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New book called Wounded (from the battlefield to blighty)


andrew pugh
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Good Afternoon All

I have just purchased a book called Wounded (from the Battlefield to Blighty 1914/1918) written by Emily Mayhew.I have just started reading it and from my opinion seems a very good read. Its aimed at the chain of evacuation from the western Front to the hospitals back in England, and woud appeal to people interested in the medical side of the conflict.

Kind Regards Andy.

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I'm reading it at present, but rather regret parting with money for it. It will definitely appeal to some people, and I can understand some of the good reviews, but definitely not for me. The author is said to have 'dug deep into public and private archives' but it's an odd sort of book. She has taken some personal memoirs and accounts and then strung them together into what seems to be a fictionalised account in many places. She states in the introduction that the lack of surviving official records resulted in her book being written in the only way possible - as a 'continuous narrative' weaving the stories of doctors, nurses, orderlies, etc.

However, the first chapter relates the story of one casualty, and as an example of his experience:

... As he tried to lift his head, the pain tore through him again, so he lay back and tried to breathe calmly, looking up at the ambulance roof of narrow wooden slats and peeling paint spattered with blood, some dried and old, some redder and fresher. It couldn't all have come from him ...

And of one of the orderlies 'he found it hard to sleep properly that first night ... ' etc., etc.

It's a mixture of fact interspersed with a great deal of supposition and fiction, and personally if I want to read fiction, then that's what I'll do. I was expecting a much more in-depth, facts and figures book, and don't want the author's take on what the characters thought, or said, when she actually has no idea at all.

There must have been a great deal of research done, and I'm sure this will be popular as an easy read for anyone who wants an overview of the medical services and enjoys tales of heavy convoys, blood, injury, tragic deaths of doctors etc. But definitely not a book of hard facts, and I rather like hard facts.

Sue

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I shouldn't, but I can't resist ...

At 7p.m. the next day, thirty-six hours after he had gone on duty, Hayward finally finished work in theatre. As he ate his dinner and stumbled to his tent, all he could think was that he must return to England to spare both patients and colleagues his incompetence. Then he fell asleep. He slept so deeply he didn't even dream of the horrors of the day, and when he woke up it was with new resolve. He was going to stay and he was going to learn ...

Most of the book is along these lines - if you can face it, fine :blink:

Sue

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I had a look at this in Waterstones and put it back down. Not for me the purple prose. I feel Lyn MacDonald's Roses of No Man's Land would be a better starting point if I had to choose between the two

In terms of the casevac chain and workings of a CCS, I have recently read "Lifeline: A British Casualty Clearing Station on the Western Front, 1918'' by Iain Gordon which I felt achieved the job rather well. It combined a good use of the war diaries, pulled out relevant statistics where appropriate and had an excellent diagram of a CCS near the front. I came away with a good idea of the logistical difficulties faced by a CCS during the movements of 1918. My only quibble is that it could have done with a slightly better structure as it also drew heavily on the personal papers of the CO. This meant that at random moments it would delve into his backstory (e.g. his service prior to 1918 in Malta) and thus lost the flow of the main narrative of the CCS's day-to-day activities. Much of this material should either have been covered up front, or else put into footnotes.

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I do agree with Sue's comments about this book. Far too much is pieced together and/or fictionalised between the facts and as a result it ceases to be an accurate and dependable narrative. The knowledgable reader will be able to discern much of the invention and weed it out but that should not be necessary.

I also formed the view from some of the text that it was written with an eye to the younger reader and this was underlined by much of the style.

I must confess I am still reading through it in full, but as much to see what she has managed to add in as anything else.

The end papers are nice, though, with an original drawing/map showing the route a casualty would have followed when wounded, but then a picture often says a thousand words.

I am surprised that the publishers editor did not look for a more factual text, but there we are. It really is a missed opportunity.

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I was spared the cost by getting the book from the public library.

I agree with the above comments about the style, and I found some of the facts a little suspect (at what time in 1916 did the Royal Welch go to Verdun?).

Would the staff of an ambulance train really go into the frontline trenches on Christmas Day?

And "It was then she collected her very own shell casing, easing it carefully out of the ground, after a soldier helped her find one that had gone off cleanly and wasn't too dented"

And much more of the same I am afraid.

Martin

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Good Morning All.

Looks like I might have to exchange it for something else. Thank you for your comments.

Kind Regards Andy

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Good Morning All.

Looks like I might have to exchange it for something else. Thank you for your comments.

Kind Regards Andy

We all get different things from different books depending on our interests. You seemed to be enjoying it so why not? Most people seem to think that Lyn Macdonald's "Roses of No Mans Land" is great, but I don't care for her books at all. Chacun a son gout!

Hazel

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as I'm currently looking into the working of the medical chain... thanks for these insights!! T

The medical department of the Defense College is thinking of buying Mark Harrison's "The medical war" ... I'll look into that, for sure.

As to this book, as Hazel writes: Les gouts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas ... I'd rather go with Charles' proposal...

MM.

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I agree with the above comments about the style, and I found some of the facts a little suspect (at what time in 1916 did the Royal Welch go to Verdun?)

The whole book is such a mish-mash of fact and fiction that it's hard to pick out the truth. The chapter on 'Nurses' relates mainly to Winifred Kenyon who went straight from the UK to a 'CCS just behind Verdun' in late 1915. The whole episode is written to suggest that this was a British CCS when in fact it was a French Red Cross Hospital at Revigny treating French soldiers, where Winifred Kenyon worked not as a trained nurse but as a cook. If this type of account had been written of the British infantry or artillery there would be an outcry, but it seems that anything goes for the medical services.

And bye the bye, Vera Brittain suffers her name being given as Britten throughout, and a new order for bravery has been invented - the Distinguished Combat Medal.

Sue

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Oh dear. I had thouight to give the book a go at some point, but based on a brief skim of the opening paragraphs, plus comments above, I think I'll leave it. I've got 'Lifeline' mentioned above, and that seems to have had reasonable criiques, so that's on my to-read list.

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The extract in the Mail was enough to put me off buying it entirely.

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Thanks for the reviews. If it wasn't for the fact that I have a lot to read through at the moment, I may well have bought this book.

Having read through this thread, I think I'll save my pennies for another rainy day - or a better book.

Life is too short.

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  • Admin

Thanks for the reviews, I think I will save my money.

Michelle

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Sadly already spent the money.... It will help prop a door open somewhere I guess.

Thanks for the honest opinions / reviews

Andrew

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I too have read it from cover to cover. Having read many memoirs of bearers and medical staff, this author has looked to reinforce the "misery of war school" and has taken the most sensational (miserable) accounts she could find. The book does not align with other memoirs. Yes, the Somme was a medical catastrophe, but I think this book is grossly unfair to the RAMC and it simply wasn't all as she portrays. Another publication from the 'Bleeding Hearts School of the Great War".

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I too have read it from cover to cover. Having read many memoirs of bearers and medical staff, this author has looked to reinforce the "misery of war school" and has taken the most sensational (miserable) accounts she could find. The book does not align with other memoirs. Yes, the Somme was a medical catastrophe, but I think this book is grossly unfair to the RAMC and it simply wasn't all as she portrays. Another publication from the 'Bleeding Hearts School of the Great War".

What do you consider to be the best book on the subject?

Hazel

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The book's had a considerable monstering on the Forum, not to mention some condemnation on Twitter, but for anyone who fancies a punt, it's 99p, yes, that's only 99p, as a Kindle download.

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Good grief, it's gone down to .49p for the Kindle edition today. At this rate, they'll be paying us to read it.

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What do you consider to be the best book on the subject?Hazel

I was thinking of getting it but having read the posts here I don't think it is what I was looking for nor expected. I guess I will just be re-reading the best I have read so far David Rories 'A Medico's Luck in the War'.

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I was thinking of getting it but having read the posts here I don't think it is what I was looking for nor expected. I guess I will just be re-reading the best I have read so far David Rories 'A Medico's Luck in the War'.

Marjorie, i don't know how you manage find all these books! If i go home next spring i will be coming back with a VERY heavy suitcase!

H

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Marjorie, i don't know how you manage find all these books! If i go home next spring i will be coming back with a VERY heavy suitcase!

H

I have my great grandmothers trunk that she used when she came over from Ireland if you need something more substantial you are welcome to borrow it!

A good book indeed, but my lack of Latin/Greek/Classics made the first half of the book rather hard, if erudite, going.

I agree, some comments he makes assumes prior knowledge in these areas and yet he is so good at treating the reader like a complete novice regarding the medical side (which applies to me) that I learned an awful lot from it. I am prepared to overlook the more tedious little bits because the passage of time has meant a different readership now from those it was possibly intended for.

He also illustrates very well the civilian medical issues during and after the war that, prior to reading it, I hadn't considered.

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