Sqn Ldr Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Thomson-Edgar (left) previously Staff Officer 1 of the Medical Emergency Response Team in Afghanistan, with a colleague. She has criticised MOD failings in the conduct of the war
If we are going to send our soldiers into battle it is the very least we can do to provide them with the very best medical support. Squadron Leader Charlotte Thompson-Edgar has highlighted the totally unacceptable way that the British Government under resourced and under prepared the medical teams. I can’t help but compare this shocking situation with the millions of pounds being put into building Mosques in Britain. They build places where Muslims can spread their ideology that is anti democracy, freedom of speech and Infidels while British citizens fighting to protect others rights overseas did not even have blood and plasma available to them on board British helicopters when they were injured.
A senior RAF nurse awarded one of Britain’s highest medals for nursing on the front line has hit out at military leaders, saying they were woefully unprepared for the consequences of fighting in Afghanistan.
Squadron Leader Charlotte Thompson-Edgar spoke movingly about the bravery of the 600 soldiers she brought back from the brink of death after fierce battles against the Taliban.
But at a ceremony last week to mark the latest Operational Honours and Awards for Britain’s Armed Forces, Sqn Ldr Thompson-Edgar – who was awarded the Royal Red Cross 2nd Class – said she believed the Ministry of Defence failed to plan or prepare for the fighting, during which 453 troops lost their lives.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday the 40-year-old revealed:
- Senior officers failed to anticipate the scale and severity of casualties the Taliban could inflict;
- She received no job training;
- For two years, British helicopters flew without any blood or plasma on board to give to wounded soldiers – a policy that cost them their lives;
- Overworked medics suffered ‘burnout’ and quit their jobs after working 24-hour shifts for ten days without any rest.
- From 2007 to 2013, Sqn Ldr Thompson-Edgar, from Peterborough, commanded a medical response unit that flew by helicopter to the battlefield, braving Taliban gunfire, to rescue injured soldiers.
Speaking about her ‘horrific’ experiences in the war zone, she said: ‘There was no training for the job whatsoever and I’d never done any pre-hospital care.
+6 Sqn Ldr Thomson-Edgar (left) working onboard a Chinook helicopter with a colleague on Operation Herrick: the codename under which all British operations in Afghanistan have been conducted. She said she was a ‘complete mess’ on returning to Britain after her first tour
‘I was used to working in a nice emergency room in a safe environment with kit and with everyone on standby.
‘Suddenly I was in a Chinook helicopter, unable to hear myself think, treating guys with horrific injuries and being shot at. I was not prepared to see these injuries but then the military was not expecting to see them either.
‘I pulled 600 patients from the battlefield – about 80 per cent of them had limbs missing or gunshot wounds. Quite a lot died, especially those with gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
‘We also saw guys were dying because they were losing too much blood.’
…However, leading so many missions commanding the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) soon took its toll.
Sqn Ldr Thompson-Edgar said: ‘Every time the red phone rang to signal another MERT mission I would think, “Is today going to be the day?”
‘And when I came back to Britain after that first tour, I’ll be honest, I was a complete mess.
‘So I said right, we’ve got to prepare our people better because I hadn’t been prepared and didn’t want somebody else to go through it.’
Once home, she played a key role in setting up a MERT training programme, which used amputees in Britain to act as injured soldiers to help medics train before they were deployed to Afghanistan.
As a result of recommendations from senior medical staff, blood and plasma started to be carried aboard MERT helicopters in 2008.
But as the campaign continued, the Taliban changed their tactics – leading to injuries becoming even more horrific and the experiences of UK medics more traumatic.
She said: ‘Originally they just wanted to hurt as many soldiers as possible in order to dent morale and get the public up in arms.
‘Then they decided that if they maimed somebody really, really badly that’s going to affect people more and affect the minds of the soldiers on the ground.
‘So the blasts got bigger and the amputations started getting higher up the soldiers’ legs. This made our jobs a lot harder, especially when someone was bleeding from the groin because it is very difficult to stop that sort of bleeding.
…She added: ‘The past seven years have been very difficult and I know my family have been concerned.
‘I got through it for a reason – because of the guys on the ground, the soldiers, who deserved the best.
‘Their bravery was my reason for going back to the war zone so many times.’
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