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Pull Up A Sandbag
Sandbag Reminiscences of Douglas Dows Sandbag
Accident! What Accident?
In my youth I was a boarder at Tonfanau. As anyone who was also a boarder will know that apart from education, education and even more education we were required to train in the subjects of our chosen professions. To help us in this we were sent on annual trips to carry out what was called adventure training.
Adventure training was compulsory and involved us traveling miles, normally in cold wet weather, to areas of Wales where nothing seemed to live or breath (including the obligatory sheep), to carry out various activities.
My intake and I were on such a journey one day in 1965 when tragedy stuck the vehicle I was being carried in. The vehicle came off the road and travelled down a steep embankment turning over several times as it did coming to rest upside down the cab completely flattened along with the canvas supports. The whole vehicle was level with its side boards.
Unfortunately as it turned over it threw the Junior Soldiers being carried in the back out at various intervals leaving them injured and littering the slope. I was also thrown out but after I was thrown from the truck it must have decided that it wanted a second go and proceeded to roll over me. Fortunately for me as it rolled over me my head was in the gap between the load space of the vehicle and the cab, the rest of me especially my chest was subsequently crushed under the front board of the load area.
I have no recollection of the actual accident nor most of what happened directly afterwards, my abiding memory of what happened prior to the accident was that as we were travelling along, apart from trying to keep warm, we were singing the Beatles song 'Help'. The jolt of the vehicle as it left the road and the pain of being bumped around apart from that there are only fleeting visions some of what I can’t guarantee to be true.
My next memory is being laid in a field coughing and being held down when I tried to get up. When I tried to get up I coughed which brought the taste of blood with it and what I thought was phlegm (I now know was blood) then there was nothing.
The next memory I had was in the ambulance being laid on a stretcher with, I assume, an attendant telling me I would be OK and to hang on. The attendant then asked me if there was anything I wanted and I said I wanted the siren on and he opened a window so I could hear it. Such a stupid thing to ask for I know but such a comfort when you hear it.
All the injured were initially taken to Aberystwyth Hospital and treated accordingly. My first memory of hospital apart from the pain of being dropped while they were x-raying me was briefly coming round during what must have been the specialists visit and hearing him complain that my feet were dirty. The nurses had taken my woollen army issue socks off but I had been wearing a pair of black nylon socks underneath.
As I was kept sedated for a few days I only have brief memories and once again, even now, I find it hard to separate what actually happened from what I imagined happened.
When I was allowed to return to the land of the living I was visited by my mother and sister, who later told me they had been with me since I had been admitted to hospital.
In the ward I was in there were six of us unfortunately the only name I remember is Dick Heales. We proved to be a handful so over the weeks there were adult patients put in the ward to look over us the last adult being a vicar who was as bad as we were.
As we got better we were released back into the hands of the military medical care and John Dennis and I were the last. On our release from hospital we were driven to the MRS at Tonfanau and given to the care of the Medical Officer and QARANCs. We spent various lengths of time in the MRS before we were released into the wide world of being a Junior Soldier again.
I suppose I was lucky that I survived the accident reasonably intact, it is with regret that I learned that the driver never made it and died of his injuries. John Dennis I think lost a kidney and a spleen. Dick Heales broke his pelvis in seven places and because it wasn’t setting properly the surgeons broke it again, this was done without any form of pain killer. I managed to escape with a broken rib or ribs, punctured lung and my whole insides have been pushed down a few inches.
The whole incident has not really affected my army career I managed to soldier on meeting some of the men who had been at Tonfanau. Strange but we all seem to have had the same attitude to military service must be where we all started.

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