By his own admission, Sir Winston Churchill loved the zing of bullets. Well I didn't, and I don't recall anyone who did. And one person who really didn't, was a young medic in my platoon.
There can be few things more haunting than the sight of young faces contorted by fear. The impact is more profound when you are responsible for their safety. When danger threatens, they look to you, if they become casualties, they want the medic.
Our medic had never seen a shot fired in anger before and the men were naturally apprehensive. Apprehensive is the right adjective; they were not hostile or dismissive, they were naturally concerned that if they had the misfortune to need a medic, would he deliver?
They didn't have long to wait. I can't recall exactly how it started, either the bad guys bumped into us, or we bumped into them. I yelled at the medic to get behind something until the shooting stopped, then do his business. Eventually the cacophony of bangs screeches and shouting stopped. Then silence. I think this silence is created by everyone taking stock of themselves. Very soon the shouting starts again, and calls for the medic drowns out the rest.
Eventually everything settled down. The casualties had been taken out and we waited to go out too. I noticed our medic sitting alone, deeply absorbed in thought. He had done a fine job and I wanted to tell him so. I squatted down beside him and he gave me casualty details. I got him to talk about his first action, and he did so precisely. As I got up to leave, he said
" There was one weird thing though, everywhere I went there was this strange smell. I couldn't figure it out. I just kept thinking about the smell of gangrene."I replied "Don't worry about it, just let's call it combat stress incontinence".