Friday, February 24, 2006

Two weeks in dock in Naples and not a wound to show for it !

Photo shows: Front Page of my Army Album)
On March 17th, 1944, whilst my regiment (the 49th LAA) was smoke laying at Cassino, poor living conditions finally caught up with me and I erupted into a bad case of running sores, mainly on my arms and face. The lads on our wireless truck persuaded me to report sick and I duly presented myself for MO’s inspection. After a cursory glance he instantly diagnosed Impetigo and sent me off to the nearest FAP. Here they kept me a day and then sent me packing to the 93rd General Hospital based in Naples.
The trip down, by hospital train, was un-eventful although I was immensely embarrassed to be travelling in the same compartment as a batch of ‘walking wounded’ most of them still with their original dressings and plaster casts. One chap in particular kept thrusting the plaster cast on his arm at me, wanting to know if it still smelt bad!
When we arrived at Naples the city was covered in a grey ash as Vesuvius had chosen that month to erupt for the first time in I don’t know how many years.
The 93rd General was perched up on top of a hill overlooking the bay and I have various strong memories of my two weeks stay.
The best was the combination of a hot bath and clean white sheets, the first I could remember since October 1942 and producing sheer bliss.
The fact that the hospital was bombed during the night did nothing to reduce my pleasure although I did think at the time it would have been ironical to lose my life in that manner after surviving life in the field so far.
The worst memory was the extremely painful, twice daily, treatment sessions, none of your white starched female nurses for me, just a heavy handed male orderly breaking open scabs every time they healed and much painting with a horrible violet coloured ointment.
We were obliged to wear ‘Hospital Blues’ a completely soul destroying operation. White shirt, red tie, blue serge ill-fitting jacket and trousers, all presumably to make us instantly recognisable as non-combatants and how that uniform itched!
On the 30th of March (G-d bless my Army Records) I was released from purgatory, returned to my unit and was back to the same living conditions as before.

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