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Stanley Aylett
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
I seem to have managed to collect/obtain a fair number of books on military medicine and biographies of the men involved. This book as you can probably tell from the title fits right in amongst them. It’s sub-title is The Second World War seen from operating tables behind the front line.

This is actually the second edition of the book, the first being published in 1979, shortly after Mr Aylett retired from medicine. It has been compiled from the original manuscript and enhanced by more of his letters by his daughter, who is credited as editor on the cover.

Stanley Aylett enlisted in the first week of September when he was working at King’s College in London at a time when the hospital was not encouraging staff to enlist. From the RAMC’s point of view his enlistment was a bonus as he brought with him a set of much needed surgical skills.

As a surgeon, Aylett mainly worked behind the front in General Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations, though he was briefly with a Field Ambulance in France, 1940. By the end of the war he was part of a Field Surgical Unit, a small group of staff who could travel independently and be attached as necessary to other larger units. He finished the war working in a concentration camp and then overseeing the treatment of German soldiers in Denmark.

He served in a number of theatres, France 1940, North Africa 41-43, North Europe 44-45, except for a couple of short periods, end of 1940 and beginning of 1944 he was abroad for almost the entire war engaged in surgical work. His work rate was usually high rising to very high during periods of offensives, his specialty being abdominal surgery.

His book paints a vivid picture of the areas he worked in, as well as the conditions he which he was operating, he pulls no punches when describing the various command qualities of those in the RAMC above him, he really brings to life how the war was for him. Periods of intense work trying to save the lives of wounded soldiers interspersed with occasional chances to see local life (More so in North Africa than elsewhere).

His letters are particularly good at illustrating exactly how he felt during these times, he does not seem to have held back in his writing home.

The book has a good flow to it and is well illustrated throughout with many pictures. To whom would it appeal, anybody with an interest in military history particularly World War 2 and anybody who finds medical matters fascinating.

Amazon product

I’d give it 4 Mr Mushroomheads.
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