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Remembered Today:

'Leg ache' on the Somme


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Very fortunately my grandfather Jesse Condick's service record survives. This reveals that he was invalided out of the Somme after one day's fighting with 'leg ache'. The writing is perfectly clear, but has anyone any idea what on earth this could mean?!

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Sometimes they are very vague about medical conditions. Perhaps he tore a hamstring or ligaments during the first day. Did he return?

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Only having had a quick look at his service papers he seems to have been invalided out from the Somme 17.6.16 with Pyrexia (fever?)

Can't see a reference to leg ache though, can you post a clip of that part of his papers?

edit : there is a reference to "Scar left leg" on his medical history, this was there on enlistment though, and just an identifying mark.

BillyH.

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There are so many conditions that could cause a leg to ache to the point where the soldier was unfit for duty and some would be difficult to diagnose properly given the medical knowledge/equipment of the time. Some such as MS could have been latent and only became apparent during the physical stress of a battle field (and may well have been exacerbated by it). Others might have been simple physical injury caused either by the exertions on the day or possibly all the marching and carrying that led up to it - anything including (but not only) hairline bone fractures, damaged cartilages in knee or ankle could result

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It sounds like "trench fever", actually caused by the unavoidable lice that infested everyone in the trenches. I believe the cause wasn't discovered until late in the war and many earlier diagnoses listed symptoms rather than the disease - one of the main symptoms of trench fever was severe pain in the legs, particularly the shins.

There are more medical sites dealing with the disease, but Wikipedia covers the basics well enough:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trench_fever

Steve.

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It sounds like "trench fever", actually caused by the unavoidable lice that infested everyone in the trenches. I believe the cause wasn't discovered until late in the war and many earlier diagnoses listed symptoms rather than the disease - one of the main symptoms of trench fever was severe pain in the legs, particularly the shins.

There are more medical sites dealing with the disease, but Wikipedia covers the basics well enough:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trench_fever

Steve.

Contrary to Wiki lice do not cause Trench Fever - they spread it (are a vector) - it's actually caused by a bacteria that lives in the lice and can infect humans. Lice are the transmitter and reservoir for the disease (much as mosquitoes carry and spread the malaria parasite) Lice are similarly the main vector for typhus caused by a related bacteria.

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In a similar vein I expect as the rats being blamed as the cause of the plague. Thank you also Centurion, something overlooked such as MS and MND showing the early symptoms in the legs. It was not something that immediately sprang to mind when I posted earlier but it was why I asked the question. The original post was a bit ambiguous and I wasn't sure whether he was discharged from the war or whether it was just the battle.

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Getting back to the original query - having had a good look at his papers it can be seen below that he was invalided with "Pyrexia" on 17.6.17 and then later (29.8.16?) considered "non-effective" citing "PU" and "legs ache".

I am no expert but I think PU signifies Pyrexia of Unknown Origin, basically an undiagnosed fever which in this soldiers case has caused problems with his legs. Maybe more commonly known as trench fever at that time? But PUO is used an awful lot on service papers.

BillyH.

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Apologies for my slaughtering of the English language there. Off to get my sackcloth and ashes (or whatever Centurion tells me is the correct term). I will of course check them for lice in case they TRANSMIT something to me.

Steve.

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Getting back to the original query - having had a good look at his papers it can be seen below that he was invalided with "Pyrexia" on 17.6.17 and then later (29.8.16?) considered "non-effective" citing "PU" and "legs ache".

I am no expert but I think PU signifies Pyrexia of Unknown Origin, basically an undiagnosed fever which in this soldiers case has caused problems with his legs. Maybe more commonly known as trench fever at that time? But PUO is used an awful lot on service papers.

BillyH.

attachicon.gifPU1.jpg

attachicon.gifPU2.jpg

PUO seems to have been a general catch all for "we don't know what's wrong with him but he's got a high temperature" Doubtless a large number of cases were Trench Fever (Typhus's little cousin) but there are other things that could produce the same general symptoms (some rheumatoid conditions for example). Without a time machine and a modern toxicology kit we'll probably never know for certain.

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Thank you so much everybody! So it sounds as though it started with a fever (possibly Trench Fever, whatever that was -- and again, like PUO, probably a term which was used very widely) which produced pains in his legs. It was subsequently recognised that he was a 'skilled man' as he had worked in the Gloucester Wagon Wheel Company before the war and he was transferred away from the infantry. He never forgot his front-line experience, however, and became ardently left-wing (whether or not he was actually a member of the Communist Party is unknown). He not only joined the General Strike in 1926 but was the only man to stay out in sympathy with the miners, losing his job and plunging his family into poverty. They survived because charitable soup kitchens gave free soup and bread to children, though not to adults. At the very end of his life the family paid for him to visit Moscow and see Lenin's tomb. I will never forget him gently singing 'The Red Flag' in the back of the car as we drove to Heathrow.

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Nice story to finish this one off Frances!

The 1920's were a tough time for a lot of the men who got home and they deserved better.

BillyH.

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