Friday, 7 January 2011

'I'm Lucky"

I don't know about you, but I find something slightly uncomfortable about women serving in the front line.  It's possibly to do with my generation who never experienced women in combat roles.  Traditionally they were the nurses - the mothering arm of the military - and for many a male they provided a fond memory of home.  Nurses were kept away as far away from the front line as possible by their male colleagues.

The Army has changed though and women are deployed in today's wars.  They struggled to be accepted alongside their male colleagues and now they are they deserve respect for entering a profession in which, during these years of warmongering politicians, they know there's a good possibility they will be sent to war.

Hannah Campbell (pictured) decided to join the Army in 2002 to do a nursing degree.  She admits to being naive but says nine years ago there were no conflicts like Iraq or Afghanistan, where figures show that, regardless of the military surge in the past year, the situation has not improved.

She married a colleague in 2004 and had her daughter in 2005.  Her husband was scheduled to go to Afghanistan in 2007 and at the same time Hannah was offered the opportunity to go on her first tour to Iraq alongside the Royal Artillery.

"Because of Milly, only one of us would have to be away.  I was worried about Jamie going to Afghanistan where the conflict seemed to be escalating.  It felt safer for me to go."

Her welcome was a mortar alarm which warns of indirect shellfire.  The welcome never ceased.  She hadn't been prepared for the physical ache which accompanied missing her daughter dreadfully.

The day before her flight home disaster struck.  She was on guard duty when the attack came and the last thing she remembers is hearing shots fired.  A bomb hit the building burying Hannah inside. The American Special Forces helped pull her free and she woke up in hospital with serious injuries.  One of them was a smashed foot.  Her heel bone and the joints around it had shattered.  Back home, after being stabilised for the journey, she spent a considerable time in Selly Oak, Birmingham.  The medics had done their best to patch up her foot but she just couldn't escape the pain, which eventually drove her to using a wheelchair.  Her weight doubled and, combined with the pain medication, she felt no one understood her.

It was her GP who suggested she consider amputation late in 2009 and her surgeon, Professor Keith Porter, who was knighted last week for his services to the military, agreed it might be best.  To help with her decision she visited he military rehabilitation centre at Headley Court to meet amputees and she talked with Kate Philp, the only other woman who had lost a leg in active service.  Image played a big part because she says the men she met wore their war wounds with pride, but it's different for a woman.  She wanted to know if she would be able to wear high heels.

The pain made up her mind though and she had her operation last May.  "Waking up in hospital without my leg was wonderful.  The pain went instantly.  I felt like the girl I was before."

Does she have any regrets? "I wouldn't change anything.  I'm a stronger person for it."  Hannah hopes to run the London Marathon one day and has a skiing holiday and scuba-diving trip planned through Forces rehabilitation charity Battle Back.  She can wear high heels.  I wish her all the best for the future.

However, Hannah is one of many and the appalling loss of young limbs continues unabated.  Military charities have become increasingly concerned that the NHS is not adequately equipped to support amputee veterans to the same outstanding standards provided by Headley Court.  The government have announced a review into the care of former personnel who have lost limbs serving their country.  Another review, perhaps to gather dust on a shelf, who knows.

Like me, John Nicol, a former RAF officer and now writer, has also found statistics difficult to come by and the Ministry of Defence has been reluctant to offer exact figures about the numbers and types of battle injuries sustained.  I've been trying to gain information for a few months now but my efforts are in vain.  BLESMA (The British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association) estimates that there have been more than 200 amputees of which some 50 have been double amputees and there are now around 15 servicemen who have lost three limbs. As Mr Nicol states, there is no self-pity amid those with these terrible injuries and each and every one of them that he spoke to said they were 'lucky' and that many of their colleagues' situations were far worse.

He acknowledges the Armed Forces have made great changes in the care provided for injured veterans but his concern - and mine - is that with the reduction in funding the burden will fall on military charities.  I know the military charities picked up the pieces of lives from the Falklands War.  They had no option as the MoD provided little or nothing.

A modern prosthetic limb can cost £15,000 plus and may need to be replaced or refurbished regularly.  Our wounded veterans are the nation's responsibility and the nation should be paying out of central funds.  Charities should be there to provide the 'added extras' to make life easier and not to fund the basic priorities of our wounded and compensate for care which the NHS cannot provide.

I finish with a quote from Mr Nicol's article:

Our servicemen and women have always been prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. In return, they should expect their country to look after them in their hour of need, however long it takes, and whatever the cost. They deserve nothing less.


Dioclese said...

Well said!

subrosa said...

Thank you Dioclese.

Oldrightie said...

It's an aberration and abomination. Women are not the violent, testosterone fuelled creatures we men can be. War is for men, nurture for women.

subrosa said...

Women wanted an equal role OR or most of them did. I could never understand it really but perhaps it was because they were in such a man's world and didn't want to be thought of as soft. I have had many hours pleasant discussion with military folk about this some years ago. Still I'm not too sure of it but then I'm not in the military.

Anonymous said...

That is so horrible. I hate stories like this. And it happened the day before her flight home? Just like that old song says, there is nothing good about war.

subrosa said...

Sorry if I upset your morning Rate of Dissent. The main point of the post is to show that the public purse doesn't fund injured veterans sufficiently and is more and more leaving it to charities who are publicly funded. None of them is a fake charity.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

OR's hit the nail on the head.

Unfortunately what women saw, perfectly reasonably, as equality the moguls of control saw as opportunity.

The opportunity to condition that equality to the same models of control that suited their purpose.

With the result we have now the paradigm of dog eat dog for no natural purpose extended to bitch eating bitch for even less natural purpose.

subrosa said...

As always, you outshine me with your eloquence RA.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I don’t know about women not being aggressive or violent. A look at them fighting, drunk as skunks in town centre on a Saturday night should dispel that notion.

As SR said, women wanted the equality of front line work and they got it, against the wishes, I think, of senior people in the forces. I remember hearing Mick Jackson talking about how abhorrent he found it. He also felt it would put his men at disadvantage as they would risk, for women comrades, more than they would for a male.

Now I’m not in the military, and as a person who abhors violence of any kind, I never could be, so I have to take the word of people like Jackson, whom one presumes knows what he’s talking about.

But when women want something, they have a way of insisting that they get it. So, for me it is a sad story, but certainly no sadder than if it had happened to a man. And as SR said, we don’t get to know how many times it happens to a man, because our open government refuses to publish that kind of information.

I can’t imagine why, can you?

I also agree that whatever it costs to mop up the damage that politicians do, when they send young men...and now women... to war, should be the responsibility of the state. If that means they have to sell Chequers, or Windsor Castle to pay for it... or if it means they no longer have subsidised canteens, sorry restaurants and bars, in the House of lords, then so be it. If politicians in the 21st century need to continue to act in the same way as they did 1000 years ago, then the victims of their vanity, male or female, must be looked after.

Alternatively, the next time they decide to get themselves involved in war, perhaps the prime minister, the defence minister and the queen, in whose name they go should lead the charge. That would soon cool their ardour.

JRB said...

There appears to be two issues under discussion.

Without question it behoves the Government to make all necessary arrangements for the care and welfare of wounded combatants. To leave such to the sole care of well intention charities is simply officials negating their duties.

As for women participating in front line duties, this has been an ongoing topic since the Napoleonic era.
I am sure Hannah is proud to have served and we must commend her dedication.

It is an interesting coincidence that your post comes on the same day as the BBC has highlighted the proposed memorial to Noor Inayat Khan GC MBE 1914 – 1944, executed in Dachau Concentration Camp 13th September 1944

subrosa said...

John, thanks so much for the link. Many years ago I read about Mrs Khan but didn't realise they've finally got round to creating a memorial.

The issue of woman serving on the front line was decided in the recent past. It won't change now. Women are happy with it, it's what they want. I can say not all men are happy with it and that includes military men.

The main issue is that publicly funded REAL charities are having to carry the can for the government. This has been going on for years but the numbers weren't high. I have often contributed to the Erskine Hospital because of the grand work they undertake. But they efficient charities are under strain because of the numbers involved today. As I said I've tried to find accurate numbers of injured but the MoD wish to keep them confidential if would appear.

subrosa said...

Women who join the military would lose their jobs if they were brawling in the city streets on a Saturday night Tris. :) But I get your point. Women wanted a more active role and they now have it. I say good for them.

Now there's a thought. Get rid of all these subsidised restaurants and the booze cellar. That would save a few million and some of our service personnel could have top quality aids.

There's not much the Americans do better, but looking after their veterans is one of them. Of course it hasn't always been so.

Anonymous said...

Subrosa, what I meant was that I hate it when people get injured in war like that woman did. I think that every war injury should be reported on the mainstream news. Maybe after awhile people will understand that war is a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

LOL I know you know that I didn't mean that (although the Marines in Arbroath regularly brawl and beat up locals who might want a look in at the Arbroath women ...well somepeople have to...and they seem to keep their jobs).

I was just commenting on the rather idealistic middle class view that some of your readers may have of members of the female sex.

Estate girls and older women fight like wounded rats on Dundee's streets once they've had a few... I'd sooner face a bloke any day.

Conan the Librarian™ said...

It's thanks to their body armour that they are coming home amputees rather than in a box.
When steel helmets were first introduced in the "Great War" old reactionaries complained that the amount of head injuries had went up!
Totally missing the point that deaths had went down...

As for women on the frontline...tricky.
There is something to be said for having a six foot slab of bone and muscle beside you in hand to hand combat, but that doesn't happen too often in the 'stan.
On the other hand the very thought of female soldiers really pisses off the Taliban, so bring them on.

subrosa said...

Unfortunately Rate of Dissent, few people are interested in the wounds our military receive. It's a case of out of sight, out of mind or 'well they knew what they were in for when they signed up'.

subrosa said...

Jings Tris, things have changed since my day. Women used to jist hand out of the tenement windows shouting at each other then. Maybe this is the modern version but I don't remember fisty cuffs.

subrosa said...

Conan, jings a long time ago I read that in some military history book I remember.

There is that about the present situation right enough. It's difficult really. As you say a slab of muscle can be better in lots of situations but only if it has a reasonable amount of grey matter atop.

Anonymous said...

SR... You need to go Downtown Dundee on a friday or Saturday... and sadly these days broughty Ferry too.

The women drink more than the men, get drunker and fight harder.

subrosa said...

Jings Tris, sounds as if I wouldn't survive! I haven't been in Dundee for ages and even longer of an evening.

Is this the result of the equality and diversity rubbish?

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't think diversity has anything to do with it SR. I've yet to see a black woman (or man for that matter), or any asians of any type drunk and fighting.

I think it has more to do with equality. Some people appear to mistake "equality" with "the same", so they think they should be allowed to get pissed and fight like boys have done for centuries... which of course they are, every bit as much as blokes...

They are just MORE SCARY than the blokes. ;¬)

subrosa said...

Diversity was a silly comment from me Tris because there would have to be 50% other cultures in Dundee before anything could be assessed don't you think. But I know I've never heard of any Asians being involved in drunkenness in Dundee.

Now Tris, you're my sociologist and even I know that the media et al convey that meaning to the young or, they do little to correct the misunderstanding. I've heard people say in speeches 'Women are as good as men and can do a man's job'. Of course they never say that's a very broad statement and there are many things a woman can't do that a man can and vice versa.

Even in broad daylight I've been scared of some women in Dundee. I mean. if some of them passed a giant magnet they'd be seriously injured. Why do they have to wear all that metal on their skin? And I'm not speaking about teenagers or twenty-somethings.

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