Friday 12 June 2020

Book Review: War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line by David Nott

War Doctor
David Nott
Surgery on the Front line

Publisher: Pan Macmillan 
Imprint: Picador
Publication date: 26th February 2019
Genre: Memoir / Non Fiction
Pages: 320
RRP:  $29.99AUD
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

For more than twenty-five years, David Nott has taken unpaid leave from his job as a general and vascular surgeon with the NHS to volunteer in some of the world's most dangerous war zones. From Sarajevo under siege in 1993, to clandestine hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, he has carried out life-saving operations and field surgery in the most challenging conditions, and with none of the resources of a major London teaching hospital.

The conflicts he has worked in form a chronology of twenty-first-century combat: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur, Congo, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Gaza and Syria. But he has also volunteered in areas blighted by natural disasters, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal.

Driven both by compassion and passion, the desire to help others and the thrill of extreme personal danger, he is now widely acknowledged to be the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world. But as time has gone on, David Nott began to realize that flying into to a catastrophe - whether war or natural disaster - was not enough. Doctors on the ground needed to learn how to treat the appalling injuries that war inflicts upon its victims. Since 2015, the Foundation he set up with his wife, Elly, has disseminated the knowledge he has gained, training other doctors in the art of saving lives threatened by bombs and bullets.

David Nott has written a compassionate story of his years as a volunteer surgeon working in hospitals around the world in war torn areas in Afghanistan, Sarajevo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Darfur, Yemen and Gaza. Operating in poorly equipped hospitals with the most basic of instruments.

Nott didn’t come from a privileged background. He describes his sometimes harsh and lonely upbringing. He has achieved his accomplishments through hard work and perseverance. There were wins and failures along the way.
It’s hard for a book like this, with David in the centre of some quite political wars, to not be political however he steers clear of taking sides giving the reader facts and eye witness accounts.

David Nott comes across as humble and sensitive. The inhumanity he witnesses has a profound effect on him and he finds it hard to fit back into normal life. Nott explains his need to help people and the pull to be amidst the trouble and constant danger of a war zone, operating while missiles are reigning down and during sudden blackouts. Survival sometimes was just pure luck.

War Doctor is a fascinating and humbling account of a doctor’s life in a war zone. Written with real compassion for all humankind. David Nott is a true humanitarian.

An emotional afterword by David’s wife Eleanor is filled with love and pride.

  My rating 4.5/5           ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Photo credit Goodreads

David Nott is a Welsh consultant surgeon, specializing in general and vascular surgery. He works mainly in London hospitals, but for more than twenty-five years he has also volunteered to work in disaster and war zones. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2012 Birthday Honours and in 2016 he received the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award and the Pride of Britain Award. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters. 



  1. This sounds like a good read. I was looking for a book on my bookshelf you might have enjoyed, but it's gone walking. I can see the cover in my mind but not the title 😕. I glad you went off your normal genre.

    1. I've done that too Claire. Searched my shelves for books and know that I have it but can't find it.