The following observations are based on the campaign in Burma. Aside from such
interest as they may have for the Medical Corps, they may also be of value to
other branches of the service.
The difficulties of transporting patients from hospitals, and arranging for
transportation and accommodation in areas other than those of the actual
battle zone, require unusual staying power and courage on the part of those
responsible. Retreats present an especially difficult problem for the medical services.
In the case of Burma, it was pointed out that units must have organic
transport; pooled transport can never be spared for "medical" at really urgent
periods, and some form of unit transport appears to be essential.
The value of nursing service personnel in all medical units needs no
special emphasis. It was found that lack of trained nursing orderlies in the
Indian and Burma Hospital Corps made it necessary to secure the services of
all the available sisters, nurses, and volunteer ambulance drivers and place
them in every non-divisional unit. The results here were most beneficial.
One particular point brought out in the report was the real usefulness of
motor training for all higher medical personnel. Time and again the need was
apparent that all officers and higher medical personnel should be trained, not
only to drive motor vehicles, but to repair and service them as and when
required. In the early stages, ambulances were lost because the drivers left with
the keys and no one present knew how to connect the wiring. In the later
stages, those units always managed best that had real mechanics among their
officers or higher non-commissioned officers.
There was a tendency to label every severe illness "cholera" when this
disease was about, and to neglect cerebral malaria or acute dysentery in the diagnosis.
In the last two weeks of the Burma Campaign malaria was making itself
evident. It was roughly estimated that 85 per cent of the men would eventually
The following general points are worth noting:
In an episode such as the Burma situation, a clear demonstration was
given of the fact that all personnel of all units must be fit physically and
mentally and must keep fit by marching and exercise. Many officers, particularly
service and departmental officers, overlooked the obvious fact that it is part of
their duty to maintain their own physical fitness and that of the personnel under
their charge, no matter what their age or job. It is in emergencies such as this
retreat that the unfit show up so markedly.
The modern habits of cocktail-drinking, bar-lounging, and chain-smoking cannot be
said to lend themselves to physical and mental fitness. Even the so-called sedentary
work of office or hospital requires physical fitness since the job may well
entail 10 to 12 or even 14 hours per day.
Because of individual cases where age seemed to have its effect on personnel
unable to "take it", the need was stressed for the requirement of a rigid
examination of older officers. Time and again, says the report, "we were affected
by elderly officers and other ranks cracking up at awkward times; not only
medical but personnel of all branches."