This is a fascinating story in which Dr Ted Freeman provides a wide-ranging account
of many aspects of life in Vanuatu (or the New Hebrides as these islands were
designated then) from 1963 when he was first appointed Medical Superintendent of
Paton Memorial Hospital in Port Vila, until 1969 when his professional career almost
came to an untimely end following a devastating illness shortly after his return from
surgical studies in Scotland.
The author outlines the medical work carried out by a number of doctors, both
expatriate and local, and a number of medical and surgical cases are described in some
detail. One particularly outstanding and almost unbelievable case is that of a young man
who was accidentally shot by a colleague's rifle, but who miraculously survived
following multiple blood transfusions and auto-transfusions, the bullet being removed
successfully at a later date.
The book is by no means confined to a description of medical activity, however, but also
discusses the general difficulties of life as a medical missionary on a minimal salary and
with a growing family. He also describes the rather curious political arrangements of the
time, whereby both Britain and France administered the New Hebrides as a Condominium
until independence in 1980, and due acknowledgement is made of the British Resident
Commissioner, Sandy Wilkie and his staff, who seem to have been particularly helpful.
However, the real hero of the story, or rather heroine, must surely be Dorothy
Freeman, mother of five children, who despite all the difficulties of life under the
conditions described, maintained a happy household and provided key support to her
husband both before and after his devastating illness.
In summary, this is an interesting and worthwhile read, not to be missed by anyone
who has either worked in, or has an interest in the colonial history of, the South Pacific.
The book is well illustrated by a substantial number of good-quality photographs.