Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A Second Fracture

The full sixteen weeks training eventually came to an end and I became a Field Engineer Grade B3, with an increase in wages. The pass-out parade was rather special with the Regimental Pipe Band in attendance. I had hoped to pursue a commission but my earlier broken leg meant that I couldn't be considered on medical grounds. I was given my posting to Farnborough, Hampshire although this was not immediate.

In the meantime we were sent on a special task force to the west coast of Scotland to help a fishing fleet based in Ullapool who had been affected by the huge storms of 1953. Many of their boats had been tossed inland from the edge of the loch and required special hauling equipment to refloat them. We carried out these operations every day for a week in all kinds of weather. On one day we were also asked to look for a man who had been reported missing. I found his body washed up on the beach. He had apparently committed suicide following a car accident where all the other occupants had died.

During this week I began to experience pain in my leg. Thankfully we were relieved by another squad and I had a weekend leave pass. By the time I returned home to Peterborough I knew something was wrong but still cycled to the family doctor and then, with an X-ray appointment, cycled to the hospital. Unfortunately I had developed a 'fatigue fracture' at the top of the femur, just above the point where I had broken my leg six years earlier. I was devastated by the news.

The surgeon explained to my parents and me that cracks were appearing in the top of the bone into the ball-joint, requiring surgery to insert a metal joint, known as a Smith-Petersen Pin and Plate. It consisted of a long bolt attached to a plate with four screws: the bolt went into the ball joint and the plate was screwed to the top of the femur. It would have to remain for a full year, beginning with several weeks of being confined to bed.

After surgery I was allowed home, however it wasn't long before the army reclaimed me, sending a basic army ambulance down from Catterick Military Hospital to pick me up. It took a few hours to be driven up to North Yorkshire, hitting every conceivable bump on the A1.