4 Gold Medals winner Jesse Owens & my father Alfred J. Bencini at the 1936 Olympic Berlin Games, Germany.


I am next to the Swedish UN lookout post at top of Othello's Tower old Turkish City, Famagusta. Cyprus 1974


A lull during an exercise in Germany


Rudolph Hess in his cell at Spandau prison


British Prime Minister John Major and I at Münster during his pre-Gulf war visit


In command of the New Territories Group Practice, Hong Kong (1994/5). I am sitting in the centre, sixth from the left.


Marlena and I in the command post in the Cu Chi ex-Vietcong underground tunnels, Vietnam.


Marlena and I in front of the HO-Chi MInh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam


Brian Homan of Capt'n Griggs and I (in yellow) on board the Medusa, Philippines 1995


Ramona, Alexander, Tara, Marlena and I in the background visit Tai O, the sea village on stilts in Lantau, Hong Kong


As Commanding Officer with my training wing's staff and the last regimental Medical Asssistants course - NTGP Hong Kong. I am in the centre, sitting.


My son Alexander and I after our return to Malta. Did I mistake the sunset for the dawn of a new day?


 
Chapter Snippets
 

CHAPTER 2

One hilarious incident took place during a soccer match when a water cannon was used for the first time in Malta. This was a method whereby the Police used high-powered water hoses to control unruly crowds. Sadly, they had serious teething problems that day. It was inadvertently directed towards the VIP box, resulting in some very wet and disgruntled celebrities!

Marlene and I had concocted the idea of cutting bits of newspaper into tiny squares. As dad was being driven up the hill, we threw all the hundreds of tiny bits of paper towards his car. The aim was to cover dad’s official Police Volkswagen Beetle with them. After a while, we perfected our aim and became real experts. The first time we tried our unusual welcome for dad he was not very amused. After a while he realised that it was a perfectly innocent and harmless practice. He eventually decided to accept the situation. Indeed he had started to quite enjoy our unorthodox ‘welcome home’ for him!

CHAPTER 3

Youth is a fantastic time. However, it can also be very taxing. We constantly seek to establish our own identity. One lives only for the present, and the future is so far away. It virtually does not exist. I was living life in the very fast lane. My student colleagues gave me a nickname which has stuck to me ever since. The Maltese words “Caqlaq dinja” mean mover of the world.

I then had an uncanny resemblance to the film star Anthony Perkins. He became famous as the mad murderer “Norman” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The woman’s murder by stabbing in the shower schene, is a cinema classic. I loved scaring the nurses on the wards or the telephonists by appearing behind frosted windows at night, brandishing a scalpel in my hands!

CHAPTER 4

In the process I was learning much from my patients. A certain young man was one of those persons. He had given all doctors and patients at our hospital inspiration by his determination to remain alive against all odds. He was a fine man who in his late teens was tragically involved in a fireworks explosion. Consequently, he lost one of his legs and also suffered mangled arms. He lost much blood and was in danger of dying when originally brought to hospital. After a long, difficult surgical intervention, his condition improved.

CHAPTER 5

It was a very exciting time. A completely new world very different from the civilian one I had been used to in the past! Saluting, discipline and conforming to well-set standards became the order of the day. One ‘bible’, which we all tried religiously to conform to, was the booklet "Customs in the British Army". I found Mess life difficult to come to terms with. There were so many formalities involved. The regimentation of everyone and everything in the process was obvious.

CHAPTER 8

Famagusta was an absolute jewel of a town. It was one of the most sought-after holiday resorts in the Mediterranean and was full of top-class hotels, restaurants, night clubs, discotheques and numerous shops. It was the envy of other resorts in that part of the world. The sandy beaches and limpid sea were a joy to be relished by all. The resort was teeming with uniformed Scandinavian United Nations soldiers wearing their characteristic blue berets. They walked along the seafront invariably with some striking young lady accompanying them. They gave the impression that they owned Famagusta. Life there was a buzz in mid-1974.

It is a reflection of the sad state of affairs that Nicosia remained the last divided city in Europe up to the recent Kosovo crisis. That’s a grand total of 25 years. Indeed, Turkey’s rape of Cyprus in 1974 is causing problems with Turkey’s and Cyprus’ negotiations to join the European Union.

CHAPTER 9

The medical climax of my Berlin odyssey, and probably of my 27 years in the British Army, was the fact that I looked after Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s Deputy. He was known as Prisoner Number 7. In a way I was lucky that the experience came my way. It was usually the visiting Hospital Consultant Physician who had this responsibility. He came over to Berlin regularly from the British Army of the Rhine, or BAOR.

One day, out of the blue, I was called to see that Consultant Physician, Brigadier (later Major General) Sammy Moore. He casually asked me if I would like to look after Hess’s health during the British month. For a moment I thought I had possibly misinterpreted his question.

“Did you actually say Rudolf Hess, Sir?” I asked.
“Yes I did, Ray” was his blunt answer.

The first day I visited Spandau Prison to see my new, ‘prize’ patient, I was suddenly seized by a peculiar feeling of unreality. Was all this true? Was I Raymond Alfred Bencini, on the point of entering that most notorious prison which had held seven of the top German War Criminals after the famous Nuremberg Trials? It was now accommodating just the one solitary prisoner, Hess Prisoner Number 7, the previous almighty Deputy Führer of Nazi Germany, my new patient. When I use the word “notorious”, I use it not simply because it held those prisoners. It is because of its infamous history during the years of the Second World War. Many prisoners were sent there as a result of the decisions of the Nazi War Criminals to whom it had subsequently become home in 1946! Indeed it was a Clearing Station for political prisoners, Jews and other undesirables, including Poles, who were kept there before being dispatched to the relevant concentration camp.

CHAPTER 16

Our son Alexander was born on the 16th January, 1989. What a momentous episode that was! My wife and I were extremely worried towards the end of her pregnancy. An anomaly had appeared on the ultrasound, indicating the possibility that Alexander had a kidney abnormality. As a doctor, I was probably even more worried than my wife. I did not want to show my concern for fear of upsetting her. I started refreshing my memory about all sorts of kidney problems. It was one sure recipe to make myself a nervous wreck in the process. I burned the midnight oil during that time. Indeed, I became a bit of an authority on kidney abnormalities.

Another incident which took place while we were living in Münster was the completely unprovoked shooting of two British soldiers by the IRA. They were shot just outside York Barracks as they were returning. It was less than a mile from our residence. That made it even more worrying for all the British Service families in the vicinity! Both soldiers miraculously survived. One of them was extremely lucky to be alive since a main artery in his leg was hit. He bled profusely. Thankfully, medical attention, in the form of one of my colleagues, arrived on the scene very quickly and arrested the massive bleeding.

CHAPTER 17

We had to do a bit of adapting to the Hong Kong way of life. It took some time to “sink in” that the shops remained open during the weekends. It made life much easier. We also enjoyed two New Years within the space of a few weeks since we also celebrated the Chinese New Year. Our children really enjoyed shouting “Kung Hei Fat Choi”, which was the equivalent of a “Happy New Year!” Since the Chinese New Year is in late January or February, it was even more of a celebration for my family. My daughters’ birthdays are on the 10th and the 19th February. There was one year, 1994, when we celebrated Ramona’s birthday and the Chinese New year on the same day. All that to add to our celebrating Philip’s birthday on New year’s Day!

I soon learnt not to ask my Hong Kong Chinese patients what their Christian name was. They are not Christians and have first names instead. I found that out at my own expense when questioning a soldier. The Chinese are also addressed with their surname first.

On the clinical front I was seeing some rather varied medicine. I diagnosed a couple of cases of tuberculosis among our Chinese patients. It is still rife in Hong Kong. Consequently, we were giving anti-tuberculosis vaccinations, called BCG, to all the newborns and children. Another interesting clinical happening occurred when I had to deal with a pregnant Nepalese lady who came complaining of abdominal pain. As she was waiting for me to examine her, she vomited up a one-foot slimy worm onto the floor of the surgery! It was a large roundworm called Ascaris Lumbricoides. Not
unexpectedly, she fainted!