Frontline Surgeon


Frontline Surgeon

New Zealand Medical Pioneer Douglas Jolly

Mark Derby

324 pages
24 photographs, 2 illustrations, 1 appendix, index


June 2024


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2024


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2024


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About the Book

Although a young doctor when he volunteered for the Spanish Civil War in late 1936, New Zealander Douglas Jolly swiftly acquired a reputation as one of the most gifted and energetic surgeons of the Republican Army’s medical services. Over the next two years he performed countless life-saving operations on wounded combatants from both sides of the conflict, as well as on civilians. Tireless, dedicated, and courageous, he developed significant and innovative treatment systems based on the principle of working as near as possible to the front line. Jolly used this unprecedented battlefield experience to write a manual that was widely used in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Frontline Surgeon traces Jolly’s remarkable career from medical training in 1920s New Zealand, postgraduate study during the rise of fascism in Europe, almost a decade of frontline surgery, and into civilian life as medical director of Britain’s largest hospital for amputees. One of the greatest war surgeons of the twentieth century, Jolly has been mysteriously omitted from the ranks of pioneers of modern medicine. This engaging biography, intensively researched in many countries, both explains and redresses that omission.

Author Bio

Mark Derby is an Aotearoa–New Zealand historian and writer whose work has also been published in Britain, Spain, and the United States. His books include Kiwi Compañeros: New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War; Petals and Bullets: Dorothy Morris—New Zealand Nurse in the Spanish Civil War; and Rock College: An Unofficial History of Mount Eden Prison. He lives on Wellington’s south coast with three generations of his family.


“Douglas Jolly was a significant innovator in war surgery, laying the foundations for the damage control emergency surgery currently practiced by military surgeons and organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. . . . This is a valuable and engaging account, both medical and historical, of the brilliant surgeon Doug Jolly.”—Jean-Pierre Letoquart, surgical advisor for Doctors Without Borders France

“Douglas Jolly’s writings provided crucial instruction for British and American surgeons during the Second World War. This superbly researched and compellingly readable biography will be warmly welcomed by both historians of medicine and more general specialists in both wars.”—Paul Preston, author of The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
1. The Center of Gravity of the World
2. The Storekeeper’s Son
3. Attributes Every Battle Surgeon Should Possess
4. Christian Left
5. Bread, Peace, and Liberty
6. Nine Months of Winter
7. A River of Blood
8. Urgent Need of Salvation
9. He Does Honor to His Name
10. The Safest Place in Spain
11. Changing the Front and the Weapons
12. The System, Not the Surgeon
13. The Tobruk Plaster
14. Merry Hell
15. Phantom Pain
16. Light in the Darkness
17. Saving from Submersion
Appendix: “Surgical Curiosities in Two Wars”

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