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Stress of Being a Doctor Under Fire

Heroes Remember

Stress of Being a Doctor Under Fire

Interviewer: What was that like? The first time we were under fire we were too stupid to realize it. George Bastile (sp), the other officer, and I, cause we were with the British and we were at a tent. We were up in a pretty high area and we'd gone to bed and I could hear this boom and then a crash that seemed relatively close and I said to George, "This silly so and so . .. they're dropping them too close to us." We thought it was our own artillery firing. But it wasn't! But we told the colonel about it in the morning and he figured out where this gun was located and told our own artillery about it and that took care of that one. So first time under fire we didn't even know we were under fire. I had left that field surgical unit after Rome fell, but I was just thinking of working in Holland and fortunately the unit wasn't working but a German, what they called an 88 shell hit the field surgical unit and it was a dud. It didn't explode but there was nobody working anyhow! We never got into any difficulties like that. It was just a part of . .. you shared that life with all the other guys that you were with and accepted it. No, I don't think it altered very much. It did bother, I remember one occasion when, in the Liri Valley advance and we were working through the night and we had one young lad, he was, his job was during the time we were working, writing down details that the surgeon told him; Private so and so, so and so, so and so . . . penetrating wound was such, such, such. So this is the job of the clerk keeping his record and for some reason he went outside of the tent and apparently there were some star shells and he got the wind up because he felt we were pretty exposed and I remember George Bastile having to, between cases as far as I know, "Things are absolutely ok don't give it a thought." And you know, but when you're working it doesn't bother you and I could see where this kid wasn't working, he was just sitting there writing; very alert to what was going on around about. That night we were being subjected to the odd shell yeah.

Dr. Meiklejohn recalls the first time he was under fire, and a close call another unit had with a German 88 shell. He then describes an occasion when the youngest member of the unit did become quite unnerved.

Dr. Robert Meiklejohn

Dr. Robert Meiklejohn was born in 1907, in Harriston, Ontario, and remained there throughout his youth, participating in cadets and the local militia. While attending medical school in England during the 1930s, Mr. Meiklejohn visited Germany. He returned from his visit certain war was imminent. Dr. Meiklejohn re-joined the militia upon his return to Canada, leading to quick enlistment upon Canada's declaration of war. Frustrated after almost a year of performing medical exams on troops, Dr. Meiklejohn transferred to the 16th Field Ambulance (whom he had been a militia member of) when it was activated, and was posted overseas. After arriving in England, Dr. Meiklejohn was posted to a newly created field surgical unit, a section of an advance surgical unit stationed within a few miles of the front lines, and posted to Italy. After losing their equipment when the ship was sunk during the journey, the unit was posted with British Forces for a few months before reuniting with Canadians. Following the Italian Campaign, Dr. Meiklejohn's unit was transferred to France to join Canadian troops heading into Holland. Dr. Meiklejohn finished his service in Holland bringing relief to the starving population. He returned to Canada soon after VE Day.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Dr. Robert Meiklejohn
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp / 4th Armoured Division

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