On Wed 7th March we were pleased to welcome Dr. Nicola Gould, Coordinator for Voices of War and Peace: the Great War and its legacy (based in the Library of Birmingham).
Nicola gave us an insightful talk entitled 'Wounded soldiers in Birmingham and Germany during the First World War'. The talk explored the treatment of injured soldiers in Birmingham during WW1. We also looked at images of injured soldiers in Germany taken by Kathe Buchler, a photographer working in Braunschweig during the war.
The main aim of the hospitals that were set up in the early 1900's was to patch up the injured soldiers and send them back to war. Some hospitals had special departments, such as for jaw or limb injuries. As more soldiers arrived, innovative measures were used, such as putting mattresses on billiard tables, and tents were set up in the grounds to treat the injured.
Most injuries were of shrapnel and rifle bullets wounds, and many wounds had become septic.
Shellshock was the most misunderstood medical condition of WW1, with affected soldiers unable to function normally. Symptoms included loss of appetite, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, nightmares, confusion, tremors, disorientation, limping, paralysis and impaired sight, speech, and hearing.
To aid recovery, classes and workshops were put on to keep the soldiers occupied. This would include sports exercise, art, theatre, and languages. Convalescence and Orthopedics units followed with donors making contributions to the hospitals.
At the end of the war, the injured were stigmatised, hidden away from public view, and even prevented from attending victory celebrations.
We thank Nicola for giving her talk.