Barnsley-born Ron Dickinson was called up with the first batch of militia and in July 1939 began what he thought would be a six-month training programme. His immaculate copperplate handwriting recorded the information which he would then strive to commit to memory.
The syllabus of training for war-time recruits into the ranks initially comprised of 270 hours, nearly 100 hours of which was taken up with physical training and drill, and which also included lessons on Chemical Warfare, Anatomy and Physiology, First Aid and Nursing.
Dickinson had been a member of the St John Ambulance and had therefore been offered the choice to join the RAMC. The six-month training programme became six weeks as he was sent to France shortly after the outbreak of war in September 1939. “Pack your kit, we’re on the move”, Dickinson and his comrades in No. 11 Field Ambulance were told. Seventy-nine years later, when I interviewed him in his Barnsley home, later Ron wryly reflected, “I went for six months’ training. It took me six years to get back!”
Ron still carefully treasures the exercise books in which he committed to memory the training that would help save the lives of dozens of soldiers during his wartime service in France, North Africa and Italy.
Ron Dickinson’s is one of dozens of accounts of service in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War featured in the critically acclaimed book Faithful in Adversity: The Royal Army Medical Corps in the Second World War published by Pen & Sword.