The Cruel War

Zimbabwe. The very name is shrouded in mystery, the people who built it, the reason for building it and the stone falcons that decorated it remain a mystery and a wonder. Was it built for Worship or for War?

Today it has become known as the name of a country conceived in bloodshed, born in sorrow. For about fifteen years a grim little war raged, a three way civil war between the Rhodesian army and the militant wings of the Matebele and the Shona people.

With the escalation of hostilities every white citizen was conscripted. I was also compelled to join up and since I became reluctant to bear arms against civilians I was seconded into the Medical Corps and trained as a Military Paramedic.

The training involved anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, primary health care and missile injury treatment. Part of my training required me to work in A&E in Bulawayo’s Mpilo hospital. It was a heartbreaking experience treating infants, children, men and women ravaged by road traffic accidents, public violence or disease.

After the successful completion of my training I was deployed into the war zone. I had a fully equipped Field Hospital, comprising a clinical treatment room and a large 4X4 resuscitation van capable of carrying six stretchers loaded with casualties.

My duties varied between running a field clinic in the local villages, maintaining the health of the Unit that I was attached to and responding to a call to treat the wounded combatants.

Triage is a term for sorting casualties into the walking wounded, those who would survive given treatment, and those who have terminal injuries. In practice this means that criticality injured are first treated, followed by treating the less serious casualties.

The terminally injured are left to die. It is a dreadful thing to hear a terribly ravaged young man tormented by pain and dying horribly. His comrades would gather around him and look at me as if to remind me of our Covenant. The guys had all agreed that if they were beyond redemption I would give them a pain free death.

His companions would all turn their backs to him so they wouldn’t have to watch me bend over him, reaching into my medical pack. When it was over they would turn, look me in the eyes and nod their affirmation.

We were Territorial troops serving six weeks in the war zones and six weeks at home and work, turn about, year in year out for fifteen years. It took a toll on families it took a toll on farmers, black and white alike.

It was a Cruel War and a time of madness.


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