Saturday, November 25, 2006

Myths and Mythunderstandings

No doubt we have all heard the unofficial interpretation of the Royal Army Medical Corps’
Initials as being that of “Rob All My Comrades”. I would beg to differ.

When I was wounded on the Coriano Ridge, I was finally picked up by medics of the Seaforth Highlanders of Vancouver and taken to their Regimental Aid Post, which was a fold in the ground with a tarpaulin cover where I was treated for shock by having a cigarette placed between my lips by a sergeant who was unconcerned that I did not smoke at that time. The cigarette helped cool me down until I was taken away on a four stretcher jeep for the long haul to Ancona. Now this Jeep was driven by a member of the Royal Army Service Corps which did a remarkable job in keeping us supplied with food , mail, clothing and various items for our comfort and delivered to our Brigade base camp for supplies from which our own regimental “A” and “B” echelons delivered these items to our Squadron Quartermaster for issue to us at the sharp end, for which we were unusually, most grateful.

Getting back to the main thrust of the story however is that during this drive to Ancona, I have no doubt that I fell into a very deep sleep along with my three stretchered comrades plus the walking wounded chap sitting alongside the driver. At some point in this journey – someone felt the need to stop the vehicle and check out the contents of the passengers pockets, as when we finally arrived in the early a.m. at the CCS in Ancona – the only paperwork of any description we had was the inevitable AB64 – I was bare naked in a bed and lying on my stomach.

At some point of that day, one of our Achelon drivers had the occasion to relieve himself, at the offside of his vehicle naturally, and spotted an object lying near the ditch. On carefully prodding this object with a stick in case of booby traps – he found it to be a wallet. Not any old wallet but one – according to the photographs inside – no cash – just photographs - which belonged to one Trooper Tom ! On reaching the “A” squadron lines he enquired as to the whereabouts of trooper Tom and was told that he had been wounded and was probably skiving in some hospital somewhere but like the bad penny he will no doubt show up once more. Now instead of consigning this wallet to the Squadron clerk for further treatment – the driver hung on to it – and with the passage of time – forgot all about it.

So it was some time later that I found myself in the midst of many ex 145th comrades who had been sent to Rieti for re-training after the Battalion had been disbanded and on finding a bed space, was approached by the Echelon driver who handed me my wallet, apologizing for not sending It to my parents, as he had intended to do.

So, I would say that the Myths and Mythunderstandings surrounding the R.A.M.C. Initials should be replaced by the initials of the R.A.S.C. – Rob All Sick Comrades – but I note that they forestalled this by giving them a PC and upscale new Title of Logistics – now what can one do with that ???


Blogger Ron Goldstein said...


Thanks for that timely reminder of what it was like to be treated by the RAMC after getting wounded whilst in action.

As you know by now, I was one of the "lucky buggers" who escaped being actually hit and wounded and therefore relies on the likes of you to let me know first-hand what it was like to have been "un-lucky".

What I do remember however is when I fell prey to the dreaded "trench disease", Impetigo, and was shipped back from Cassino to Naples.

I was terribly embarressed to be in the same railway carriage as quite a few walking wounded and felt very much the interloper considering (quite wrongly,I now suspect) that my illness was very much lower in rank than a bullet in the shoulder !

Sunday, 26 November, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

++As a matter of fact Ron, I didn't meet up with any RAMC personnel until Hospital where I was treated with the utmost care and compassion - one chap even took the trouble to try to shave me - over two days as I was still on my stomach !
The main problem was with the RASC driver who obviously took advantage of all five of his passengers in his quest for loot i.e mainly money, with total disregard for our condition.
One chap - a Canadian Van Doo had both legs gone and his Morphine wore off and I suspect he was in a coma by the time we got to Ancona.
It takes a totally uncaring person to rob his comrades in that state.
I just hope he enjoyed the fruits of his labour !
Impetigo was a serious business in those days as was Gastro- Enteritis which laid me low for three weeks at the Bde CCS plus the loss of some weight.Happily the RAMC laid my bed next to the latrine so I didn't have to struggle too far !!!

Sunday, 26 November, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

My late uncle Ronald Ritson served in the RAMC, having been one of the first to be called up on the outbreak of war. Many of his experiences were the basis of a lot I ended up writing for my university studies, and also many of the postings I did for the "People's War" project.

Some of what I was told either by Uncle Ronald or his C.O. Major Hargreaves I did not mention as it was too dreadful. His best mate in training (and cousin to his future wife) Cliff English went to North Africa and Italy and never seems to have told anybody anything about the war back in Civvy Street.

One of the fellows my uncle went away to join the RAMC was the son of the person in charge of the local St John's Ambulance Brigade group is still alive. He also went to North Africa and Italy and although he always attends the Remembrance Services (and is a former Mayor) he is another one who has not mentioned anything about the war in later life. I have asked him on a few occasions if he would say something about the war, but he prefers not to do so and so I respect that choice.

I imagine the army is like many walks of life in that there are all sorts of characters in any Unit, be it the RAMC, RASC, POW camp or whatever. One story I got from my uncle's CO was about the Cook, a great chef who could make wondrous menus from nothing. After getting a transfer to another unit late in the war our man ended up incarcerated for a while apparently because of some blackmarket trading. I won't mention any names or places here, but I did refer to what uncle's CO said about this in one of the "People's War" stories I posted.

Looking after casualties had improved a lot by WW2 from the WW1 period. Surprisingly perhaps, according to what my uncle's CO said, the statistics showed the American wounded soldier had slightly less of chance of pulling through than the British wounded soldier, due to the way they were treated.

You had to trust the Medics if you were in their hands to pull you through. Uncle Ronald eventually became an ambulanceman in civilian life and dealt with quite a few traumatic incidents during that period of his life as well.

There are one or two stories I have been told about some people who were in the war (not RAMC by the way) that were not very complimentary regarding the honesty of one person or another. I am sure they were true stories and in one instance I had three people tell me the same account on separate occasions. I do not believe I would repeat these to others the living for the people involved might be identified.

Sunday, 26 November, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
Interesting comment about the US soliers not being treated as well as the British, this sounds true as I met a few of our lads in the various hospitals I was in and one story struck me as being typical.... one of our lads had been wounded in the arm and back etc and was treated with bandages etc.
He was then evacuated by a US aircraft staffed by US nurses. His arm started to bleed profusely through his bandages and so he asked one of the nurses to see to his arm .... which she did by wrapping a new bandage over the old bloody one !
All British Matrons of the day would have had her for breakfast ! She would not have lived through that day !

Sunday, 26 November, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My cousin still has some of the medical books that my Uncle had from the war years. One of the things I researched in France was about the treatment of wounded casualties.

When I looked at the figures it made depressing reading if you thought that each one represented an individual. In WW1 so many of the wounded could have survived if they had received the correct treatment. It was much worse in that war.

Monday, 27 November, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

The main treatment of wounds in WW2 was the application of the Sulpha family of drugs, then when the penicillin became more freely available the rate of recovery increased exponentially.
Most front line troops carried a small sack of Morphine capsules - Sulfa powders - extra field dressings etc in order to treat themselves immediately. This had to cut down the incidence of gas gangrene among other problems.
I managed to treat our gunner Harry Gray with morphine - sulfa and a dressing as we lay on the battlefield. Later that evening I gave him my shot of Morphine and treated his wound once more from my sack. It must have helped - never did hear from him again although I would be surprised if he lasted too long as his kidney was exposed.

Friday, 01 December, 2006  

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