Click play to hear Betty Dimock’s complete audio story
On loan from the Canadian Army to the South African military for a year, Betty Dimock first saw service in 1942 treating the wounded in North Africa. The nurse from Saint John, N.B., later joined the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and worked at a hospital in England.
We had no antibiotics. And we had very few dressings. We had to wash out the dirty, old, soiled, infected dressings and hang them on the line in the sun. Native boys fanned flies off the wounds in the daytime to try to prevent the maggots. And we had unfamiliar medication and treatment. One unforgettable case, a young English lad from the North African campaign with numerous injuries, arrived in a complete body cast. Removal of the cast exposed unexpectedly severe shoulder injuries. The area was filled with a foul-smelling purulent substance, crawling with maggots. This patient begged me to get someone else to perform the procedure. He was aware of what I would find. I needed a soup ladle to remove the pus and maggots. For a young nurse, it was a little bit rough.
When we first went to England, it was the first time we’d been associated with antibiotics—penicillin. It wasn’t too well-purified. Some of the needles were not too sharp when we had to shoot them into the boys. They just screamed, it was terrible. And they’d hide.