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An Army Nurse

Nurse treats wounded

An Army nurse from Britain's Basra's Incident Response Team treats a wounded soldier.

Cpl Ralph Merry, RAF

‘Under fire’

Based on a Report by Shell Daruwala, MOD

After 14 years with the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC), Major Janet Pilgrim has heard and seen considerable gunfire. She has taken eight operational tours, three in Iraq. Her deployment, between March and October 2007, "coincided with one of the heaviest periods of militia activity in Basra since 2003. Twenty British Service personnel lost their lives to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rocket attacks, and indirect fire". Multi-national casualties poured into the hospital.

Nurse Pilgrim

Major Janet Pilgrim

Not even the hospital was safe from the regular mortar attacks that fell on the United Kingdom's Basra Base. When a rocket "came down on the hospital we lost all power and all water from the front of the hospital; so our key capabilities were taken out," said Major Pilgrim.

As the Officer Commanding Hospital Squadron, she was in charge of the hospital's day-to-day running, and was amazed and proud of her people -

Watching the team pull together – still under fire at some points - and get the hospital up and running again will be my lasting memory of that tour. It's like a very finely-tuned orchestra. You just give a few clear directions and say, 'I need your departments up and running at that end of the hospital in these timelines – go!' and they did, and they were absolutely superb. And I think that is the key thing that we take away – that they worked so well and so hard under those conditions and still delivered a top-rate medical service.

Pre-deployment training was essential. The Army Medical Services Training Centre at York has a hospital built in a hangar, and individuals from all three Services and the Reserve and Territorials take part in demanding training scenarios. When Defence Medical Services put footprints down, no matter where, no matter the conditions, they provide top class service.

For her services Major Pilgrim will receive the Royal Red Cross, which is exceptionally awarded to Army nurses for devotion to duty and professional competence in British military nursing. The first recipient of a Royal Red Cross was Florence Nightingale.

"Everything that happened in that hospital over the time I was there, and all the good work that was done was down to every individual playing a vital role" said Major Pilgrim, who believes that the Royal Red Cross belongs to her whole team.

She added, "We get a lot of variety in what we're exposed to; we're not being shot at every day".

That's a comfort.

The story of Pvt Michelle Norris, who climbed to the top of a Warrior to treat her wounded commander while under fire, is here.


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