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Liebson, Stephen Abraham

Leibson, Stephen Abraham, Capt., R.A.M.C. Went to German South West Africa at the outbreak of war, as M.O. of the Rand Light Infantry. After this campaign was over, he became M.O. in the 3rd South African Infantry and, after a period of training, proceeded first to Egypt and then to France.

He was in the Delville Wood fight and received the Military Cross for attending wounded for five days in an open trench, although twice wounded himself - over 1,400 casualties passed through his hands.

He was finally transferred to a Scottish Regt., and was killed in action at Henicourt on March 22nd, 1918. Guy's Hospital Reports Vol.LXX, War Memorial Number


First name(s)Stephen Abraham
Family detailsSon of Mr Josiah Liebson of Walders Plant, Barkley West, South Africa (In 1910 their address was 14 Park Road, Kimberley S. A.)
Previous educationUniversity of Cape of Good Hope
CollegeGuy's Hospital
Dates at college1910
Dept / courseLondon M.B.
QualificationsB.A. (Hons. In Chemistry) University of Cape of Good Hope
Military unitSouth African Medical Corps, South African Infantry
War / conflictWorld War One (1914-1918)
Decorations / medalsM.C.
Citation(s)For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when tending the wounded during operations. Though himself wounded and with nothing but a small trench to work in, he carried on during several days under heavy shell and sniping fire with the greatest courage.
Date of death22 March 1918
Rank at deathCaptain
Commemoration(s)Guy's Hospital Memorial; Pozieres Memorial

The Desert, German S.W. Africa, December 27th, 1914

Dear Tanner,
I have just received a copy of the GAZETTE, a treasure received with indescribable feelings of reverence and joy. Perhaps you, on the other hand, may be interested to hear of those Guyites who are trying to do something in other parts of the world, those unfortunates who are not fighting on the Continent, but who are side-issued into little gnat-like campaigns. But I suppose even our show has its significance, and when one takes into consideration what a very practical training this is for those who hope to be landed on the Continent when the opportunity presents itself, one is more satisfied. Of this one may be assured – as soon as this local affair is settled there will be a merry body of strong well trained men ready to add its gentle shove against the Kaiser’s push.

I am scrawling these lines on the ground whilst a pitiless sand storm is sweeping over this desert. We are used to it having been here three months. A finer first line of defence than the 80 miles of desert the Germans could not very well possess. It is difficult to give you an adequate impression of the feelings aroused in one with eyes, nose and ears full of sand, and a water ration for drinking, cooking and washing of three-quarter gals. per man per diem. I wonder if you can guess how we get even this limited quantity, with no river, no well, no bore-hole water that one can drink. We are many miles away from the Sea Coast. It never rains. The temperature recently was 117.5o in the tents. The Censor may not like my telling you how. I wonder what in egg or orange looks like!
Yet we are extraordinarily happy. My post is more or less a sinecure as everyone is so fit. We have had several scraps but no big encounter with the enemy. He sometimes plays about with aeroplanes and drops things from it. I was really perturbed when he dropped a shell twelve yards from where I was lying, all the stuff passing clear over me. I lay flat on the ground without cover of any sort, and I was quite certain my number was up. Rotten sensation altogether, and the transit of the shell made a horrible sound.

As regards medical work – well I think it depends on one’s own enterprise. I look after a battalion 1,000 strong. All the officers and men are now sanitation mad and consequently epidemic disease does not occur. Serious cases are few – apart from wounds. Dental cases are exceedingly troublesome as one needs good teeth for the tack we get. I often wonder if the way I pull teeth out is quite correct. However, practice teaches, and even decayed stumps find their way out. Whenever conditions are favourable I do a few minor operations. Everybody was inoculated some time ago – two injections at intervals of 10 days. So far no case of typhoid fever has occurred among the expeditionary force in G.S.W.A. As a precautionary measure I chlorinate all drinking water, when boiling it is not feasible.
As regards the actual results of bullets, shells, and so on, my experience is too limited to give you much of an account. But things are extraordinarily difficult at times. I have had my saddle bags fixed up for surgical emergency work. You can readily understand that the simplest way to treat wounded men often miles away and scattered all over the place is on horseback.

There is a wonderful difference between work in the Front Surgery and treating a man lying wounded in the veldt with nothing near except sand, heat and wind. Not long ago I came across a poor fellow shot through the abdomen at very close quarters. He was about six feet two, and with a chest like an ox. All his intestines were extruded and inflated, the liver was lacerated, and, of course, there was considerable hæmorrhage. He was perfectly conscious, and it took a huge dose of morphia and chloroform to ease him. A hot sandy wind covered all the dressings up as soon as they were taken out. Somebody was helping me, and when I I did what I could I glanced up to find an old friend whom I hadn’t seen for seven years, and who had been assisting me for about half-an-hour. It was a grim meeting.

Well, old chap, the stimulating effect of the GAZETTE has been overcome by the effects of the heat, and I think I’ll conclude it. Yours ever. A.S LIEBSON
P.S. Have met May Adams, Saner’s brother, Snow and other Guy’s men here. Mullins is at t’other end.
Guy’s Hospital Gazette 13 February 1915

SourcesGuy's Hospital Medical School Records, King's College London Archives; Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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