Falklands hero surgeon Rick Jolly dies aged 71

A surgeon who saved the lives of British and Argentinian service personnel during the Falklands war has died.

Rick Jolly died over the weekend aged 71 at his home in Torpoint, Cornwall, the Plymouth Herald, BBC and a military website reported. The Ministry of Defence said it could not confirm the death.

He worked in basic and hazardous conditions out of a ramshackle former refrigeration plant in Ajax Bay during the 1982 conflict and was later honoured by Britain and Argentina for his life-saving skills. It is believed he may have been the only member of the armed services to be honoured by both sides in a conflict.

Jolly, a Royal Navy surgeon who held the rank of captain, and his team are reputed to have saved the life of every British serviceman they treated.

He was awarded the OBE for his work, and his story of trying to save the lives of those on the enemy side is held up as an example of medical ethics.

The Falklands war veteran Simon Weston said: “Without his organisational skills, the surgeons and medics would never have functioned. I can only thank him for saving my life and many others.”

John Nichol, a former RAF pilot, wrote on Twitter: “VERY sad to hear surgeon commander Rick Jolly has died. Shared a glass of wine with him on a few occasions; a nicer chap you will not meet. A true hero of 1982 Falklands war; decorated by both sides. He should have won the highest award 4 his rescue of 2 drowning sailors. RIP Sir.”

The British and Commonwealth military Facebook page was one of the first to announce Jolly’s death. It said: “The facilities at Ajax Bay were set up in an old refrigeration plant which was situated next to an ammunition dump, as those were the only roofed buildings available of any size fit for purpose.

“The conditions in the field hospital were poor and despite the dirt, poor lighting, air attacks and the presence of two unexploded bombs, only three of the 580 British soldiers and marines wounded in action were to die of their wounds and none while under the care of Dr Jolly.”

After the war, Jolly wrote a book about his experiences called The Red and Green Life Machine, billed as the diary of a Falklands field hospital. In a series of interviews he detailed the experience of operating to save lives amid the carnage of a bitter conflict.

He became head of the British South Atlantic Medal Association and encouraged reconciliation between the two former warring nations. In 1999 he accompanied Prince Charles on a visit to Argentina meant to build bridges and said: “We are the people who understand how nasty and miserable war is.”