The Green Man
“Didn’t you hear the bloody bells?” Paul yelled at me. He was glaring accusingly at me and although I tried to answer him, I found that I just could not speak. I was absolutely petrified at the prospect of attending what I was anticipating was going to be my first 999 call.
“Come on, get a move on,” he bellowed. “We’ve got a kid knocked down by a bus on Great Western Street, Moss Side. Move your bloody self!”
To a growing crescendo of jeers from the men in the Mess Room, I ran after Paul who had already got into the ambulance. I just had time to climb into the passenger’s side as we roared off into the traffic. Paul was uttering oaths under his breath and I was trying to tell him that I did not know the system of ‘turn out’ rings yet. Paul was concentrating on driving and told me to shut up.
I don’t remember much about the journey to that first Road Traffic Accident which was known as an ‘RTA’ but I will never forget the scene as we arrived. There was a huge crowd gathered in the road and Paul got as near as he could.
We both jumped out but I really had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I was running round like a headless chicken not really doing anything at all! This was not like the Auxiliary Fire Service where everybody knew what everybody else was supposed to do. I could hear Paul bellowing at the crowd telling them to move out of the way. Paul had disappeared into the crowd and since I was shorter, I had difficulty forcing my way through to where I thought he was. Finally, I joined Paul and was not prepared for the sight that was waiting for me.
Lying on the road about two feet away from me was a male child aged about ten years old. The bus had apparently driven over him with its wheels, killing him instantly. His lifeless little body had been someone’s child just a few minutes before. Now all I could see was a battered, broken mess.
The child was dead. There was no doubt about that but in those days, we had to have dead bodies certified by a doctor at a hospital. Paul was examining the child, but even I knew it was of no use. I was mesmerised by the amount of damage sustained. The wheels had gone over his legs, trunk and head. There were imprints of the tread from the tyres on some of his exposed skin. It was a horrific sight. Suddenly I was aware of Paul asking me to get a blanket from the ambulance and open the rear doors.
I fought my way through the crowd which by then was huge and I opened the rear doors of the ambulance. As I grabbed a blanket, I was aware of being watched by some people in the crowd, some of whom were screaming and crying. As I pushed my way back through the throng of people somebody grabbed my arm. “How is he, is he badly hurt?” I did not answer but continued to where Paul was.
He covered the child with the blanket and then we both got the stretcher out of the ambulance and loaded the poor lifeless body onto it. There was a huge amount of blood on the road and somebody put a shovel full of earth onto it. We loaded the child into the ambulance and Paul told me to just sit down as there was nothing further to be done.
I was in a state of shock and just could not take in everything that was happening. The doors of the ambulance slammed shut and Paul climbed into the driver’s seat. I realized that I was alone in the back of the ambulance with this broken, crushed body that was still dripping blood onto the floor of the ambulance.
I shouted to Paul asking him what should I do but he just told me to stay sitting down and mind that I did not slip on the blood that was all over the floor. Every corner that we went round the blood swirled across the floor like a red tide coming in. We went round corners going the opposite way and the tide receded the other way.
In a flash, we arrived at the hospital. Thank God for that I thought. The sooner I can get out of the ambulance and not have to look at that mess again the better. Paul pulled up outside the casualty department and got out of the vehicle. He came to the back of the ambulance, opened one door and told me to get out. I didn’t need telling twice. I was out in an instant. He was very calm and asked me if I was all right. I just nodded at him and he said something and then disappeared into the casualty department.
Within seconds, he reappeared accompanied by a doctor and a nurse. All three of them climbed into the back of the ambulance and closed the door behind them. Seconds later they all trooped out again and the doctor and nurse disappeared back into the casualty department. Paul came over to me and offered me a cigarette. I was very conscious of my hands shaking slightly as I took the cigarette from its packet. I felt like a fool. We lit up and stood there savouring the smoke for a few minutes neither of us saying anything.