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The trawlermans tale


On the 18th July 1966 2155 hrs Call to trawler "Ross Eagle" to pick up a seaman with respiratory distress. Flt Lt Gumbrell was the pilot of XP404. Even though it was summer time it was rather late in the day. In those days we were not supposed to be over the sea after dark when there was no longer a visible horizon. It was about 2245 by the time we reached the trawler and went down to see what the problem was.

The seaman really was in distress as he had enormous abscesses on either side of his tonsilar areas. However the skipper of the Ross Eagle was, like other skippers I noted on several occasions on other ships, a very resourceful character. He had got a length of electrical cable and pulled out the inner wires to leave a quite serviceable tube to use as an airway. This allowed the seaman to breathe a little easier.

He was then winched up to the chopper where I inserted a more medical type of airway and we set off back to land. It was dark by this time and as we had made no previous arrangements to land in Hull I advised we should return to base at Leconfield whence we could transport the seaman to a hospital in the RAF ambulance. We landed at Leconfield at 2340 and transferred the seaman to the ambulance. But where to take him? I went to the "B" flight crewroom and started phoning to the hospitals in Beverley and Hull.

One after another said they had no beds and it seemed difficult to find a member of the medical staff whose mother tongue was English. Excuses such as " we have no beds for infectious cases" to "we have no emergency beds at all" and having explained we had just picked the sick man up from a ship at sea to be asked if it was an emergency was frustrating to say the least. At last I managed to contact a sympathetic nursing staff member who found the duty house officer who spoke good English. However his main concern was how old was the seaman.

This was too much for our navigator (I am pretty sure it was John Hill, who had a dry sense of humour) he shouted out "Just hold on a minute and I will cut off one of his legs and count the rings" . This seemed to do the trick and the sick man was duly taken to the hospital in Hull where he did well.