Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Was Alexander Fleming a coward ?

FLEMING avoided this ....
Hard to say --  but he definitely didn't have a chivalrous bone in his body.  And twice - while still a young man - when given a chance to be brave,  he fearlessly declined.

Fleming joined an infantry unit when he was 19 and the Boer War was a year old and despite being a crack shot , he never volunteered to go and fight.

He remained with that infantry regiment, the Scottish London Rifles, enjoying laying at war until 1914 when a real war broke out.

He quit the regiment in 1914 (April, apparently) and thus avoided going into battle with them on October 1914 at Messines Ridge.

His regiment is forever remembered for being the first  ever Territorial Army unit to go into general war action : but Fleming wasn't among them.

Aged 33 when war broke out, Fleming was young enough to be conscripted but unexpectedly got married - shocking his friends.

(Marriage among lifelong bachelors is always very popular in wartime.)

As a married man ,he needn't fear conscription -- at least until after December 1916, when the marriage exemption was ended. Later the upper limit for conscription was raised from 41 to 51 , but in any case he was well under those limits and healthy as an ox.)

In any case, Fleming was already in military uniform, working at a desk job in a medical lab, well behind the front line.

Fleming and Florey : what a pair !

Howard Florey was equally (not) brave : a first rate, highly competitive athelete, he claimed health reasons for why he didn't join his fellow students in the Australian Army in WWI.

Like Fleming, in WWII now that he was safely too old for combat, Florey was a real chicken hawk on conducting an aggressive war policy when it came to rationing penicillin away from dying civilians and towards unfaithful soldier husbands with a dose of the clap...

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