- Contributed by
- hugh white
- People in story:
- Location of story:
- Italy, Castilione del lago
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 28 January 2006
At Castilione del Lago
We found the hospital at Castilione del Lago damaged, probably by both sides. We were told that a German observation post had held out here for a long time.
There was plenty of good medical equipment and spring beds with mattresses.
I was not happy, however, experiencing the smell of German wounded. (This was quite unmistakable and may have been caused by their diet or their uniform. No doubt, the Germans felt the same about us.) The pungent stench of death permeated the wards.
Unfortunately, petty favouritism had developed following the promotion of our staff sergeant to RSM. (Regimental Sergeant Major) and his departure from the unit. Sergeant C. was promoted to staff sergeant and there was some competition for a lance corporal's stripe. Finally an NCO was wisely brought in from another unit, but not before toadying had started to bear fruit. Now, in our static position, fatigues played a major role; potato-peeling, wagon loading, tent pitching, sweeping, scrubbing , guard duty and minor jobs, all essential, but needing to be allocated fairly.
Having missed the Sangro, I was not entitled, on returning to the unit, to complain about being sent out on section with the infantry, but now that we seemed to be more settled, I approached Staff Sergeant C. and asked for medical work. He refused this request, saying that everyone wanted medical jobs. This seemed wide of the mark, since some resolutely shunned responsibility.
Fortunately he had a sudden change of mind, sent for me and ordered me to set up an evacuation ward, so I trotted off on a tour of the hospital to find suitable equipment.
After an extensive search late at night I found bedpans, urine bottles, a commode, four medicine glasses , cotton wool, toilet rolls, three chairs, three lockers, two enamel pitchers, two enamel bowls, several spittoons, safety pins, candles, a hurricane lamp, two gallon water tins, brushes and cleaning rags. Feeling rather pleased with this collection, I admitted two patients after midnight. and evacuated them the next morning.
By then there was no more shelling. from the Germans who were pulling out rapidly, but we were busy receiving casualties from Reece (Reconnaissance) and other units.
I was called in to interpret for three civilians, including a little girl of about ten, whose face had received terrible injuries. She has obviously been a very pleasant-looking child and I felt deeply sorry for her. I shall think of her, after all this is over, when people begin to say that war, after all, is not too bad. They will be safe and well themselves: millions will not be present to challenge their views.
Was able to be of some use to an Italian family that first had its own house razed to the ground and later had stayed in a friend's house which was hit by a shell. I obtained for them bread, a bar of ration chocolate, cigarettes and a tin of sardines, and advised them to take in laundry for the army, for which they would be paid in kind.
After several days we were pulled out of the hospital and made a long journey south to within fourteen miles of Rome.
Sensational rumours have been spreading about our future. Tomorrow we are said to be leaving by train for Taranto and thence away from Italy. I believe we shall go to Egypt for a rest, but this is pure conjecture.
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