Book recommendation: "Surgeon at War 1939 -1945"

Discussion in 'RAMC' started by alberk, Aug 3, 2020.

  1. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    I have just started reading this book by Stanley Aylett (1911 - 2003) who served as a surgeon throughout the war. A gritty, vivid account with remarkable detail, published in 2015. Aylett went to France with the BEF, was rescued from Dunkirk, then he was sent to the Middle East and eventually served in Northwest Europe with 14 FSU as part of 10 CCS - from Normandy to the liberation of the concentration camp at Sandbostel. A very good read! I am relatively new to this forum, so I cannot tell whether this book was recommended before - if so, it deserves to be recommended once more, that much I know...

    Quote from his literary agent:
    "This extraordinary story begins in September 1939 when Stanley Aylett left a registrar post at Kings College Hospital to join the Royal Army Medical Corps. The Second World War was the last where surgeons carried out operations right behind the front line. The war also brought major developments in medicine. The author uses his diaries and letters home to relive the first advance into France; the chaos of retreat at Dunkirk; a sea journey round the Cape to join the 8th Army in Egypt; leading a Field Service Medical Unit in the desert; the British invasion of France, crossing into Germany over the Rhine, and the horror in opening up Sanbostel Concentration Camp. Alongside the challenge of managing the wounded and dying, this memoir reveals the passions of a young man - in search of love, intolerant of incompetent superiors, and ambitious for a peacetime career. Few war testimonies have the range and scope of this account. Having signed up on the day war was declared, Stanley Aylett survived to tell his riveting tale. He eventually wrote his story for the family in 1979. It is now being published in an illustrated edition with the author’s own photographs, selections from his letters, and an introduction and epilogue written by his daughter, Holly Aylett."
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  2. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Let me add this - I posted this elsewhere in this forum:

    An outstanding book in two regards.

    First: The perspective is quite different from many other war memoirs. What Aylett sees on his operating table are the terrible results inflicted on young men by the battles fought at the front. He is a surgeon in an FSU (Field Surgical Unit). But he does not talk about his work in a detached or technical way but rather as a feeling human being, he is both professional and highly sympathetic. His observations and reflections are at the same time touching and uplifting - he vividly describes the dedication and the spirit that helped him and many others to cope with war and suffering.

    The second reason why this is an outstanding story: he starts his war service by volunteering in September 1939 and takes us through all stages of WW2: France in 1939/40, Dunkirk, then Alexandria, the deserts of Egypt and Libya, D-Day, Germany in 1945, the liberation of Sandbostel, then on to Denmark in the summer 1945. Everywhere he takes the reader, he allows him to immerse into the atmosphere of those days - you smell the stink of gas gangrene, you visualize the horrible wounds, you sweat and freeze in the desert, you learn about the practical challenges and how to handle them, you travel around the world in overcrowded troop transport ships, you enjoy the wonders of Alexandria when on leave, you learn about the atmosphere in Middle East Base Hospitals, Casualty Clearing Stations in France, you learn about the colourful types in the ranks of the RAMC. And you’re always „right there in the middle of it all“ with him!
  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

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