The Life of a Medical Officer in WW1 documents the experiences of Captain Harry Gordon Parker and provides a rare insight into the conflict that engulfed Europe from 1914-1918. Having joined the Naval Medical Service as a Royal Navy Temporary Surgeon, Parker's first taste of war was aboard a hospital evacuation ship, which regularly crossed the English Channel, from Southampton to France, picking up casualties from the battle grounds. Somewhat disillusioned with the whole experience, he requested a transfer to the Royal Medical Army Corps and soon found himself transported to the trenches in France. It was here, first serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers and then later as permanent Regimental Medical Officer with the 2nd Manchester’s Regiment, that he spent the remainder of the war, witnessing first-hand the horrors of Passchendaele, Arras and the Somme.
Parker's account not only reveals a record of the conflict, but also encompasses a totality of military life as it impacted on the medical fraternity. From bureaucratic red tape, lack of medical supplies, lice infestations, trench foot and absurd missions where the incompetence of his own side was as dangerous as the enemy, his thoughts are penned with sincerity, the utmost compassion as well as a certain degree of sardonic humour: ‘We went into the trenches for the first time at Givenchy. It snowed heavily, and our rations did not arrive. The Royal Welsh, however, generously shared their rations with our men, who repaid the kindness by (accidentally) shooting one of the Sergeants through the stomach!’. With endorsement from family members, author Lorraine Evans has revised Parker’s notes and scribblings for clarity and added complementary text to provide historical background. What transpires is a lasting and classic chronicle, an extraordinary human account of history as it ensued.