Surgeon Major Laurence Corban served in the Egyptian War of 1882 in medical charge of 2nd/The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He landed in Egypt on 23 July. He remained with his regiment until after the termination of all active operations by the capture of Cairo, which permitted the withdrawal of the greater portion of the troops. His regiment was always to the front during the campaign, and Dr Corban was in every battle, so that he had ample opportunities of noting deficiencies.
Surgeon Major Laurence Corban recorded his observations in Experiences of an Army Surgeon during the Egyptian Expedition of 1882. In his pamphlet of twelve pages, Corban made several comments on the quality of the food, clothing, equipment and medical aid, which if adopted, he believed would improve military sanitation in future campaigns. The following points, embracing the well being and physical fitness of an army in the field, were noted:
- Food: Corban objected to the hard ship's biscuits, over which he had known instances of men breaking their teeth; advised a more frequent issue of cocoa in the place of coffee, for which the ordinary cocoa and milk in tins would suffice; that the bread should be white and otherwise good; the use of Australian tinned beef, but not tinned mutton which seemed to have been most objectionable. Curries were to be occasionally given instead of the ever recurring stews, and altogether more variety introduced into the dishes. He advised the keeping of cold tea as a wholesome drink, and was of the opinion that an evening issue of rum in such campaigns as that in Egypt tended to prevent much illness among the forces.
- Clothing: Dr Corban condemned the present campaigning dress. He considered that worn by the Mountain Battery, the Seaforth Highlanders and the Manchester Regiment more superior. He preferred the wearing of kaki clothing lined with thick flannel for the cavalry, artillery, and infantry when campaigning in a cold climate.
- Equipment: Dr Corban made several suggestions for improving the carriage of the soldier's tools on the march and proposed alterations in the water carts and bottles with the object of purifying the bad water supplied during a campaign.
- Medical Aid: Dr Corban was in favour of independent medical aid for regiments and batteries, according to the equipment given for the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, which he found invaluable for the benefit of the regiment. The contents of the paniers needed revision, and more medical comforts were to be transported.
- Medical equipment: The surgeon's pocket case was also criticised. Corban devised a new pattern belt and pouch, which contained two or three bottles for essential medicines, tourniquets, several bandages designed by him, hypodermic needle and solution of morphia. In addition to the ordinary instruments were added a folding bullet forceps, of special construction, some bull dog and arterial forceps, and an aneurysm needle. In the inside belt were three elastic catheters.
Corban maintained that a surgeon equipped with his pouch and belt, could extract a bullet at once from near the surface and avoid sending the wounded soldier to hospital with the bullet still in situ in the bandaged wound; inject morphia as necessary; arrest haemorrhage with the tourniquets; tie arteries; apply antiseptic dressing with firm bandages which do not slip; make use of the same bandages as splints for broken limbs; employ astringent injections; use elastic catheters which might be retained in position in case of bullet or other wound of, or in the neighbourhood of, the bladder or urethra. His innovation was a vast improvement on the small pocket case used by army surgeons which constraint them in what they could achieve.
As to future expeditions, Surgeon Major Corban considered that all the medical sections of the force should be complete and combined; should be shipped together in the same steamers; and arrive, as far as possible, at the point of descent on the hostile shore at the same time. Hospital ships should also accompany these transports, in order to receive the first sick, wounded and invalids, who, after a short sea trip, would be able to return to their duty. He was also emphatic as to the great advantage of the early treatment of the sick, and the keeping of all the ordinary mild cases in camp.