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Double Decker Stretcher. –A sidecar ambulance

January 20, 2011

Guzzi fan Patrick Hayes sent this photo to the OL inbox, looking for some information.  It is an old motorbike with a sidecar carrying two wounded patients.  It looks like a Red Cross ambulance, based on an Indian Motorcycle.  The sidevalve heads date it to be post-Hedstrom motors, a Powerplus that was introduced in 1916.  Likely this is a WWI era photo.  Do our readers have more information on the bike?  Send your comments via the “Comments” link.



I found a bit more information on motorcycle ambulances in this 1915 edition of Popular Mechanics:


     1915 ambulance -11915 ambluance 2

1915 ambulance -2

and on Wikipedia:

Motorcycle ambulances were used during World War I by the British, French and Americans. At the time the advantages of light weight, speed, and mobility over larger vehicles was cited as the motive for the use of sidedcar rigs in this role. The US version had two stretchers arranged one on top of the other.[28][29][30] The French ambulance used a sidecar that held a single patient, who could either lie down or sit up.[31]


The British Red Cross Society used an 8 bhp (6 kW) NUT motorcycle with a double decker sidecar like the US version. During testing it needed only a 9 ft (2.7 m) turning area, versus 35 ft (11 m) for a motor car ambulance, and had a lower fuel consumption of 55–65 mpg-US (4.3–3.6 L/100 km), compared with 12–17 mpg-US (20–14 L/100 km) for car ambulances. Due to lighter weight they were said to be less likely to get stuck and could be pushed out more easily than a large vehicle.[32]


Sidecar ambulances were used in Redondo Beach, California in 1915, stationed at a bath house at a beach resort to reach drowning victims quickly. Prior to using the motorcycle, life guards had to run or row up to several miles along the beach to respond to calls.[33] The Knightsbright Animal Hospital and Institute, London, was using a sidecar ambulance to transport dogs in 1912, and this mode was still in use in 1937 by the Maryland Humane Society.[34][35]

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Abbott permalink
    January 21, 2011 8:58 am

    These photos show a clever “Instant Unload” feature, provided the brakes are up to par.
    Jim A., Tucson, AZ

  2. February 3, 2011 6:16 pm

    Sure glad we had no need for anything like this on the Motorcycle Cannonball run. Great post – thanks.

  3. Jiri Cerny permalink
    March 2, 2011 7:38 am

    To Mr. Young
    Dear Sir,
    My name is Jiri Cerny. I am a student of Faculty of Humanities of the Charles University in Prague, Czech republic. I’d published a part of my thesis on the history of the ambulance. What are the conditions for using an image of ambulance from your website? – Double Decker Stretcher. –A sidecar ambulance
    Thanks JC

    • March 2, 2011 10:51 am

      Hello Jiri.

      Feel free to use the photos. For the ones that I’ve created myself, I ask that you give credit to me and/or Occhiolungo. For the ones that I didn’t take, I try to give credit to the photographer on my pages with their name and a weblink if one exists. Good luck with your thesis!


  1. [Pic+Vid] Sepeda Motor Ambulance - Ceriwis - Indonesian Community

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