SPANISH MEDICAL AID COMMITTEE
24 New Oxford Street, W.C.1.
BARCELONA. At an emergency meeting of the Central Committee after the bombing of Barcelona, it was decided to send 5 ambulances full of medical supplies, especially anaesthetics, out to the city. The Mayor of Barcelona had already asked for our help, and it was felt in view of the urgency of the situation that ambulances should be sent at once. We hope that by the time the Bulletin reaches you they will already be at work. They are to form the advance guard of an international caravan that is leaving Paris on April 14th, the anniversary of the declaration of the Republic. The need of the people of Barcelona is desperate and we felt that we could not hold back the ambulances till April 14th and we should therefore send them ahead of the rest of the caravan.
CATGUT. An urgent telegram reached the Committee a few weeks ago for large supplies of silkworm gut and catgut from the Spanish authorities. £40 worth was dispatched by air at once, and we heard later that enormous quantities had had to be destroyed in Spain because of a case of tetanus that had developed owing to faulty supplies.
THE RETREAT FROM BELCHITE. Here is an account of the Retreat from Belchite from one of our drivers who is just back on leave. "The work of the Committee and its members has been in evidence on all fronts and generally where the work has been heaviest. Since the main fighting has been on the Aragon Front, its work has extended even further as not only have we had our drivers serving the front, but we also have had personel assisting the doctors in the line, and one nurse worked with an ambulance fitted out to do small operations before evacuating cases to the front line hospital. Thus our work extends from the actual front to the base hospitals. Ambulances doing this kind of work have to undergo a severe strain and get covered with holes from machine gun fire and shrapnel and sometimes put out of action for a time. This puts an added strain on our already overworked drivers and means longer waiting periods for the wounded.
"Since the German and Italian Air Forces have become so active bombing the villages behind the lines it has meant that the hospitals we have established have had on many occasions to be evacuated and moved further back.
"In the new Fascist drive from Belchite, we have had the worst period since the war began. In a small valley about 3.5 kilometres from Hijar, a hospital was established consisting of 3 tents, one for Triaje, one for operating and one for a ward. Our immediate surroundings were bombed continuously and eventually the camp was hit. Two American nurses were wounded and one of the unit members, Ada Hodgson, went on with her work while blood flowed freely from a wound in her head. The tent was torn into shreds by the shrapnel, but no patients were hurt.
"The second raid on this camp killed the driver of the auto-chir and wounded two other comrades. As soon as possible we retired from the camp but unfortunately the next site for a hospital was worse and we were unable to set up the tents, and after a few hours waiting in small gullies for the planes to go we once again retired.
"It is under these conditions that one realises the value of our ambulances. The journey from the front to the first dressing station is increased as the front line hospital is unable is unable to function well if at all. Wounded at the front have to wait longer periods before evacuation, and when the retreat is fairly rapid many have to be left behind as was done in the retreat from Belchite."