Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Official History of the Canadian Medical Services
1939 1945


THE MEDICAL SERVICES in the Second World War faced problems which were unique only in size, Perhaps the greatest were those related to authority and autonomy. Because medical problems today are more than ever obscure and difficult of lay understanding, the medical man (in uniform and out) holds a position of semiseclusion, being regarded generally as an adviser. Authoritarian rule in the army, as it relates to medical matters, is therefore tempered by respect for professional judgement. If the medical officer is certain that an area will kill all the troops placed in it, the commander will not overrule his advice unless wider knowledge and greater necessity force an unnatural decision upon him, Such situations exist throughout the armed forces in democratic states, but perhaps more obviously in the medical services than in other special fields.

We face wars ill-prepared because we believe in the sanctity of human life, and our social structure is designed to prevent the destruction of that life. With the advent of war a new technique must be learned. As long as a man is our enemy, he must be wounded, disabled, killed. But when action ceases, if he be still alive, everyone must do everything to save his life. The conflict of motives ceases at the medical portal. Military medicine has no differences from civil medicine, except those which develop when men are constantly attempting either to fight or to escape fighting and killing. Many have asked why, in these circumstances, a military medical service is necessary at all. Sir Andrew Macphail remarked in the History of the Canadian Forces 1914-19, "The medical service of an army has no existence in itself. It is a vital part of a living fabric . . . Dissevered, it decays and the main body perishes." The medical services are different from any other part of a modern army in that it would be impossible to wage war over the face of the earth without adequate medical knowledge available in the background. Experience has also taught most medical men that without military authority, it would be impossible for them to give their advice adequate force, and to deliver it to the proper place at the right time. Men, when organized into an armed force, behave according to a rigid code which must be established in order to sustain the very abnormal existence they have undertaken. In this existence they forsake normal standards and kill or are killed. There is no room in such a system for anything but order and obedience. The voice of a civilian in a tight spot in the field would be heard as clearly as that of the peasant who screams at the advancing tank, "Do not destroy my house."

Volume 1  |  Volume 2


Return to our Armed Forces Page

Quantcast

Quantcast

Quantcast

Quantcast

Quantcast

Quantcast

Quantcast

Quantcast

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus