Medical Officer uses jackknife to amputate a hand.

Sun, 05/19/1940

Retreat to Dunkirk

During the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers' actions in the area around Ninove near the River Dender (Dendre) on 19/20 May 1940, a piece of shrapnel shattered Bandsman Hardcastle's hand while he was carrying a stretcher case. The Medical Officer, whose full medical kit was inaccessible, was compelled to amputate the injured hand using a jackknife. After this ordeal Hardcastle, insisting that he was feeling well, marched a further five miles before he was found room on motor transport. Others soldiering on in adversity included Captain P C Murphy with shrapnel through one lung and the oldest soldier in the Battalion, Fusilier Mulligan an Old Contemptible who had joined in 1915, carrying the rifle and kit of a wounded comrade for some 20 miles.

Below: A typical British Army clasp knife with an attached official label headed 'WORKING PATTERN No M 313'. This pattern of clasp knife was standard issue from the late 1930s until the early 1950s.

Sidearm, Knife, clasp (2 piece) Working Pattern
Sidearm, Knife, clasp (2 piece) Working Pattern© IWM (WEA 2106)