Wounding and medicine

World War One saw thousands of military casualties on a scale and complexity never seen before. Men suffered from physical wounds and emotional trauma, as well as illness and disease caused by environmental conditions across the theatres of war. What were the experiences of wounded soldiers and what role did doctors, nurses and other individuals play in their treatment? How did science and technology contribute to key developments in medical treatments, organisation and care?

Banner for Shell shock article taken from The Hydra front cover. Shows an illustration of a soldier being attacked by a mythical beast (the hydra), alludes to psychological damage.

Shell-shock

Article by:
Tracey Loughran

Recent estimates suggest that up to 325,000 British soldiers may have suffered from ‘shell-shock’ as a result of the First World War. Dr Tracey Loughran reflects on the encounters between Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and W H R Rivers at Craiglockhart War Hospital, and how other doctors attempted to treat ‘shell-shock’.

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Collage of photographs and illustrations depicting wounded soldiers in the first world war

How would it feel to be a wounded soldier?

Article by:
Emily Mayhew

Dr Emily Mayhew follows a wounded soldier from the battlefield to the hospital, explaining how stretcher-bearers, surgeons and nurses would help him recover and adjust to his new life.

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Wounding in World War One

Article by:
Julie Anderson

World War One created thousands of casualties from physical wounds, illness, and emotional trauma. Dr Julie Anderson reflects on the subsequent impact on the role of doctors and nurses, and the medical treatment, organisation and new technologies that they employed.

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Banner for article on world war one space

Medical developments in World War One

Article by:
Louise Bell

The scale of the fighting during World War One as well as the kinds of injuries sustained meant that doctors and scientists had to develop new ways of treating patients. Louise Bell looks at some of the key medical technologies that emerged during the war.

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Indian sepoy banner

The Indian sepoy in the First World War

Article by:
Santanu Das

Dr Santanu Das reveals the role of the Indian sepoy in World War One and explores the fragments of historical sources that shed light on the experiences of the one million Indians who served.

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Evolution and expansion: the International Committee of the Red Cross in World War One

Article by:
Jenny Tobias

Jenny Tobias explores the work of the Red Cross in World War One, from the provision of essential relief for sick or wounded soldiers and civilians, to the establishment of the International Prisoners of War Agency.

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Further themes

Origins, outbreak and conclusions

How did World War One begin? Why did it escalate and what was the impact of both war and peace on the countries involved?

The war machine

How were the 65 million men who fought in World War One recruited, armed and organised?

Life as a soldier

What was life like for the millions of professional, conscripted or recruited soldiers?

Race, empire and colonial troops

Over four million non-white men served in World War One. Explore more about their lives and responsibilities.

Civilians

What was life like for civilians, women, children and those displaced by the fighting?

Propaganda

How was propaganda used to inspire patriotism, dehumanise the enemy and change opinions?

Representation and memory

In addition to poetry, what were the other creative responses to the War? How have these affected our memory and understanding?

Wounding and medicine

How were soldiers injured in World War One and how did doctors, nurses and scientists treat them?

Historical debates

How have the views of historians and our understanding of World War One changed over time?