Metropolitan Ambulance – Melbourne

Turn of the Century

AWA symbol
The famous AWA logo

It has been noted that the Ambulance Service in Melbourne was one of the first telephone subscribers. The proliferation of telephones at the turn of the 20th century meant that emergency calls could be attended to in a much more timely fashion than ever before.

By 1905 Ambulance call boxes had been established at strategic positions within the city on street corners and on the docks.

Like many Ambulance initiatives, the advancement of the service with new technology relied heavily on the generosity of cash donations to purchase radio equipment.

During World War 2 Melbourne City Council installed a transmitter in the town hall offices and invited the Victorian Civil Ambulance Service (V.C.A.S), as it was known then, to share the facility. V.C.A.S began transmitting messages to vehicles on he road in October 1944. Like their police counterparts, the first equipment installed in vehicles was manufactured by Australia’s Amalgamated Wireless Australasia (AWA).

The ability of ambulances to be diverted to more urgent cases was immediately seen as a marvelous improvement to public service and the entire fleet of 27 vehicles were equipped with radio receivers within two years. Like their police counterparts, the radio system had not evolved into a two way radio system, however, it was recognised that this was the obvious next step to further improve the ability of V.C.A.S to manage its growing fleet of vehicles.

 

Preparing for the Royal Visit

The cost of installing a two way radio system for V.C.A.S far exceeded financial capabilities at the time, with estimates for a system initially costed during World War 2 as 2500 pounds. By 1948 this estimate had risen to 3000 pounds and by 1952 the estimated cost was 11000 pounds.

First melbourne ambulance receiver

With the 1954 Royal Visit looming, a public appeal was launched aimed at raising 15000 pounds. The public response was poor, raising just over one third of the target funds, however, this money (6000 pounds) was used as a payment to partly equip the fleet with two way radio. Thirteen ambulances were fitted with two way radio in February 1954. The Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) raised a further 3000 pounds late in 1954.

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