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Simon Bolivar

My Falklands Story Part 13B: The Welsh Guards & Chinese Laundrymen Arrive.

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Part 13B: The Welsh Guards & Chinese Laundrymen arrive.<o></o>

Re-reading Dr Jolly's book reminded me of other details Iíd forgotten. Like the reason we didnít get these patients the very next morning is that there were no choppers spared for this duty. The generals had the few available choppers flying stores fwd to support the frontline troops & it could be argued that the best way of saving lives was to push on to Stanley & finish the conflict. The longer it dragged on the great the loss of life was likely to be.

The solution came by word of mouth & pilots dropped by en-route to other sorties to take a couple of patients to the Uganda, receive the payments of a bacon roll sarnie, hot coffee & back to the stores sorties. By this method & this alone, all the pts arrived onboard the Uganda within 24hrs. By the time the officials had got around to sorting transport out there TR&GLM was unusually empty.

The Uganda not having Military Comms (due to the Geneva Convention) didnít have much of a clue what was about to arrive until the first chopper was 15mins way. The first couple of loads were triaged & the powers that be got the idea that additional space was required. More beds were put together in the Wardroom (the officers were reduced to drinking in the immediate bar area, although the patients would be able to hear the glasses chinking & the aroma of beers being poured, coffee being made.

I was pulled away from Sea View Ward to work with the burns. I had nothing more than first aid training & a few lectures on burns on the way down. How were we to cope with burns of such severity? Reading Rickís book I realise the ancient medical teaching principle of see one do one, had been carried to further extremes ashore. Onboard Medics & nurses did the jobs that RGNs burn specialists would have done at a burns unit. The doctors did jobs of surgeons & the one burns specialist we had, G&T in hand during ward rounds, I suppose did the best he could but he was no hero to me, although he received honours for his work later. This was definitely a case in the tradition of the head being rewarded, for the work of the whole unit. In the R&GLM they had Cooks (who would have been first aiders in the mob) applying the white burns cream to the faces & hands of the injured, whilst the medics & doctors dealt with maintaining airways & analgesia.

We gathered together probably just six of us, to receive the first patients on the burns ward. Our main concern was not to show any shock or disgust, keep clam & carry on dears. As the Bandies carried them through on stretchers, we guided them to the next available bed, helped transfer them onto the bed, leading to the first cries of pain in those affected elsewhere besides hands & face. We took their pitiful passions, if any & checked their Medivac forms to see when they last had morphine.

By this time post injury, most of Guards heads resembled medicine balls; as large & as round. Most couldnít see anything due to swelling of their eyelids. Some couldnít speak because of swelling to their neck, throat & lips. This swelling & burnt flesh, meant it was impossible to tell identify the Welsh from the Chinese.

I mentioned the Chinese in the title as their plight was forgotten almost immediately by the press & without the Falklands fund they would have been discharged penniless & pensionless. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this obscure Royal Naval Tradition, all the warships in the RN at that time had Honk Kong Chinese Laundrymen & tailor onboard. They received no money from the RN but lived on money they charged for laundering & mending personnel & military clothing. They had their own cooks & were allowed some space in the galley to cook for their team. Some of these guys would be in their 70ís. With no pension & a strong Chinese gambolling habit they tended to work until they died or became too unfit to carry on.

As this was going on, I became aware of an ancient Welsh army tradition; the men that could speak were calling out for their mates. ĎJones 64, Jones 64, where are you?í They were using the last two numbers of their Army number to differentiate between half a dozen Jones, Williams ect. It seemed really weird to us matelots, we could have several Smiths, Browns & Jones on the same ship they were just given a different nicknames.

We tried to calm things down & get a list of those we had just admitted. We had 40 patients all of whom at least had burns to head & hands. Several had patches where their clothes had been burnt through, those who had been trapped or had burning materials fall on them had larger deeper burns, up to 46%.

We sat them up to encourage their heads to drain & reduce swelling, if they didnít have an IV drip one was put up, they were given fluids. Then a doctor came around with antibacterial eye ointment, which we were to administer it to all the patients. However the eye lids were so swollen I couldnít part them enough to see the eyes. When I reported this, I was advised to apply the ointment to the eye lids & the radiating heat would melt the ointment & it would seep down onto the eyes.

Next step was lunch. None of them could feed themselves as their hands were covered in Plastic bags. So we had to feed them, whatever they could manage. I canít remember but I would imagine it was little more than soup to start with. Afterwards, they all wanted the same thing, a fag. So I stood between two Guards, with a fag in each hand & allowed them to try & puff away. According to Rick Jolly the medics had shielded burning end from their faces as it was too painful. Well they had obviously got past that stage & we didnít have ht staff for that. After this morning, we went down to the normal number of 3 staff per watch. In a civy burns unit there would be a 1 to 1 ratio.


As I looked at these two tragic young men, I was overcome with empathy; ĎHey Taffy, didnít the Army tell you that smoke damages your health?í And the friendly interservice banter come right back.
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