Syd's experiences.

SYD FRANCIS
RAMC Britcom General Hospital, Kure, Japan
December 1952 – December 1953

As an RAMC serviceman, I left Southampton on the 18th November 1952 aboard the HMT ‘Empire Orwell’, arriving at Pusan, Korea on the 19th December. An American military band (I think the ASAF) played as we docked and one tune I shall always remember was the ‘St.Louis Blues’. However, plans changed and I with four others were posted to Kure, Japan to the Britcom General Hospital, arriving four days before Christmas.

I first worked as a Nursing Orderly on Ward 16, which was a 20-bedded medical ward, and about a month later was asked to join the Operating Team, which I did – and the pace of life changed.

Major V Hynes (QARANC) was the Senior Sister in charge who ran the whole operation with a rod of iron! But underneath had a heart of gold. Col Wright (RAMC) was the Senior Surgeon, a very quiet and shy Scot, whose operating skills were excellent.

The remainder of the team was made up of Australian and British nurses and OTT’s. David Oates (OTT, RAMC), Sgt J Roche (RAMC), John Stewart (Aus. OTT) – the 6' 4" rugby player we were always patching up after matches! Sgt Eileen Baker, an Australian nurse who worked out all the rotas – not an easy job! Desma Brown, Australian nurse and Lt Mary Burns (Sister QARANC). There were several others, but I cannot recall their names.

One of our many duties was to sterilise the dressing and instruments used in theatre, plus gowns and rubber gloves. Getting to grips with the autoclave (pressurised oven) was quite something, since all the instructions were in Japanese! We also sterilised dressings for the surgical wards who would summon staff to collect them from theatre by ringing a large hand-bell. This always reminded me of school!

Kure House, just down the hill below the hospital, was a great escape and was run by the NAAFI. It had a large cafeteria on the ground floor, which was always busy. On the first floor was a tea/snack bar, barbershop and lounge. There was also a bathhouse on the ground floor and for about 6d (old money) you were given a bar of soap, towel and a relaxing bath. It was great.

I recall one Sunday evening; David Oates and I were going to church, which was at the far end of our campsite. David insisted on taking a short cut he knew, which we did and both fell down a monsoon ditch! The smell was unbelievable, but we did get to church.

In late July or early August, we moved barracks from the Australian Signals Barracks, which was within walking distance of the hospital, to Tenno Camp, some 5-6 miles along the coast. It was located right on the shoreline. I remember during the summer months it was ideal for swimming and fishing – not that I did much of the latter.

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