- Contributed by
- Harold Pollins
- People in story:
- Harold Pollins
- Location of story:
- Kent and Sussex
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 26 May 2004
Unpaid Lance-Corporal Harold Pollins and his brother Sgt Robert Pollins on leave in Spring 1945 in the back garden of their home in Leytonstone
While training at the Infantry Training Centre near Maidstone I found myself coming out in boils. I went sick and was told it might be septicaemia and to report sick again in a few days' time.
When I did I lined up with the others on the sick parade to find ourselves being inspected by the RSM. He inquired disdainfully into the reasons for our reporting sick and clearly did not believe the answers he got - the usual ones about flat feet, stomach ache and the rest. His tone suggested that he thought we were all malingerers.
When it was my turn I said loud and clear, 'Septicaemia, sir.' This must have impressed him, or perhaps he didn't understand, as he passed on without comment.
In due course I found myself at a military hospital in Penshurst. The boils and blotches on my legs appeared to the medical staff to be suitable specimens for a research project so my medication consisted of one leg being treated in the traditional way with cloths made wet by being immersed in, I think, gentian violet (at least it made everything they touched that colour). The other leg was treated with penicillin and left uncovered.
Penicillin was very new and I think I must have been a very early user of it, hence the research project. For a few days after the treatment started, nothing seemed to happen, in fact the boils etc got worse. I recall looking at my toes and noticing a sort of blister full of puss, so I cut it open with a razor blade to let out the yellow mess. There was no question, even if I'd thought of it, of sterilising the blade and I suppose I may have made the condition worse.
The research project was I'm sure a failure. I was not a very good subject. I could not help scratching the leg which had been treated with penicillin and the medical officer was greatly annoyed with me for ruining the research. In a camp sort of way he flapped his hand at me and said, 'Naughty, naughty boy' or something to that effect. When I was discharged I was issued with long johns to wear (they were made of cotton and were quite thin). I included them with my other washing for the weekly laundry but as they were unusual items they did not come back. Fortunately by that time the problem had disappeared.
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