester.

The Army Corps of Music have at times in the past, lost their operational role - leaving them to concentrate purely on music.

Now, their extra duties have returned - the musicians will be responsible for the chemical decontamination of casualties, making them safe to enter the hospital so they can be treated.

The facility is 50% lighter than the previous canvas model.

Captain Matt Simons, Officer Commanding, British Army Band Colchester, said: "Musicians traditionally have always had an association with the medical services, going back before the First World War as stretcher-bearers, and then in time in more advanced medical roles.

"They've adopted it fairly well - it's something different so it's a break from the norm and whilst we are professional musicians, we're the first band in the Corps of Army Music to adopt this role, until later on next year when we start a period of readiness and it works in rotation from that point."

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Sandle, Commanding Officer, 34 Field Hospital, outlined the significance of the exercise.

"It's a real rare opportunity we have to get to train together," he said.

"We're trying to squeeze as much training opportunity as we can out of this while we're all here together on Exercise Jorvik Look."

As Jorvik Look draws to a close, the team prepares to be held at very high readiness, meaning it will have five days at most to move to support operations anywhere in the world.