FACT CHECK: Does This Photo Show The World’s First Ambulance Service?
An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows the world’s first ambulance service.
The use of ambulance systems can be traced going back to at least the 1400s. The photo in the Facebook post was taken in 1941.
The Nov. 8 Facebook photo shows what appears to be a person lying in a covered wagon that is being pushed by a uniformed person on a bicycle. Text in the image reads, “The world’s first ambulance service.” (RELATED: Does This Image Show The Tortoise That Is The ‘Oldest Known Land Animal Alive Today’?)
Through a reverse image search, Check Your Fact found that photo published on Getty Images, where it is dated July 1941. The Getty Images caption describes it as showing a “one-man anti-gas ambulance and resuscitator, designed and made for use by the Home Guard.” The Home Guard started as a militia in Britain during WWII as the “last line of defense” against the invasion of German soldiers, according to the Imperial War Museums.
That 1941 picture does not, however, show the first-ever ambulance service, as ambulance systems existed several hundred years prior to the 1940s. The first ambulance recorded worldwide was used by Spanish forces during the siege of Málaga in 1487, Indiana Health Integrated Care reports. The book “Disaster Medicine” further corroborates that the first record of an ambulance being used was in 1487.
The first recorded horse-drawn ambulance service in Britain, where the Facebook image was taken, was in 1883, according to the Liverpool Ambulance website. In 1865, the U.S. Army formed America’s first civilian horse-drawn ambulance service, medical transport service Mercy Flight’s website states.