Book Review: Commando Medics in the Falkland War

Review by Geoff Simpson

Commando Medics in the Falkland War

Malcolm Hazell

Malcolm Hazell was a Royal Navy commando medical service officer who led a team treating servicemen from both sides during the Falklands war in 1982. He was based at Ajax Bay and then at Teal Inlet, before moving into Stanley.

He tells the story of what he and his men did and sets it in the context of events in the conflict as a whole. His role, of course, ensured that he saw as much as most of the horror of war.

Recalling the period at Teal Inlet, Hazel writes, “a Wessex M 5 helicopter brought back multiple dead Argentine conscripts, and the aircrewman in the rear cab could barely bring himself to handle these poor dead souls, as I organised their movement straight to our makeshift mortuary. They were in a dreadful state and clearly all very dead, as with a group of Argentine fatalities received at Ajax Bay, and others at Teal Inlet, they had no identity.”

Less horrifying but far from pleasant, was the time spent treating men from both sides with Trench Foot, “categorized as a non-freezing cold injury”. Usually associated with the First World War, “it was a debilitating condition, that reduced some of the strongest, fittest elite troops, to disabled casualties unable to walk unaided.”

The author has made a significant contribution to the recorded history of events in the South Atlantic in 1982. Any decision to buy the book needs to take account of a number of factors apart from the strength of the potential purchaser’s stomach.

The writing style is laboured, more in the nature of an internal report at times, and there is much repetition. There is considerable use of acronyms and other jargon, often not explained in the text, yet there is no glossary. Nor, indeed, is there a list of contents or an index.

The final part of the book addresses a matter that appears to have taken up much of the author’s time in recent years. In a sentence (but the arguments and possibilities put forward are complicated) Malcolm Hazell believes that the remains of British and/or Argentinian dead may lie buried, unmarked and forgotten, close to what still exists of Teal Inlet Bunk House.

Various authorities, including the UK and Falklands Islands governments, the Royal Falkland Islands Police and the International Committee of the Red Cross, seem to think otherwise and receive severe censure from Hazell. One allegation is that Argentinian bodies were mutilated by British troops and this is being covered up. It is probably impossible for the reader to form a view and it looks as though Malcolm Hazell will continue to pursue what he now sees as a cause.

Published UK Book Publishing 2022

ISBN: 978-1-915338-57-0

227 pages, illustrated

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