Jack Bell - Wounded and treatment

Running time
3 min 11 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


A little German officer, a medical boy, came over and he put a piece of sticking plaster over my stomach, my wounds, and he was scared, you could tell he was scared but then they put us on a truck, in a British ambulance that they'd captured and they took us to this little town Antelat where the field hospital was and we were all lined up, there were probably between 20 and 30 wounded.

There was one British bloke, actually, from Newcastle and he had just on a singlet and the whole of that muscle was taken clean out by a shell. Boom. Straight out. Didn't even bleed. It was self-sealed and we were laid out, obviously we're lying on the ground and the doctors came along and put us in teams of how badly wounded we were and there were two German pilots and myself and we were taken in, probably, I can't remember exactly but fourth or fifth or something like that in the queue and I was fortunate that the German doctor was actually a Harley Street abdominal specialist.

He had moved to England after the First World War as part of the reparations which you can understand. He married an English lass and had a couple of kids and he used to fly backwards and forwards to Germany for consultations whilst the Nazi people came into power and in August 39 he went back over and they wouldn't let him out and he said to me he said 'Jack, look I'm not trusted, I'll never be the boss. I'm second in charge. I'm a surgeon. All I'm going to do is operate. That's it.'

So after, maybe seven or eight days, he said 'Well I've got to hand you over to the Italians. The Germans don't take wounded prisoners back to Germany.' So I was handed over to the Italians and he gave me eight phials of morphine. They were about that long, soft plastic and there was a needle point that you broke off and jabbed in yourself and he said 'Now, I want you to take one in the morning and one at night time' and he said 'It'll deaden the pain. You won't feel anything.'

I had fourteen stitches in my abdominal wound and the one that they operated to get the shrapnel out which was sort of cut a like a jagged S and he put two overriding stitches on to hold it in. 'You're going to be in the back of a truck and it will be pretty tough.' So he jabbed me the first morning and away we went in this truck and there was, I don't know how many, four or six of us on the back of this truck.

There was no canopy or nothing it was just out in the sun. At night we pulled into an Italian base, a little field hospital. The boys that took me in and you've got to understand this, we were at war. They carried me in and just tipped me on to the hospital, it wasn't a bed, it was made out of bamboo. Well that really hurt and I realised what I've got to do is jab myself before I get off from then on.

Was this page helpful?
We can't respond to comments or queries via this form. Please contact us with your query instead.