Tuesday 28 March 2023

2023 Susie West: An outstanding doctor


                                             Susie West: An Outstanding doctor


                                                                                  Eduardo C. Gerding


                              Having those girls on board was the best thing that could have happened.

                                    Captain Martin Reed, Chief Officer on SS Canberra in 1982   9



Susie West was born into an east London family in 1950. Her memoir starts with Susie’s life as a twin in a family of four girls in east  London. Her twin then falls ill, giving Susie contact with the medical profession.


Bedford College

Susie West studied biology at Bedford College graduating in 1972. Bedford College is a university of further education located in Bedford, Bedfordshire, England. In this regard Susie says: “My fondest memory of Bedford is the wonderful setting. Deep in Regent’s Park was the best place to start my Botany studies”


The Middlesex Hospital Medical School

Ever since she was a child, Susie had wanted to be a nurse. The truth is that he never imagined that one day he would become a doctor and never considered the possibility of pursuing a military career. 9

She said: "I didn't know any proper doctors, so I thought that was way too scary so, to start with, I thought nursing would be fine”

In 1973 Susie entered Middlesex Hospital Medical School which has a history dating back to 1746 and in 1987 merged with University College London Medical School. 4

We also know that her orientation in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Calcutta Medical Hospital had a great influence on his life. 4

Entry to P&O

After completing her training as a GP, she started working at P&O and, coincidentally, she was in Canberra when the conflict in the South Atlantic broke out.

The nursing sisters had worked on P&O ships since the 1930s, but it was not until the 1970s that female surgeons were allowed to join shipping companies. 9

Had Susie been in the Royal Navy at the time of the conflict, she would not have been able to serve on the front lines as until 1990 women were not allowed on board in the Royal Navy. 4 . However, these rules did not apply to civilian women in a war zone. 9. Susie persuaded one of the naval medical officers to take her aboard. 4

The swiming  pool on the SS Canberra was converted into a flight deck and the entertainment area was adapted to create a triage area, a resuscitation area and a four-table operating room. The nightclub was transformed into a 50-bed recovery ward. 9

It was decided that entertainers and beauticians did not have to stay, so before sailing, the ship's crew was reduced from 800 to 413 people, 15 of whom were women, including Surgical Assistant Dr. Susie West. 9


 Surgical assistants, also called surgical first assistants, help surgeons with tasks such as making incisions, placing clamps, and closing surgical sites. Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors and first assistants during surgeries.


Dr West thus went from being a cruise ship medic catering to elderly tourists, and eager for an exciting career, to drawing blood from the 3rd Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, of whom there were around 3,000. 9


Combat zone

Susie remembers that many of the Royal Marines thought that there would not be much resistance from the Argentine conscripts. 9 ("Everyone said, this is going to be avoided, there will be no blows" "There will be no bloodshed" 9

On 21 May, while lying in the San Carlos Strait and supporting Operation Sutton by bombing the Argentine airstrip at Goose Green, HMS Ardent was attacked by at least three waves mainly of Argentine Navy Skyhawks (A4Q). The air raids resulted in the sinking of HMS Ardent the following day and the loss of 22 out of a crew of 199 who then left ship on the frigate HMS Yarmouth. 1,2,5


Operation Sutton was the code name for the British landings on the shores of San Carlos Water, at Ajax Bay and Port San Carlos, near San Carlos on Isla Soledad.

HMS Ardent was a Royal Navy Type 21 frigate, built by Yarrow Shipbuilders in Glasgow and launched by the Duchess of Gloucester on May 9, 1975. On April 19, 1982, Ardent sailed from Devonport for the Falkland Islands, as part of the Royal Navy’s amphibious task force.( HMS Ardent Association- The ARDENT’s final moments.https://hmsardent.org/ardent-final-images) 5

"This was real war," Susie said. "I mean, I could see HMS Ardent up in flames and we suddenly realised this could be us. "We're big, we're white, the sky is clear, we could so easily have been sunk... and yeah, it was very scary. "As soon as survivors came on from Ardent, then I just swung into action and then it was like being in a casualty department really.”

Susie couldn't really see the drama of the fight in all its intensity. Besides the casualties, the naval aviator José César Arca had been hit 10 times and at a certain moment, due to an alleged lack of fuel, the British pilot Clay Morell abandoned the fight. 6


The consequences

The fear and excitement of the conflict soon gave way to physical and psychological damage. Arca precisely said: "After the war one continues to live the war." Aware of this, Susie collaborated when she returned to Great Britain in the therapy sessions for ex-combatants. 4


Post conflict activities

When the conflict ended, Susie returned to her activities as a GP in Chingford, Essex combined as a Naval Reserve medic and as a Metropolitan Police Forensic Medical Practioner. 4,7


GP (General Practitoner)  is a doctor based in the community who treats patients with minor or chronic illnesses and refers those with serious conditions to a hospital.



The book

Susie West wrote her book An Ordinary Doctor: General practice &beyond  (West Jolly Books, 192 pages) because she realized that her daughter and son knew very little about her career. 7

The book begins with the memory of the body of her father who died at the age of 52 when she was 14 years old. 4

The book ends with a description of what she considers to be wrong with general practice in the National Health Service(NHS) today and offers suggestions on how to change it. 4

Final Considerations

“ Ideally, the practitioner is a physician, with the breadth and depth of training sufficient to diagnosis and treat not only common illnesses but to figure out and discover uncommon presentations of common maladies, as well as to think of rarer diseases that are bound to occur among a given population of patients.  Managing overlapping and complex multiple illnesses present in a single patient is another skill not easily undertaken by ancillary personnel attempting to do true “primary care.” These functions are unlikely to lend themselves to protocols or algorithms.  The ability to know when one does not know implies that one has at least known of the existence and pathology of the gamut of medicine, not just the likeliest presentations of illness.”

“ No matter in what country one finds oneself, there are problems.  For example, with more basic surroundings, one does not have to worry about being sued in court and one’s life savings taken away.  In advanced countries, one is limited by turf battles and certification (other specialists may not want you doing procedures they feel are only their prerogative). If the government or commercial clinic is paying one’s salary, it’s too low.  If one is in the marketplace vying for patients, one must worry whether patients can pay.” “ Some of us find ourselves practicing in settings, not of our choosing and not geared to make the most of our skills” 3

“I think of appreciation as an offering of love in which someone is acknowledged or seen. This acknowledgment is fulfilling the psychological need for belonging and love.” 8

I´d like to end this paper with the following suggestions written by Pediatrician Dr. Wendy  Shofer:

“ How can you admire and offer gratitude to yourself for your beautiful contributions to the world? How can you offer yourself appreciation for the person you are and the doctor you have become? How can you receive appreciation for how you have persisted, fallen, triumphed, and survived?

Get yourself the gift you want: Write love notes to yourself, treat yourself to a bear hug or a massage, take a walk in the sun, tell yourself how f’ing amazing you are and how the world is so much better with you in it. Appreciate yourself. Acknowledge yourself.

As long as we seek gratitude and appreciation from others, we gamble on what we may receive. You will be missing a wellspring of appreciation from within.”


Monday 13 March 2023

2023 Peter Edward Meyner


                  Dr. Peter Edward Mayner

                                                                                 Dr. Peter Edward Mayner


              (December 14,1938-January , 2023)


There are people who, due to their actions and their moral compass, have left an indelible mark on what was the South Atlantic conflict . The intention of this blog is to honor them and perpetuate their memory both for their relatives and for combatants on both sides, thus consolidating the reconciliation process.

There are many parents of British soldiers and young Argentine conscripts who owe eternal gratitude to Dr. Peter Mayner, who was the senior surgeon on the SS Canberra in 1982. On this ship, built in the Harland and Wolff shipyards, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Dr. Mayner participated in the treatment of 172 Argentine and British patients all of whom recovered.6

We know from the Haileybury Society (Haileybury College alumni association), that
 Dr. Peter Edward Mayner represented his school in boxing between 1955 and 
1957 and 
studied classics at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Dr. Mayner played rugby, cricket, squash and tennis. 
In Malvern (Worcestershire county borough), his home, he became a member of Malvern 
Rugby Club, Manor Park Tennis Club and Hadley Bowling Club. 3
Also being a diver, he belonged to the Cambridge Underwater Exploration Society.
 He also enjoyed flying and trained with the University of Birmingham Air Squadron (RAF).
He supported the Friends of the English Spring Orchestra, helped write two local history 
books, and was a long-time trustee of ARCOS (Association for the Rehabilitation of 
Communication and Oral Skills) a Malvern charity.
He completed his medical studies at the Queen Elizabeth Medical School Birmingham. 
Birmingham Medical School dates from 1820.
For 22 years he worked as a cruise surgeon, especially with the company P&O.
 This last is a Cruise line of British-American nationality based in 
Southampton, England.


Dr. Mayner was aboard the SS Canberra, docked in Naples when the ship was 
requisitioned by the British Ministry of Defense to serve as a hospital ship in the 1982
 conflict. 5 The interior of the cruise went from having two restaurants and several dance 
floors, to having rooms with hospitalization beds and two surgical teams where 84 
operations were performed in which Dr. Mayner and his team intervened.4
Together with Dr. Rick Jolly, he participated in the preparations for the inevitable
 casualties that the Task Force anticipated. Mayner recalls "we were the largest blood 
transfusion unit in the South Atlantic."

In the 94 days since Southampton set sail she sailed 27,187 miles and served 646,847

The combat

On May 21, 1982, the SS Canberra was very close to Argentine air raids and, as Mayner recalls, “The attacks occurred every half hour. If we had been hit, we would have had no chance of survival. We couldn't believe how lucky we were."
The SS Canberra (nicknamed the Great White Whale) transported over 9,000 miles to
 5,200 Royal Marines and Paras to the combat zone.6
After the war, Argentine pilots said they were ordered not to attack the SS Canberra as 
        it it was thought to be a hospital ship. (Ward, Sharkey (1992). "24". Sea Harrier over the 
Falklands. Cassell Military Paperbacks. p.271. ISBN 0-304-35542-9).
In the following days the SS Canberra received Argentine wounded. Due to the fighting,
 part of the blood bank reserves had to be brought ashore by the Field Surgical Team,
 so the lack of blood on the SS Canberra could be resolved, because the Argentine 
prisoners of war offered themselves as blood donors.4


At the SS Canberra, the blood groups of bleeding patients were checked. 
Only a 2.7 percent error was found between the actual blood group and the stamp on their
 dog tags.1,2

Argentine wounded, on the SS Canberra. From left to right: Lt. Humberto Martínez, 1st Lieutenant 
Luis Brun, 1st Sergeant Humberto Medina. Members of the section of Cap. Vercesi, from the Ca 602 
Commandos that fought at Top Malo House. They are attended by Dr. Mayner. Image from the first days 
of June. (image received from Luis Brun, author unknown)4


Patient Testimonial
Among those assisted by Dr. Mayner (June 16) was Conscript Ariel Tascon who on June 
14 dragged his left foot completely engorged, affected by trench foot.4
First Corporal Jorge Marchesini was struck by a shrapnel in his left arm, causing a deep
 wound with intense bleeding. He underwent surgery. Marchesini remembers when
 entering the operating room: “the faces of the nurses with their masks and the angry face 
with which they looked at me. Then Dr. Mayner, before I was put under anesthesia, 
noticed my nervousness. He told me to stay calm, accompanying his words with
 a thumbs-up gesture."


The SS Canberra arrives at Puerto Madryn
The capacity of the SS Canberra was 3,351 passengers, but at the end of the conflict it 
carried 4,144 Argentine prisoners on board, added to its civilian crew and military 
On Saturday, June 19, the captain of the SS Canberra, D. J. Scott Mason, spotted the 
Patagonian coasts and, raising the Argentine flag at the top, docked at the Almirante 
Storni dock in Puerto Madryn (Chubut).
Puerto Madryn was founded on July 28, 1865, the day 150 Welshmen arrived on these 
Argentine  coasts aboard the Mimosa and who named this natural 
port Puerto Madryn in homage to Loves Jones Parry, who was Baron de Madryn in the Welsh country..
Dr. Mayner retired from P&O in 1996 and continued as a medical adviser to Avery Berkel
 in Birmingham and on the Board of Shipping in London.
He attended the San Carlos Dinner in Plymouth every year and even returned on one 
occasion to the islands with other war veterans. Due to a family commitment, he did not 
participate in the national commemoration of the 25th anniversary.
Dr. Mayner passed away on January 19, 2023 at the age of 84 leaving behind a wife,
 daughter, and two grandchildren. The funeral was held at Malvern Grand Priory at noon 
on Tuesday 28 February 2023. 6,7



1-Gerding, Eduardo-A distinguished visit Captain Martin Reed RD-



2-Gerding, Eduardo-The 1982 South Atlantic Conflict`s Aftermath



3- Malvern Gazette-



4-Stoessel, German Andres Forestal Engineer-The postcard of the Canberra.



5- The Haileybury Society



6-The Telegraph-March 5, 2023-Dr Teddy Mayner, ship’s surgeon who carried out vital work during the Falklands War – Obituary



7- Worcester News.