Gunner A. F. Bidgood writes from Italy (1944)

Thursday 31st August 1944 – North Devon Journal

Gunner A. F. Bidgood of Woolacombe, who is serving with the 8th Army in Italy has written in high praise of the work of the medical corps. He states: “ This morning I had my first ride in an ambulance: I went to a casualty clearing station about six miles back for dental treatment. The officer took great care, and did the job properly, and as painlessly as possible. The size, organisation, and efficiency of the C.C.S and the cleanliness of everything astonished me. There were lines of dazzling white tents pitched in a shallow depression, and on the surrounding rising ground were huge Red Cross flags about fifteen feet across. There was no attempt at dispersing or camouflaging the vehicles of tents – there were dozens of both – packed closely together.

“ The first marquee was a reception and enquiry one, and here the ambulances dropped their stretcher cases, which were directed to the different sections dealing with that particular injury or illness. Near this tent was the mobile X-ray apparatus and developing room, and also a mobile blood transfusion centre with orderlies in constant attendance.

“ The dental tent was equipped with the familiar chair, treadle drill and all the usual paraphernalia of a dental surgery. The surgeon took 35 minutes over my case, gave the rest of my teeth a good overhaul, and tendered some good advice. The operating theatres (I saw at least three) were well fitted out. Orderlies were dashing here and there with anti-germ masks over mouths and noses and the camp had a splendid staff of medical officers. The actual wards were cool, well ventilated tents. About a quarter of a mile further along that valley was a small auxiliary hospital – a safe – guard against enemy actions destroying everything at once.

Last night out advanced dressing station was heavily shelled by the enemy, who followed it up shortly after, when casualties were en route for safer quarters, with a strafing” of the adjoining road by aircraft. I take my had off to the Red Cross every time. They do some great valuable work.”

Gunner Bidgood is an old boy of Ilfracombe Grammer School, and before enlisting he was on the staff of Lloyds Bank Ilfracombe.

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