Life in the hospital and a little free time.

I remember attending with Capt. Bruce Clapton (from New South Wales, Australia) and being told that most of the surgery was done under local anaesthetic. However major surgery, such as removing a lobe of the lung required skilled general anaesthesia, which was not available at the hospital. At my first visit I was surprised to learn that relatives were responsible for bringing in food for patients as it was not part of the hospital care, as in my country.

From time to time we received casualties from the 1st Commonwealth Division Battle School at Haramura, near Kure, where training was done using live ammunition. Once, I personally recall visiting the hospital mortuary where two soldiers (1 Australian and 1 Canadian) had been killed during the preparation of explosives using gun cotton. One of the dead had his head embedded in this chest cavity as a result of the explosion. My friend, Ken Hodge RAMC (see note 3), a corporal in the medical records section at BCGH, also recalls the incident well.

At nineteen years of age working in the surgical team at BCGH was probably the most maturing experience of my life. I seemed to suddenly grow up and was undertaking duties and responsibilities that would not have been dreamed of in civilian life. My working days were always hectic and there was little time for recreation, although we did generally have a Saturday or a Sunday off duty. A weekend occasionally and rest and relaxation periodically. R&R for me was spent at a Rest Camp, at Miyajima, an island west of Kure. I never did make it to Ebisu Camp, Tokyo which I tended to regret. Miyajima known as a sacred island (no one was supposed to die there) provided a tranquil haven, an opportunity to relax from the moment the ferry, from Miyajimaguchi, docked. You walked everywhere as no vehicles were allowed on the island, although I do remember (hope Iím correct) that the camp, run by the Australians, had a Landrover. Patients from the Commonwealth Hospital also convalesced there, but they had to be ambulant and self-caring.

Kure House (managed by NAFFI and just two or three minutes walk from the hospital) was my local watering hole, although a small number of eating-houses, which were not off limits, provided opportunities to become accustomed to local dishes.

Medical evacuations to the UK, of patients requiring lengthy treatment usually took place monthly. Arrangements were made by the Medical Records Section (by Ken Hodge when he was there). Ambulances transported patients to Kure railway station (5 minutes from the hospital) and then by ambulance train to Iwakuni. Escorted patients had a Sister (see note 3) who provided any necessary medical care during the journey. Then from Iwakuni to the UK was by air, generally a three-day flight in a Comet with a stopover in Hong Kong.

There was tremendous comradeship in the surgical team and it was important not to become depressed by the appalling injuries sustained by many of the casualties. However there were a number of notable characters in the group, two I remember well, Sgt. J C Roche (Scouse) from Liverpool and J W Stewart (Stew) from Queensland. Major Hynes (QA) had a sobering effect on all of us with her Irish tongue (I was sorry to learn of her death in 1989). There was one marriage, which I recall; Sister Mary Burns (QA) married Kenneth Hill, an Australian officer, on 10th October 1953.