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Army service (Part 2)


Army service (Part 1)
David Weatherall Scientist
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Because we were medically qualified they gave us some kind of officer rank, and we went for a basic training, and learning how to march, and shoot and all that, and, and then you had to talk to them about where you might spend your two years, and I was terrified, I’d never been in an aeroplane, I didn’t want to go in one of those, and I didn’t want to be shot either, particularly, so I volunteered to stay in the UK, and two weeks later I found myself in the docks, I was boarding a ship for Singapore. They were short of what they called medical specialists, and because I had the membership I was a medical specialist, so off I went to Singapore on this troopship. That was a cock-up, they normally flew people to Singapore, but they put me on a military ship by chance. A very interesting ship actually, because the British had taken this from the Germans at the end of the war, it was called The Empire Fowey, and it had been one of Hitler’s pleasure ships. You know, he had this system for taking the young beautiful male and female Aryan’s out to sea and let them breed, so the Fowey had quite an interesting history, but even a more interesting steering mechanism, because they couldn’t steer it in a straight line, and this is, I had this confirmed quite recently by another ship’s captain I met, who’d actually sailed it. So you had to go to the left, and then correct, and go to the right, so you zigzagged and the British army had never used it before we went to the Far East, and they didn’t realise that the Suez Canal was slightly narrow, so we ran aground, and it was of course just after the Suez war and we were surrounded with jeering Arabs for days. Anyway, we got to Singapore and I guess, because I’d no paediatric experience, they decided to put me in charge of the paediatric ward in the big military hospital in Singapore. I went, did a locum up in North Malaya for a couple of weeks, and that was the only bit of war I saw, because the Chinese terrorists tried to derail that train, sort of shoved a log over the line as a bit of excitement, but we survived all that. But the, because looking after the children in that, you had children’s from all parts, you had the military, the children, then British military, but you had, we had the Ghurkha’s, and Malay’s, and then of course a lot of the Commonwealth kids, and one of the first children I had to look after was a little Ghurkha child called Jaspir Thepa, who’s father was a sergeant in the Ghurkha’s, and she’d come down to, with her father, and she’d been down for about two or three years, and she was just profoundly anaemic, and she just lived on blood transfusions and there’s no diagnosis, and it was in fact getting very difficult to transfuse her because there’d been no real paediatric experts, her veins as you can imagine were in an awful mess.

British Scientist Sir David Weatherall (1933-2018) was a world renowned expert on blood diseases, in particular thalassaemias, and used his expertise to help control and prevent these diseases in developing countries. He founded the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford in 1989 and was knighted in 1987.

Listeners: Marcus Pembrey

Marcus Pembrey, now Emeritus, was Professor of Paediatric Genetics at the Institute of Child Health, University College London and consultant clinical geneticist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children London. He is a visiting Professor at the University of Bristol UK, where he was the Director of Genetics within the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children until 2006. A past president of the European Society of Human Genetics, he is also the founding Chairman of the Progress Educational Trust.

Duration: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2007

Date story went live: 02 June 2008