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Battlefield wounds v Illness/disease


mackem21
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A soldier I am researching was admitted to 13st Hospital Boulogne,I don't know why but after reading the unit war diary it is not battlefield wound. I have read some info on the hospitals in France and was taken by how many soldiers were admitted for illness/disease,some I've never heard of,and the existence of isolation wards/hospitals.I wondered has there ever been a figure published for soldiers admitted to hospital what % was battlefield wound and what % illness/disease? I suspect my guy contracted a disease that ultimately led to his death aged 45 in 1939

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The official medical history has a volume on this - I'll take a look when I get a second unless someone else comes along first.

Craig

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The Volume of statistics has a table on page 12 that includes the totals for injury and disease for the BEF as

1914 Off 1910 OR 76139

1915 Off 15282 OR 581459

1916 Off 23187 OR 614893

1917 Off 40591 OR 993253

1918 Off 45076 OR 1124508

In all years this considerably exceeds the number of wounded sometimes being double

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Hi,thanks for the figures,excuse my ignorance what is Off and OR?

Officers and Other Ranks

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Huge numbers indeed, but very few of them fatal.

A lot of these were illnesses that would be considered routine in time of peace.

Fewer than one per cent of all the admissions on account of illness or injury resulted in death, compared with over seven per cent who were admitted with wounds received in battle.

For British men, the war was a relatively healthy one. The state had never lavished so much care on its manhood as it did when it was marshalling it for slaughter.

Phil (PJA)

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Thanks,those figures are high,1918,is incredible

Yes, but many would be minor cases of injury or sickness, some of which would only have required simple treatment or medication and immediate return to duty.

Remember - Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics !

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For every British, Dominion or Indian soldier who died from illness or accident in France and Flanders 1914-1918, twenty two were killed in action or died from wounds.. whether this attests a superb record of health and hygiene, or whether it is more telling of the stupefying scale of battlefield killing, is a question that demands some reflection.

Phil (PJA)

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Morning all,

The much higher numbers of sick and wounded would have been greatly inflated of course by me who were sick or wounded several times over - a G.Uncle of mine was hospitalised twice in a 4 month period between Nov. 1917 and Feb. 1918 before being wounded in Sept. 1918 whilst another was wounded twice.

Ant

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Yes, your point is valid and important.

The figures are for admissions, not individuals.

The very large numbers admitted with illness might serve to remind us that this was a function of relatively excellent care : quick and effective treatment, followed by a return to duty. The fatality from illness was infinitesimally low when assessed against the numbers involved and the potential for lethal outbreaks.

Even in the Gallipoli fighting - and it's hard to imagine a more unwholesome arena than this when it comes to squalor and putrefaction, with enteric disease running rife - the death rate from disease was astonishingly low in the MEF.

For the Turks the official figures tell a different story, with more than twenty thousand of their troops tabulated as dying from disease there.

This was more redolent of the Crimea sixty years earlier. But even Turkish soldiers at Gallipoli in 1915 were killed in battle at three times the rate that they died from disease.

Phil (PJA)

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Huge numbers indeed, but very few of them fatal.

Actually none of them fatal, deaths from injury and sickness were recorded in a different column

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Death from disease of injury was 0.52% of all casualties. To understand this better one also need to deflate this number by the mortality rates which are available from actuarial tables. J M Winter is the guru on this subject in his The Great War and the British People.

Expeditionary Force in France Aug 1914 - Dec 1918

............................................Officers.........ORs................Total............Total %

A: Battle Casualties

a. Killed.............................23,346......357,915.............381,261..........6.13%

b. Died of Wounds..............8,458......142,898.............151,356..........2.43%

c. Missing............................4,265......140,633.............144,898..........2.33%

d. Prisoner of War...............6,648......168,278.............174,926..........2.81%..........

Sub Total...........................42,717.... 809,724.............852447..........13.71%........... "Permanent Losses"

e. Wounded (less b.).........76,224....1,761,389.........1,837,613........29.55%

B. Non Battle Casualties

f. Died of Disease or injury..1,257......30,841..................32,098..........0.52%............."Permanent Losses"

g. Sick or Injured (less f.) 126,046..3,370342...........3,496,388........56.23%

Lines a. to d. plus f = Total Permanent losses. .

Lines e. plus g = Temporary Losses.

From the perspective of a commander all the Permanent Losses would have to be replaced and some of the Temporary losses. Med Stats has interesting data on the time it took for non fatal hospitalised casualties to return to duty. The big unknown is what type of duty although there are some rough figures showing the final disposal of men from a large sample of over a million casualties from data 1916-1920.

The Bible is OH Medical Services: Casualties and Medical Statistics. The data above comes from page 108.

MG

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If memory serves me, The Bible gives breakdowns in the figures for those who died from injury as against those who died from illness for 1914 in France and Flanders and for the British contingent at Gallipoli.

Young men are accident prone ; if they're soldiers even more so...and in the trials of war, more so still.

A high profile victim of death by illness was General Grierson ; reckless use of the knife and fork is alleged to have played a part here.

Another was General Maude ( Mesopotamia/Cholera ? ).

It would be interesting to compare the toll taken by routine illness in France and Flanders with peacetime data for the civilian population in 1913. I daresay the soldiers received faster and better treatment. Curious to consider Venereal Disease.

Phil (PJA)

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