During the 69/72 commision the Bulwark had no less than three
different Principal Medical Officers.
The variety at the top has been matched by the variety of tasks and environment
experienced by the sick bay staff as a whole. In common with other departments much of the work is necessarily routine but there have been frequent highlights of both a professional and social nature
At the end of a short period in Portsmouth the ship deployed to the Far East. There are many happy memories of Cape Town, and dull evenings in Northern waters are often brightened by those who are fortunate enough to have such recollections.
During the passage to the Far East there was little disease but a Chinese did suffer from severe bleeding from a duodenal ulcer requiring a large blood transfusion prior to an operation which was performed in Singapore.
From Singapore we sailed, via Hong Kong, for Japan where full medical facilities were offered by the University Hospital of Osaka - fortunately they were not required, During the return trip to Singapore one rating required an operation for severe appendicitis, It is noteworthy that wherever the ship visited, the local hospitals offered help and their hospitality was greatly appreciated.
After a short period alongside in Singapore, in April, we proceeded to Exercise
"Bersatu Padu". The main problem encountered was heat exhaustion, Much is written of the complex treatment required for such cases and the seriousness of delay, However the newly joined C.P.O M.A. had eighteen years of Commando M.A. experience and suggested
that all such casualties should be treated by cold baths only. The results were dramatic and successful, negating the requirement for the more sophisticated remedies
On return to the UK via Fremantle and Gibraltar, the sick bay was moved to HMS Drake.
The staff was reduced with the transfer of the Junior Medical Officer back to RNH Haslar for surgical duties, The PMO stayed on until February, 1971 when he was relieved - and a new PMO and Junior Medical Officer were appointed,
During the time in Drake Barracks the conditions were not what a seagoing staff would have liked but they responded well with their usual combination of humour and hard work to make the job tolerable and efficient.
With two Junior Medical Assistants included in the department we were thrown into a job within two days of sailing - a POMEM required major surgery for a perforated duodenal ulcer while at sea, also a virus epidemic laid low many of the ship's company and required one PO to be casevaced by helicopter in a seriously ill state, This epidemic was soon controlled and the ship again enjoyed a good state of health
During passage to Scandinavia there was some time in which to "play" and the Surgeon Lieutenant was frequently to be seen disappearing heavenwards in the left hand seat of a Wessex helicopter. He was more than a little put out when informed that despite his large number of hours aloft he could not receive flying pay as well as his surgical specialist pay!
During this visit to the Baltic, in May Surgeon Lieutenant Commander McKenzie RNR joined the ship - a large man with appetites to match, he was said to have taken nine sauna baths in one evening with half a bottle of Vodka between each, It is true to say that before returning to his job as Consultant Nephrologist at Bristol he left a lasting impression on the ship
The most important part of the Summer programme was Exercise Dry Fly III in Loch Fyne, A surgical support team was flown from RNH Haslar to receive mock casualties, In the 25 emergency Complex. This exercise revealed many problems of evacuation and management of casualties and it was possible to rationalise the whole system as a result of the visit of this team.
During a subsequent visit to Liverpool - with great entertainment supplied by the locals - it was interesting to look around the local hospitals. We visited a Naval Airman who had been flown into a Liverpool hospital three weeks earlier when the ship was returning to Plymouth from Loch Fyne, The airman had prsented us with a brain haemorrhage and required early surgery
After a period of indecision over the Malta issue the ship sailed on 3rd September for the Mediterranean, Business was soon brisk again with three fairly major operations in three weeks and a large number of injuries mainly from the Commando
Leaving Cyprus where we employed the British Military Hospital Dhekelia to the full, No doubt they breathed a sigh of relief as we sailed away towards more play in Malta, Venice, Trieste and Gibraltar