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1st AIF

Shell shock

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1st AIF

In a local Australian paper of 1934 I found this article. It is this sort of stuff that keeps me in awe of the Great War soldiers and the suffering they experienced during and after.

SHELL SHOCK

Brought on by Lamp

Explosion

BARBER SPEECHLESS

COFF'S HARBOUR, Monday.

A recurrence of the effects of shell shock was experienced by the local hairdresser, Jim Campion, here last week, when the explosion of an electric light bulb in the room in which he was sitting, occurred.

The unexpected shock resulted in Campion being struck speechless. He has not been able to speak since the incident. He has an extraordinary constricted feeling in the throat when he attempts to do so. Campion was shell shocked in France in 1918, and he was unable to talk for 11 months. During his convalescence he was again affected on hearing a violin, and he was dumb for another three months. On each occasion upon which Campion's speech has returned to him he has stuttered very badly but gradually returned to normal.

Len

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1st AIF

And this a brave Gallipoli first day lander slit his own throat years later

MAN FOUND DEAD AT PERTH.

PERTH, October 26 1930

Gerald Brough Warren (43), single, engineer, was found dead with a gash in his throat at Cottesloe last night. The body was found by a woman who lived at the same place, but who had been absent since Wednesday. Warren had been depressed owing to shell shock, and the fact that he had been out of work for about three months. A razor was found beside the body,

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1st AIF

1934

EXPLOSIONS FOR

TWO HOURS

LONDON, Sunday.

A series of violent explosions continued for two hours yesterday when oxygen works at Jarrow caught fire. The plant was wrecked, and houses within a radius of a mile were damaged.

Chunks of metal oxygen cylinders were hurled in the air, and descended in all directions like a barrage.

An eye-witness who had been through the war said that he had never experienced anything worse.

A number of ex-soldiers have been admitted to hospital suffering from a recurrence of shell shock.

No one was seriously injured.

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At Home Dad

Very sad, especially the last one.

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Nigel Marshall

Thanks for posting these and for the reminder, if any were needed, that although the outward signs of shellshock, or PTSD as it would now be termed, faded, the inner beast still lingered, just waiting for a trigger.

Very sad.

Nigel

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Dragon

A trigger which launches an internal video for which there isn't an 'off' button.

I notice that the reports refer to a recurrence of 'shell shock'. I find this interesting because while I know that PTSD and adjustment disorders can persist for years, or be quiescent for years, I wonder how aware the medics were at the time of late onset PTSD. The first signs of PTSD surfacing in later life from war service decades ago is now well documented in the WW2 survivors. It would be interesting to know whether these unfortunate men had already had a diagnosis of 'shell shock' in the past, or whether something was triggering late onset PTSD.

This is not to denigrate the misery which was afflicting them; it's just me thinking about another aspect of the ghastly effects of war on the mind. Even today old veterans are who thought they were functioning well may suddenly plunge into the abyss.

Gwyn

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johnreed

Gwyn

I agree with most most throughly. A very good book on the subject and its worth reading is "Shell-Shock" a history of the changing Attitudes to War Neurosis, by Anthony Babington. There is a conclusion by Professor Julian M Wolfsohn of Stanford University saying that once a patient had suffered from a severe neurosis, hjs nervous system became more fragile than before and any subsequent "shock" might bring about a more serious relapse, with a retuen of all his previous symptoms.

John

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clive_hughes

For what it's worth, I give you a slightly different example I came across years ago.

One day in the early 1980s I received a letter containing a copy typescript First World War account by a then-living veteran. In his covering section, he explained that he had horrible experiences in the War and coped afterwards by repressing the recollections and ideas of that period. He had no interest in revisiting the conflict in any way whatever.

Just recently (i.e. about 60 years after those events) he had gone on holiday to somewhere innocuous such as Torquay. He went upstairs to his hotel room on arrival, opened his suitcase, and - BANG!- he was back on the Western Front, with the shells going off around him.

The images were so vivid and intense that he simply had to sit down and write and write it out until the feelings passed away. Once he'd tidied and typed his reminiscences he left as I recall a very creditable account, not (with all due respect to other veterans) the anecdotal stuff I often encountered.

Sorry I can't remember his name offhand, but the document was preserved and can still be accessed. I sometimes quote it as an example of how successfully-repressed feelings could come surging up through the defensive crust ages afterwards and with no apparent trigger.

LST_164

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KevinBattle

I recall reading that Harry Patch was troubled by a light switched on in the laundry cupboard outside his room..... the fanlight over his door had to be covered.

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scottmarchand

A retired RCAF Lt. Col I know told me how when he was a teenager in the early 1950's he came home one saturday night in western Canada while a monstrous thunderstorm was going on, in the middle of the kitchen his father was cowering and weeping under the dinner table, he had been in France with the CEF from 1915-18 and had never spoken to his son about the war prior to or subsequent to that night.

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kenf48

A maternal great uncle fought with the Welsh Regiment in Mametz Wood in July 1916. He was discharged a year later, and never recovered from the experience. Although the family called it 'shell shock' no doubt today it would be recognised as PTSD.

A miner before the war, he never worked again and was cared for by his sister. Neither married and when the sister died in 1950 he was committed to a mental hospital where he hanged himself a couple of years later 'during a period of acute melancholia'.

Neither he nor his sister are recorded on any war memorials but they were both casualties of, and their lives changed forever by, the Great War.

My paternal grandfather, also a veteran was another 50s suicide after the traumatic event of his wife's death.

How many more suffered the same way? I doubt we'll ever know but I often wonder if it would be possible to track these suicides and identify any spikes or trends in the data.

Ken

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scottmarchand

I have also often wondered what sort of uncharted social impact this had interms of child abuse, spousal abuse, alchoholism etc. brought on by these experiences that may not have otherwise manifested? Ho many familes might not have been broken or unzipped as a result, and then to have it all compinded by the second war a generation later.

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headgardener
How many more suffered the same way? I doubt we'll ever know but I often wonder if it would be possible to track these suicides and identify any spikes or trends in the data.

I've done quite a lot of rooting around in provincial newspapers, looking at death notices for men that I've been researching, and I felt that I found a surprising number (enough to make me notice the regularity) of suicides linked to 'war neurosis'/'shell shock' around the late 1920's to the early 30's.

There were several high-profile murders in the 20's and early 30's that were linked to 'shell-shock' (for want of a better term); husbands who murdered spouses and then committed suicide, that sort of thing.

A Y&L man who I researched, a farmer from near Aspatria in Cumbria, otherwise healthy, married, no reported financial troubles, went into a field one day in the early 1960's and shot himself. Could it have been linked to his war experiences? We will never know.

Obviously these things happen in every age, particularly amongst people who perceive themselves to be under a destabilizing degree of stress or unhappiness. I imagine that we would consider many of these men (the WW1 generation) to have had greater, more disturbing experiences than most other generations, either before or after. It would be interesting to know what the suicide rates were for men of the generation(s) who fought in the war relative to those for other generations. But then there are so many factors that might influence these figures.

And in respect of Scott's point; who knows what the ongoing effects of this is in contemporary society?

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truthergw

We ought not blame all of those ills on the wars. Drug addiction, alcoholism, child prostitution, white slavery and so on were rife in London at the time of The Whitechapel Murders. Well before the war.

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kenf48

I agree we can't attribute all these ills to the war, and I don't think anyone is attempting to do so but modern medicine has recognised the strong statistical link between combat stress and suicide and other behavioural and social problems such as alcoholism and homelessness.

As has been discussed elsewhere the majority of the Great War generation simply did not talk about their experience, except perhaps with other veterans. It would be almost impossible to make either a causal or statistical link but the 'feeling and regularity' referred to above of the incidence of suicide does give pause for thought.

Ken

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scottmarchand

Whiel not specifically WW I, it encompasses more the modern experience but I think there is some commonality in the subject back to the great war, Lt. Col Dave Grossman wrote a bookcalled 'on Killing' it is a bit redundnat and reppetive but there are soem interesting analysis about many of these various points and how the lack of appropriate mental health support contributes to PTSD, Suicide etc. Sadly despite being all to aware of the needs the modern armies are still very unwilling to address this problem meaningfully

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Grossman_(author)

I'll dig around but I recall seeing another book written in the 1930's about the social and psychological effets on WW I veterans in Canada, it was none too rosy. Unemployment amongst veterans ran very high for a long time and resulted in a lot of embitterement too.

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truthergw

You may also care to have a look at a book called, " The Anatomy of Courage". Written by Lord Moran and drawing on his experiences in both wars. Moran was Churchill's doctor in WW2 but he was a medical officer in the trenches in WW1 where he earned an MC.

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1st AIF

The papers I trawled through were on the Australian National Library site.

http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/home

I then did a search under "shell shock". You can then refine the search to certain years.

It is fascinating reading. The one below is a case from 1929. The poor man obviously living in torment for over 10 years after returning frim the war. It shows that even 10 years after the war the lack of state facilities available to help the man.

EX-SOLDIER'S PLEA.

INCIDENT AT THE GAP.

Constable McDermott, of Vaucluse, was approached near the Gap yesterday afternoon by a man who made a pitiful plea.

"Can you get me into a hospital. . . . My nerves are gone. ... I got shell shock over the other side, and I cannot go on like this much longer. ... 1 came out here to commit suicide," he stammered.

The constable took the despondent ex soldier to the police station, and further questioned him. Later the man was placed in the reception house. The police are endeavouring to place him In a suitable hospital.

Another remarkable one from New Zealand

AFTER l8 YEARS.

RETURN FROM WAR.

AMAZING EXPERIENCE.

AUCKLAND , December 3 1929

To see his son, whom he believed to have been killed in the war, walk Into his home after an absence of l8 years, was the amazing experience of Mr. John Tohill, of Dunedin. Patrick Tohill was last seen by his parents in 1911, in Canterbury. Upon the out- break of war his four brothers joined up, and three were killed. Patrick was debarred by his youth even two years after the war had started, but, under an assumed name, he managed to get away with a Canterbury unit. He was wounded In France, and also suffered from gas and shell shock. His injuries were such as caused frequent lapses of memory, and as a result he wandered aimlessly around the world. As his parents were unaware of his assumed name all efforts to trace him were unavailing, and it was assumed that he was dead.

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1st AIF

And one from 1929 with a happy ending. I wonder what his favourite ditties were.

SHOCK GIVES SPEECH.

DUMB POR ELEVEN YEARS.

An ex-service man, James Richard- son, of East Jarrow, England, had his speech restored lo him recently in a remarkable manner at Durham.

In order to avoid a motor cycle he came in contact with the parapet of a bridge and remarked, "That was a nigh 'un." He had not spoken for 11

years.

Richardson served with the Royal Naval Division at Arras, and his infirmity was caused by a shell bursting near him. He is overjoyed at the recovery of his speech, and one of his first acts was to sing his favourite ditties. ' '

Len

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moggs
I have also often wondered what sort of uncharted social impact this had interms of child abuse, spousal abuse, alchoholism etc. brought on by these experiences that may not have otherwise manifested? Ho many familes might not have been broken or unzipped as a result, and then to have it all compinded by the second war a generation later.

This is so true but also compounded by the soldiers families not truly understanding the situation (mind you how could they?). Turning to drink was seen as a sign of weakness by many of the time. The older brother of Jack Trevan, whom I am researching, survived the war but came home highly disturbed. His immediate family virtually disowned him due to his drinking and, in their eyes, dishonouring the memory of Jack (KIA 29/4/1915). It's only now that the family is starting to realise the mistakes made and how much the brother was a victim of the war - and how much they were also!

Jonathan

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Borden Battery

This YouTube video clearly illustrates the debilitating impacts of severe shell shock. Borden Battery

Verdun Shellshock - YouTube Video

The short video shows physical disfigurement and several manifestations of Shellshock in French soldiers. [CEF Study Group - Oct 2010]

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