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Dr Rick Jolly
In another extract from his many more were coming. I had
expanded and revised book The counted about a hundred and
Red and Green Life Machine, Dr twenty victims of the bombing,
Rick Jolly turns his mind back to mostly with burns.
the dark night when casualties The phrase Mass Casualty
from RFA Sir Galahad streamed Situation’ flicked into my memory.
into his Ajax Bay field hospital: By NATO definitions, this occurs
when an overwhelming number of
uring the afternoon, while
visiting the command ship
injured people arrive in a limited
HMS Fearless, we became
medical facility that, as a result,
aware that HMS Plymouth had
cannot cope.
been attacked in Falkland Sound.
The rules then change. Instead
The gallant old Type 12 frigate
of trying to treat every one of
then appeared in San Carlos Water
them, we would now have to do
under a huge plume of smoke.
the best we could for the largest
A passing helicopter was called
number. Some of our potential
in by Flyco, and I was winched
customers might be too badly
down onto her foredeck. Shades
injured to treat – because they
of Portland and FOST!
would take up too much in the
It was obvious that the medi-
way of time and resources, and
cal and damage control teams
thereby reduce the chances of all
were right on top of the various
the others.
At the opposite end of this spec-
problems, so I brought some of
trum were the ‘too lightly injured’
the casualties back to the Field
who would also be denied for the
Hospital at Ajax Bay.
very same reason. Who was going
There was bad news waiting
to determine the entrance fee to
there too. It turned out that RFA
Ajax Bay?
Sir Galahad had also been bombed
There was only one answer, of
while anchored near Fitzroy, and
course. It had to be me.
that her sister ship Sir Tristram
had been attacked and damaged
too. There were strong rumours
that a large number of casualties
he responsibility was huge.
I knew that I had to get it
right fi rst time, and luckily
were heading our way.
my instincts proved correct.
A helicopter crewman then
About half of the waiting Welsh
● Winching down to HMS Plymouth in San Carlos Water
rushed into the Command
Guardsmen had flash burns to
did young men, whose instinctive nt casualty was
Post with a scribbled note from
face and hands only – about ten
receive three dozen injured each,
response did so much to ease my a chap called Simon Wes-
John Roberts, CO of 16 Field
per cent of their total body sur-
just as soon as we could send
own emotional burdens in dealing T
he worst bur
ton. This young man had
face. I decided that these men
them over.
with the problem. a terrifying appearance, with most
would constitute the ‘too lightly
The young Welsh Guardsmen
I watched them as they marched of his chest, face and scalp red-
injured’ category, but at the same
were stoical and cheery as we
away into the night, still blow- dened, blistered and swollen, and
time felt very guilty about the dis-
broke the news of another move
ing on their hands as they went, some of his hair charred.
missive aspects of this judgement.
to them.
still maintaining good order and His pain was severe, and
I decided that we would have to
My 2iC (Lt Fred Cook RM)
discipline, in the Guards tradition although we did our best with
tell them, as individuals, exactly
and I moved amongst them, each
– and with not a single word or intravenous morphine up to the
why we could not take them in,
holding a lit cigarette cupped and
gesture of dissent. maximum dosage permitted, the
We responded to this cry for
and also where we were proposing
shielded in one hand so that they
poor chap was still suffering ter-
help as best we could, sending for-
to send them to.
could have a smoke without get-
ward a Medical Officer, a box of
Mercifully, at around 160, the
ting a stinging pain in their cheeks
drugs, and two intravenous fluid
numbers began to slow, and that
from the glowing red tip.
ith the serious overcrowd-
ing problem solved, it
was time for an all-out
It was Major Malcolm Jowitt, of
resupply boxes.
meant, with around ten wounded
Standing near the doorway,
effort directed at the other burned
my Para surgical team who solved
Very gradually, the scene around
from HMS Plymouth, we had
blowing on their tattered and
and wounded.
his problem, using intramuscular
us then degenerated into a com-
nearly 170 injured patients stand-
painful hands to keep them cool,
A simple treatment plan was
Ketamine, a steroid-based anaes-
plete and utter nightmare.
ing or lying around within the
many of the Guardsmen were
developed for each individual; this
thetic that he had particular expe-
rather pathetic sights. Strips of
was assessed and written down
rience with.
s darkness crept in over the
The medical teams got to work,
skin hung from their fingers like
by a medical officer, and then
Prior to relaxing into a pain-
horizon, load after load of and people turned up from the thin, wet muslin, and their faces
carried out by either a medical
free and trance-like state, Simon
helicopter casualties began most unexpected quarters to offer were blistered and raw, the hair
assistant, or more frequently, one
had been begging me to end his
to arrive at Ajax Bay. Each new their services. RN Clearance divers singed short.
of the marines. For each patient
overwhelming pain and misery in
patient seemed worse than the came in to help, as did some of But by God, they were brave.
there was one attendant, some-
a permanent way.
last. Eventually the Triage and Re- the 40 Commando lads who had It was simply heartbreaking to
times two.
In his subsequent book Walking
suscitation areas were completely come over from Port San Carlos turn nearly 90 young men away
It was a heartening sight as
Tall, the ghost writer did not get
choked. for rest and relaxation in relative from the Accident & Emergency
order was imposed on chaos, and
Simon’s time in Ajax Bay quite
Helicopters continued to clat- warmth, under a tin roof. Department door that they had calm returned to a rather frenzied
right. There was a description of
ter in, and stretcher-borne casual- HM Ships Fearless and Intrepid, paid so much to reach, but there scene.
him joking and laughing as we
ties kept appearing in the main plus MV Atlantic Causeway then was no other way. Their fused and charred cloth-
looked after him, but the reality
doorway. plugged in to support us, each I shall never forget the magnifi- ing was cut away, and the total
was rather different...
No one knew for certain how ship stating her willingness to cent moral courage of these splen- percentage of burned skin area
The medics and marine stretch-
assessed and recorded on the
er bearers were simply magnificent
treatment card.
throughout the night.
When necessary, an intravenous
As I poured out another
infusion was set up, with the flow
‘Arduous Duty’ tot (whisky for the
rates and volumes calculated indi-
Army, rum for Jack and Royal),
vidually depending on the burns
their delight was expressed in a
slightly oblique fashion, tinged as
Careful titration of intravenous
usual with Corps humour.
morphine was then employed to
One of the boys took a long pull
control their pain.
from his somewhat strengthened
Flamazine was spread thickly
mug of hot chocolate, and looked
over the affected areas. The cool
at me with an innocent expression
white cream contained a silver
on his face:
and sulpha drug mixture that was
“Cheers, Boss! Bloody good
pain-killing, antiseptic and pro-
wet that – and now we’ve done
moted healing.
the practical, any chance of getting
Hands and fingers were
the theory some time?”
enclosed in sterile plastic bags to
avoid the risks of bandaging them
and causing constriction. A
n hour before dawn I got
up and stepped outside the
main door of Ajax Bay. The
The concrete floor of Ajax Bay boys were tucking into breakfast,
was soon ankle deep in rubbish, whispering quietly to each other
littered with torn paper dress- over their baked beans and tinned
ing packets and cellophane wrap- sausages.
pings. At first light, the galley hydro
We ran out of Flamazine on the burners would be doused, and all
last patient, a Guardsman with the surrounding stand-to positions
flash-burned forearms. My Fleet manned and made ready.
Chief MA, Bryn Dobbs, then Yesterday’s effort by the Fuerza
remembered that he had a tube of Aerea Argentina might not have
the stuff secreted in his First Aid been a final fling, but a prelude to
kit, so he retrieved it. much worse. Either way, the clear
There was now less than an pre-dawn sky promised more fast
ounce left for any further casual- jet activity, or perhaps a parachute
ties, so we could only hope that we assault from the mainland.
● Casualties from Sir Galahad in the Ajax Bay Field Hospital with burns dressed had finished for the night. The Argentines certainly had
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