Lieutenant Colonel Ruthven Blackburn
At the outbreak of WW2, and with the formation of much needed Hospital Units and the urgent need for trained professional Medical Personnel, Ruthven answered this call and on the 10 June 1940, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), and was attached to the newly formed 1200 bed Hospital Unit, the 2/5 Australian General Hospital.
This Unit was to be active in five theatres of war --- Greece --- Crete --- Eritrea --- New Guinea and Morotai Island.
At this time Doctors and Surgeons were promoted to the rank of Captain, and it was in this capacity that Ruthven had been sent with a small detachment of medical officers to Alexandria to accompany ships taking M.T's (Motor Transports) etc. to Tobruk or Greece. Ruthven had already been to Piraeus on such an assignment.
Quote: "At this time a group of us were on the passenger ship Pennland which had left Alexandria to go to Piraeus to pick up walking wounded. It was quite a big ship, and we expected to pick up hundreds or thousands of troops and take them back to Egypt. Unfortunately, the ship was hit by a single bomb from a high flying German plane and it exploded in the engine room making the ship immobile.
The ship's Captain urged the Commander of the accompanying destroyer to tow the ship to Greece, but this was declined, obviously. The destroyer sank our ship with a few shells and then dropped us of at Crete, where we rejoined the Unit, and left later on the Lossiebank."
A new chapter in his life was about to begin --- Professor Ruthven Blackburn. AC -- Companion of the Order of Australia
These photos and story was kindly given to the 2/5 AGH Association, by Ruthven Blackburn, with permission to reproduce them on our website