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To War With The Bays: 54 - Reluctantly To Hospital

Jack Merewood has to go into hospital. The M.O. tells him that his trouble has arisen because of having been in the desert too long.

To read earlier chapters of Jack’s account of his wartime experiences please click on To War With The Bays in the menu on this page.

The pain in my eyes and head had become unbearable and I had to go sick again. The M.O. felt that all this trouble was the result of having been in the desert so long, and was probably caused by the sand. He insisted I go into hospital to have my sinuses drained and get other attention to my eyes and nose. This was the last thing I wanted, but he said there was no alternative, and I was sent all the way back to Caserta, to No. 2 General Hospital.

The hospital was an Italian one which had been taken over by the Army, and the nurses were all English. Only eight of the twenty beds in my ward were occupied, four of those by bed patients and I was one of them.

'Ordered to bed and given some pills. Told to lie there and drink water. Wrote letters to Suzette and home.' Next day: ‘Just about written to all my regular correspondents. Now written eleven letters since I've been here (four of them in French).'

Two days later: 'M.O. says I've still got to stay in bed. Wish some mail would arrive. Can't smoke here. Still taking pills and inhaling. Wonder how long this will last ... Got talking to the Sister. Asked me where I came from. She is from York and has worked in Huddersfield Royal Infir¬mary.' Also one of the orderlies told me he was from the Crosland Moor district of Huddersfield.

I became friendly with a Canadian boy, and we found we had something in common. He had spent some time in Sfax and had met a French girl there called Odette. I told him about Suzette and my week in Aumale, and we both sat there dreamy-eyed, talking and reminiscing about our lovely French girls. He said that before he left Sfax he and Odette had become engaged, and when the war was over he was going to take her home to Canada where they would be married.

What were my plans about Suzette? Well, I didn't know. Although it seemed we had known each other forever, I had in fact only spent one week with her. She was only sixteen and I couldn't tell what would happen. I just wished we could have had more time together. I loved her letters, and perhaps if we could go on writing like this, when she was a year or two older ... well, all I could do was to wait and see how things might develop.

'Talking to a fellow from 2nd Echelon and they are only a couple of miles from here. Ronnie should be with them. I wonder if he knows I'm here.'

Next day: '... in middle of writing letter to Suzette when in walked Ronnie. Oh so glad to see him. Stayed till nearly dark and will come again in a couple of days if I'm still here.'

I hadn't seen Ronnie for months, and now I was in hospital and he'd walked in, just as he had done almost exactly two years ago. Then he had brought me the news that Bob Weightman had been killed. This time he had terrible news for me. Jimmy Turner had died as a result of an accident: 'Can't believe it. Oh God why do these things happen? Poor Jimmy, and his parents. Poor Doreen.'

We had been abroad three years and Jimmy had been in the fighting all the time. The war must surely be ending soon, and to think that this had happened to him now.

When I rejoined the Regiment I learned the facts. Jimmy's crew had been brewing up behind a tank, and for some reason someone had reversed it, knocked over the petrol fire, and Jimmy was engulfed in the flames. They got him to a hospital but he died two days later.

I had been writing to Jimmy's girl friend fairly regularly. From her letters she seemed a pleasant, friendly girl. Now I had to write and say how upset I was to learn of Jimmy's death, and I wrote to his parents too.

Ronnie said that the Regiment was getting near the front line and would probably be in action soon: 'I do hope and pray that all the boys are O.K. Waiting to hear some news of them. No M.O. again today. Looks as if I'll be in here forever.'
I'd been in the hospital a week and was getting tired of this, but now had to go and see a specialist who took X-rays of my nose and eyes. They gave me innumerable pills and medicines but I wanted to be out: 'The M.O. didn't come round again today and I want to see him about getting back to the Regiment. Be in here forever at this rate.'

Then one day: 'I bumped into Sister Thomas, our blonde blue-eyed night sister of 1942. She recognised me and we had quite a talk.' Unfortunately she didn't know the whereabouts of Sister Furnival. She could easily have been at this hospital, and that would really have been a bonus.


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