Last year when I attended the lecture given by Mike Cole of 45 Commando I bought along a civilian friend of mine who had been a nurse in Stanley during the war. She got chatting to the staff who organised the event and it was suggested that maybe she could contact an old friend of hers who might be interested in giving a lecture about the Falklands from the medical point of view.
So this year I had the chance to attend a rather unique event in which 2 lectures were given attended by no less than 4 veterans of the conflict.
Mike Cole who was company commander of Zulu Company 45 Commando, Professor James Ryan who was a surgeon with 16 Field Ambulance, Rachel Aspogard (Debbie Bleaney) who was a trainee nurse at Stanley Hospital and myself.
L/R Steve Cocks, James Ryan, Rachel Aspogard and Mike Cole
Believe it or not James Ryan is still serving in the Army! He has served in every theatre since the Falklands and has been instrumental in implementing many of the medical systems used today. He still lectures and works extensively with the Americans as well as being involved with training all the British MASH units before they deploy to Afganistan.
His lecture was a real eye opener of what worked and didnt work all those years ago. The fact that the hospital ships had to be placed far out to sea torpedoed the intial plan for casualty evacuation. This required the surgical units to deploy on land and there was simply nowhere to go except the old refrigeration plant at Ajax Bay. Conditions there were on par with World War 1.
The photos that were shown of some of the injured were harrowing as were his comments with regards the conditions in which we fought. Describing the battle against infection and the horrific injuries from anti-personal mines, high velocity rounds and shrapnel he really was able to get across to us what it was like to be a field surgeon.
We then had lunch with the cadets after which Mike Cole gave his presentation on his attack against Two Sisters.
Even after all these years its impossible to miss just how much Mike still admires his men who had an average age of 19 1/2. His description of the build up to the assualt followed by the battle itself was delivered to an appreciative audience.
After both lectures we had a question and answer session.
A fantastic day and one I hope they will repeat next year.