Jack Bell - Italian nurse's kindness

Running time
2 min 21 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Four days we travelled to Tripoli and I don't remember anymore after that because I made sure I jabbed in the morning and jabbed before I got off and the first thing I remember is waking up in this hospital in Tripoli and an Italian nurse, middle-aged, she'd be fifty, something like that and she brought me a bowl of pasta to eat. Now I hadn't eaten, I'd been intravenously fed and I couldn't eat it. It was just terrible. So she went and boiled a couple of quinces for me to sweeten it and she said 'If you don't eat you'll starve to death. You must eat.

This flavour will probably help' and that's how I started to eat again and she dressed my wounds. Every stitch had gone, even the overriding stitches. It was just all a mess and muck and the doctor came in and said 'We'll let nature take its course.' In other words do nothing.

Well, she bandaged me up and I wasn't rebandaged until I got to Caserta which is outside Naples on February the 17th, that's right, we landed the next day, and a British doctor, Major Martin, I'll never forget him, is in charge of this little hospital for POWs. There was New Zealanders, South Africans, all sorts in it. He said 'Jack, I haven't got anything at all to help you.' He said 'All I can do is rebandage it.' He cleaned me up.

Well, the orderly cleaned me up and he just rebandaged me. Well that wound just, slowly just healed. If you can imagine a hole in your stomach about the size of a duck egg, like that, with the proud flesh just becoming [a] purple colour coming through. I was bent over because with the stitching gone I developed a stoop. Unfortunately, because not being sewn up properly, I ruptured over the wound and I couldn't physically do anything heavy, I couldn't lift anything heavy because I'd just rupture on the tummy.

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