Royal British Legion Coin
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While channel hopping on my television recently I came across re-runs of M*A*S*H.  This show was made during the Vietnam War, although it was set during the Korean War, something I imagine came about because of the controversy of the Vietnam War.  It is a show packed with humour, pathos, acts of bravery and depictions of the work of field hospitals and doctors and nurses during conflicts.

In reality, from my safe lounge chair in peaceful Spain it is easy to forget the sheer horror faced by not only the wounded, but also the medical personnel and the stretcher bearers and comrades who were witness to the carnage that took place in all wars. There are accounts of stretcher bearers running the gauntlet at Kohima under intense Japanese fire on the Royal British Legion website.  In Australia we were brought up with stories of heroic John Simpson and his donkey Abdul who carried the wounded at Gallipoli through the melee down to the beach at Anzac Cove.

Similarly surgeons and doctors working in horrendous conditions in prisoner of war camps cared for their patients.  Amongst them was Colonel Sir Ernest Edward “Weary” Dunlop, an Australian surgeon who operated and saved the lives of countless prisoners in primitive conditions with very little medicine.  Many fighter pilots shot down and captured by the enemy were operated on by surgeons who saved them despite their horrendous burns.

Since Florence Nightingale pioneered nursing during the Crimean War, the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps and Princess Mary Royal Air Force Nursing Service have assisted doctors in all fields of conflict since World War 1.  In peacetime they continue to serve.

It is good to be reminded of the diversity of service personnel and the important role they play.


Jo Taylor