Speaker Meeting 11th September 2017

Dr John Dornan - Travels with a Stethoscope and Rifle

The Rotary Club of Church Wilne welcomed Dr. John Dornan to its speaker meeting on Monday 11th September when he gave an informative talk entitled "Travels with a Stethoscope and Rifle".

John, who is a Rotarian, heard an inspiring talk about Mercy Ships in Africa and that gave him the idea to put together his work from when he joined the Royal Army Medical Force. After his basic training he was posted to Aden but before long he was transferred to Singapore which was very rich and vibrant.

Dr Dornan with some local scouts

He was based at the British Military Hospital in Singapore which was then one of the main cities of the Empire and was a wonderful place for young doctors.

His next posting was at Malacca in Malaysia and his first sight from a helicopter was of a thick large jungle. It was hot, humid, and full of nasty insects and tropical diseases. The country was rich and was able to support the population with all its own food. The Military hospital was designed to be built for the Catterick camp but somehow finished up in Malacca.

John's next posting was in Thailand when the Army was needed to open up and build the infrastructure. The Royal Engineers built roads straight through the jungles and started work each day a first light. They met villages who had never seen a white man never mind the large diggers. The local community also helped by building a bridge.

There was nothing in the village such as schools and medics and they would operate from a tin roof building and tried to do what they could. They were very friendly and John spoke in details about several of the treatments that he performed. Antibiotics saved the day so many times but they started to run out of medicines. So John was able to take a vehicle to a US Army based some 100 miles away. They had a massive town set up as they were part of the Vietnam back up for wounded personal. John asked for medicines and the US Army said "help yourself to what you want" These included bandages, splints, antibiotics, surgical equipment and more which filled one of their large trucks. The US Army delivered it back to the village which enabled John to carry on.

Colonel Dr John Dornan with an aide and interpreter

His next destination was back to the UK and to Dartmoor before, in the early 70s, going to RAF Salalah in Arabia which near to Yemen. The members heard how he had to perform a tooth extraction on a Sheik and he hadn't a clue how to extract it. Fortunately the tooth just fell out just as he was about to start.

The unit performed their daily medical work from the back of a Bedford truck on the tailgate but fortunately infection here was virtually zero. They built a clinic in Salalah which was so busy that they had to smuggle John out of the back window late in the day.

John on his return to Catterick Camp was informed that the Military hospital at the camp was the one that should have been built in Malaysia.

Simon Beal in thanking John said the talk and presentation had been most informative, with a little humour and it was good to hear of the local support and appreciation they received.

For more information on Rotary, our speaker evenings, events and the main activities organised by our club please contact our Secretary, Mick White at: rccw1220@gmail.com

Ray Terry
For the Rotary Club of Church Wilne

4th September 2017


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