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Archive List > World > Middle East

Contributed by 
Kent Libraries- Shepway District
People in story: 
Alfred Dunning
Location of story: 
Middle East Maidstone
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A1133669
Contributed on: 
05 August 2003

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Rob Illingworth of the Folkestone Heritage Team on behalf of Alfred Dunning and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

The Enemy is Human

Mr Dunning was an infantryman who served in the Middle East during World War II. After being diagnosed with a flat foot he transferred to the Medical Corps. He worked in a Prisoner of War Hospital and has indelible memories of that time.

He was a teenager at the start of the war and had never met Germans and Italians, let alone the Iraqis and Jewish immigrants whom he would encounter during war service. He had been fed the propaganda that stressed the essential inferiority and inhumanity of enemy troops. His wartime experiences, especially those of nursing in the POW hospital, erased all such prejudice. Mr Dunning was filled with the convictions of the common bond of humanity and the futility of war.

He remembers one patient, an articulate and dignified German who thanked the Medical Corps for saving his life. One of his arms was badly fractured but the Medics did not remove it because they knew it could be attended to after the war. He wonders what became of this gentleman, whether he regained the use of his arm.

He remembers watching a young Italian soldier die from T.B. A medic gave him a rosary to handle, a compassionate act that did bring comfort. The Catholic mortician was proud of his skills at presenting corpses. He called Mr Dunning over to see the effect of his makeover. The Italian did look serene, hands clasped in Amen and rosary beads around fingers.

On another occasion Mr Dunning was called to treat a man with mysterious lesions over his body. He had to make close contact with the gentleman to obtain a serum sample. The sample was tested and diagnosed as leprosy! In those days, 20 years was the life expectation for those that contracted the disease.

The man who guided his transfer to the Medical Corps was one Colonel Warren [OBE] He stressed the importance of taking exams to progress in this post and explained that these skills might be useful in a civilian career. Sure enough, after the war, Mr Dunning was able to gain a good job as a Rep for a pharmaceutical company. He and his wife developed a love for the South East coast (which would eventually take them to Folkestone) and, for a period, they were happily based in Brighton.
Whilst on a Rep visit to Maidstone hospital Mr Dunning came face to face with a familiar figure:
“Corporal Dunning!” “Colonel Warren!”
“What are you doing here?” “ It’s because of you that I’m here!”
Colonel Warren said “Don’t lets talk about pharmaceuticals or anything like that.”
But Mr Dunning had to reply “Well, that’s what I’m here for.”
“Let me have 4 pricing lists.”
“Why do you need four of them?”
The four Warren brothers were all GPs in Maidstone. Not long after this Mr Dunning was promoted as the firm’s top salesman…

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