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Sea Cruises on the house #3/ 4

by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Contributed by 
Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper
People in story: 
Tom Canning
Location of story: 
Adriatic /Mediterranean
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
23 January 2005

Sea Cruise on the House # 3.
Ancona - Bari
This was much more like luxury cruising, a great white ship at Ancona docks could only be travelling south away from all the noise just a few miles north of the port. This was it, as I was congratulating myself, my stretcher was lifted into a coffin like structure with three high sides, the other side was merely a 2 inch block of wood to prevent the stretcher from sliding out, all very reasonable I thought as I waited for lift off. Soon a sailor came along and attached four chains with hooks and my “coffin” was ready and immediately I found my self being wafted into the high heavens when suddenly two of the chains near my feet, grew another six inches leaving me staring down into the waters between the dockside and the ship itself. The 2 inch block of wood was obviously well attached to the ‘coffin’ as no further movement took place until I landed with a thump of the deck.

Fairly soon we were on our way south and the crew members assured us that we would be installed in the 33rd General Hospital at the port of Bari a mere day’s sailing from Ancona so we were to relax and we would be well looked after. At this time I was able to sit up and to talk with my fellow passengers, and soon there was much activity as a party of obvious V.I.P.’s were seen making their way to-wards us. The party stopped at my bed and a large female
gushed that she simply must have a photograph taken with me ! Whereupon a photographer appeared from nowhere — thrust a red cross parcel into my hands — took a picture — grabbed the red cross parcel back and the party made off !

The next day we landed at Bari and the ship was almost emptied of passengers and was made ready to return to Ancona again as the fighting at the “Gothic Line” was continuing and supplying more and more “passengers’. It was therefore around the second day in the hospital that I was diagnosed with Malaria which was usually a chargeable event, and so I had to prove that I had been in hospital in Ancona for the ten days prior to the outbreak and consequently it was the hospital’s fault for not making better provision against all mosquitos ! Nothing more was heard of the charge which was quite reassuring however the treatment for malaria is not all that one would wish it to be. It was significant that the nurse would approach with a tin of candy’s offering you one very sweetly, then giving you a dose of Pamaquin — Atabrine — Mepacrin — finishing off the twelve day cure with a shot of quinine ! UGGGH !

Sea Cruises on the House # 4.
Bari - Catania

After around three weeks having got rid of the Malaria there were big confabs near my bed and one fine day a nurse whispered that I would be heading for Blighty as soon as the Hospital ship re appeared !

My joy knew no bounds and was with a great deal of difficulty that I was able to keep that wonderful news to myself in case there were repercussions with others who were not to be sent home. It was some three days later that the Big White Ship reappeared and the wards were being emptied very quickly mostly with men without limbs and one particular young Yugoslav partisan girl who had only half of her face left, she was a tragic sight with a beautiful face to one side and he other just dead and burnt skin and some bone. She was however not alone, as there were quite a number of partisans in that hospital as at least a dozen appeared every night with horrendous injuries and their first aid dressings were anything handy — newspapers, sandbag cloth, grubby towels etc

It was finally my turn to go and swiftly installed in a bed on the ship and the crew were assuring me that the next stop was England. No problems with that as I settled down to a good night of sleep as the journey was to take the best part of a week.

The following morning there was a great buzz of conversation as it was discovered that we were entering another port, slowing down prior to coming alongside a pier. The crew was strangely silent when asked the reason for this — unauthorised stop — in fact they were avoiding my gaze — which made me very suspicious. This suspicion didn’t last too long as I was among a dozen men to be dis-embarked and taken to a local hospital which had been the main army hospital during the campaign in Sicily. Our beds — gallingly enough were then occupied with base wallahs who had various sicknesses. When the reason for being in Catania was questioned, it was that we were running short of battle experienced men in fact, there could be arguement with that as the campaign in France was taking all the reinforcements, as we were now a sideshow in Italy but not quite as bad as the Burma lads. So it was thought that we could be patched up and sent back into the battlelines quickly once more . By January of 1945 I was then released from Catania and made my way back “ up country” towards the war once more !

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