55 Field Surgical Team RAMC

Extracts from the RAF Station Commander’s
Operational Records Book

January 1972

“The numbers reporting sick were average for the time of year, and the general health of the personnel stationed at RAF Salalah remains good. The number of Asians reporting sick, as expected, was above average, and included large numbers of chest infections.

Field Surgical Team

Field Surgical Team statistics are:

Operations at Salalah – 4 Major operations 21 Minor Operations
Operations at Dhofar Hospital – 4 Major Operations 13 Minor Operations.

The Field Surgical Team, like the rest of the station, had a quiet month. Though they were required on their first night on the unit, the month generally was unremarkable, the workload being generally very light. The team carried out a number of operations at the Dhofar Hospital to prevent boredom.

February 1972

General health remains good, the number of personnel reporting sick being no more than average. The number of Asians reporting sick, as expected, increased considerably.

Field Surgical Team Report

Statistics for the month are as follows:

Major operations at the FST                3       Minor Operations      7

Major Operations at Salalah Hospital   2        Minor operations       9

The Field Surgical Team had an extremely quiet February, and to quote from their report: “It becomes increasingly difficult to find anything for thee whole team to do.” The workload continued to diminish during the month, and very little call was made on the Team’s skills.

March 1972

“General health at Salalah remains good, the increased numbers reporting sick being due to Prickly Heat and Sunburn in the main. Large numbers of Asians still suffer from the common cold.”

Field Surgical Team

Statistics for March are :
                                                  Major                   Minor
Operations at RAF Salalah               6                        17
Operations at Dhofar Hospital          5                        12

“20th March : The first member of 55FST RAMC, Captain Cetti arrived.”

“27th March : Number 55FST, RAMC, comprising Major Johnson and Captains de Bass and Cetti, arrived to replace 52 FST on the 27th. The new team, as has been the case in the past, was in a action soon after their arrival; indeed, their first case, on the morning of the 28th, was the anaesthetist of 52 FST, who were departing on that date. Although 52 FST were highly dissatisfied with the small amount of work which came their way during most of the month, 55FST started well, carrying out seven operations in their first four days on the unit.”

“28th March : 52 FST, RAMC, commanded by Lt-Col J. Carter, departed today”

Defence and Security

“Commanding Officer’s Remarks :
14.The face of Salalah changed noticeably during the month with the completion of the tarmac runway. The base is beginning to look more permanent as buildings replace tents at the civil air terminal and new buildings spring up around the messes and Medical Centre.
15.The arrival of RFA HEBE extended every section of the unit as all hands pitched in to receive and store the much needed supplies. The 240 tons of beer was handled with reverence and concern by a never ending stream of volunteers. It would not have been possible to unload the HEBE without the help of Taylor Woodrow”

April 1972

General health at Salalah remains good, the increase in numbers reporting sick being due mainly to minor intestinal disorders caused by the effects of the approaching monsoon and the vast increase in the fly population,

Field Surgical Team.

During April the Field Surgical Team carried out 31 major and 23 minor operations. The majority of the major operations, which included five amputations, were performed at RAF Salalah on battle casualties from SAF. During the month Major Johnson, the surgeon specialist, and Captain de Bass, the anaesthetist, were successively laid low with mumps, and the team has also a considerable number of visitors. To quote from their monthly report “This has been a very full period as regards work, illness, visitors and new buildings” As can be seen, the shortage of cases which bedevilled the previous team seems to be over”

18th April. Major Craig arrives to assist.
22nd April Major Craig departs.

Defence and Security

May 1972

The rise in numbers reporting sick is mainly due to minor ailments connected with the approaching monsoon’s high humidity and the vast increase in the fly population.

Field Surgical Team

The present FST’s problem, if any, is the converse of that which plagued their predecessors; during May 36 major and 41 minor operations were carried out, and the workload continues to increase, especially at the Dhofar Hospital. Team morale, which is high, is also contributed to by the new operating theatre, which proved much more comfortable and convenient than the marquee used previously.

Defence and Security

“Commanding Officer’s Remarks

13. On the plain the Adoo have been less predictable and have shown considerable daring and determination by penetrating the hedgehog line and attacking from the rear. It must also be assumed that mining activity has been high because for every over action there are usually many covert, parallel operations. The fact that mines have been found on well used tracks between the hedgehogs and base would bear this out.

14. Following SOAF involvement across the PDYR border the threat of a retaliatory air strike has been hanging over us like the “sword of Damocles”, albeit a very small sword. Passive defensive measures were rechecked and the air raid warning system exercised. The threat did not dampen the feeling of satisfaction experienced by everyone after the PFLOAG HQ had been bombed.

June 1972

 General health at Salalah remains good. The vast increase in Asian figures is due to the influx of “Mothercat” personnel and the changeable weather associated with the monsoon, which leads to respiratory infections and minor internal disorders.

Field Surgical Team

June was a month of contrast for the FST, providing two busy weeks at the beginning of the month, and very little for the latter half. The team carried out a total of 79 operations (35 major, 44 minor) during June. On the night of the 8th/9th the team had their baptism of fire, operating on casualties of the attack on the station whilst the attack was still in progress. Despite the shortage of work in the latter half of June, the operations carried out during the month were varied and interesting, and it seems unlikely that the team will have any of the morale problems experienced by their predecessors.

“Commanding Officer’s Remarks

11. The most important occurrence from the station’s point of view was the co-ordinated attack on the night of the eighth. Although the round on the Officers’ Mess was a ‘lucky’ one, it highlighted the ever present danger of casualties in the camp area and even more stringent measures to limit congregations of personnel have been instituted. The fact that of the nine casualties, six were SOAF pilots, was an unwelcome bonus for the enemy. Despite the hostile activity during the month, morale on the station is if anything higher than ever.”

July 1972

Yet again the increase in the number reporting sick is due to the influx of Asians employed on the ‘Mothercat’ contract and the present monsoon season.

Field Surgical Team

July has proved to be a very busy month. On the morning of the 19th, 27 gunshot and mortar casualties were evacuated from Mirbat and provided the Team with 36 hours of continuous surgery. Amongst the casualties were two members of the British Army Training Team and nine ADOO. The two members of BATT were subsequently ‘casevaced’ to Akrotiri on the 21st. The total number of battle casualties during the month was 87. Selected surgery involved two appendectomies. The Dhofar Hospital at Salalah continues to provide surgery almost daily.

Commanding Officer’s Remarks

11. The months activities have been dominated by enemy action against the Hedgehogs and camp. The introduction of two new Hedgehogs (T Shock and Awqud) was bound to attract attention, but 11 attacks in one moth was a little more than anticipated. Attacks on ‘Bravo’ and ‘Charlie’ are becoming noticeably more accurate. The Marbat incident has now had wide publicity and the order of battle is well known. The station became deeply involved as soon as the casualties started arriving and for a period of 36 hours the FST were never short of blood donors and assistants. The departure of No 55 FST late in the month marked the end of an era. Never before has an FST earned so much praise and respect for outstanding skill and endurance. They will long be remembered in Salalah”

12. This is the last entry from the undersigned who would like to record that Salalah is one of the most unusual and happy Units anywhere in the RAF and the morale higher than I have ever seen. Teamwork is our key to success and I hand over to my successor a truly first class team.       

Sqn Ldr G. Honey RAF

August 1972

The new 55FST arrived on the 1st August and became familiar with the sound of the siren and artillery within a few hours.
The composition of the team was as follows :

Surgeon (OC)                   Major       D.G.   STOCK
Anaesthetist                      Major           B.   LOGAN
Transfusion Officer            Major          M.   PINDER
OTT                                   Sergent       B.   GAUKRODGER
OTT                                   Corporal  B.E.   MASTERS
OTT                                   L/Cpl      G.W.   VOUGHT
OTT                                   Pt            P.H.   OLIVE
i/c Wards                           Sergeant    A.    LYNE
i/c X-Ray Dept                   Corporal  D.F.   GAULT
SEN                                   L/Cpl           D    ARMSTRONG
Clerk                                  L/Cpl       C.J.    BRETT

Seventy operations were performed during the month of which 51 were gunshot wounds. Most of the work was carrying on where the previous team left off, as well as treating new battle casualties that were brought in.

The cases varied from enemy that had been shot and had been lying in the desert for four days, to SAF troops who had been injured as a result of an ‘accidental discharge’ which is common in and around Salalah.

Two success have been achieved during this month. Firstly a new Landrover has arrived from the Ministry of Health to replace the previous one that had rusted and become unsafe. Secondly a refrigerated blood bank has been agreed to by the MOD and by HQ NEAF.

This team may have made RAMC history following a limited mutiny by the Oman Artillery who walked out leaving the 25pds guns unmanned. FST personnel helped to man these guns for 48hrs with their Geneva Convention cards firmly in their back pockets.

September 1972

The decrease in the numbers reporting sick can be attributed to the improved weather, for all other factors remain constant.

Field Surgical Team 55FST

The clinical commitment of the FST has increased mainly due to the end of the monsoon and SAF and SOAF going on the offensive. Ninety four surgical operations were performed of which seventy two were on gunshot wounds. September also saw the advent of Iranian pilots and NCOs to sick parades and surgical procedures were performed on some of these.

Work is in had to replace the tented accommodation of the X-ray and pathology departments with Twynham huts, this should alleviate the heat and humidity at present being experienced.

A regular delivery of blood has now been established with the RAF Hospital Akrotiri and 10 to 12 pints per fortnight received has reduced the drain on personnel at Salalah.

Casevac procedures have been improved considerably in that information as to the type and nature of the injury and the condition of the patient in general terms are now being passed by the aircraft thus saving time on the ground by enabling the correct instruments and aids to be available.

October 1972

Field Surgical Team

The clinical commitment for the month was fairly heavy at the beginning but things came slowly to a halt with the commencement of Ramadan. Work at the Royal Hospital in Salalah town was also affected as the working hours were reduced to 09:00 – 13:00 hours daily.

74 surgical procedures were carried out, of which 54 were gunshot wounds. The accidental discharge of weapons continues to remain a problem amongst Arab soldiers. There have been ten cases this month, some of them serious.

On the administrative side, the arrival of the blood bank has been most welcome. Works Services for a new Twynham hut to combine the X-Ray and Pathological Departments, and a central air-conditioning plant for all major departments of the FST has been requested. Planning is complete; NEAF approval is now awaited.

During the tropical disturbance the medical supplies and equipment, although stored in tents, and the Operating Theatre complex in a Tynham were little affected.

The next FST will arrive on 22nd November and the present one should depart on the 23rd.

November 72

December 1972

Field Surgical Team

47 operations were performed during the month. 15 casualties were admitted many of them needing second and third operations and intensive nursing. Due to the absence of surgical facilities at the Sultan of Oman’s base and civil hospital, the FST continues to provide these facilities in addition to its normal role.

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