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Wounded - recovery times


Old Forge
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Hi all,

This is a 'how long is a piece of string' question, but I'd be interested to read any accounts of wounded soldiers to understand how long their recovery took. I've just read "Wounded: From Battlefield to Blighty, 1914–1918", by Emily Mayhew. It's an interesting read, but it only covers a few contemporary accounts (from the perspectives of wounded; stretcher bearers; RMOs; surgeons; nurses etc) of the evacuation process from the front to hospitals in UK. Are there any recommended works covering accounts of being wounded through to recovery or being invalided out?

Thanks in anticipation of any suggestions,

Richard 

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I would suggest the best and most accurate accounts (in terms of timelines and movements through the medial evacuation chain) lie in the millions of extant service records.

In just choosing random records you will very quickly come across pages in any given record laying out in detail a man's wounding, his evacuation and, if appropriate, his recovery and return to his original or, more likely, different unit.

Many men did not recover and were thus discharged.

For those that did recover, the recovery period could be days to months I expect - dependent on the severity of the wound.

Pick a unit - say a front line infantry Battalion. Get that unit's medal roll - and then look for service records for those men. Tabulate your findings. Report back here in a couple of months. It would be an excellent study.

Regards

Russ

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Hi @RussT, many thanks for your response, sounds like a good approach. However, I've not tried searching medal rolls before, so I've just taken out a month's subscription on Ancestry.com. On first acquaintance, their search process seems quite clunky. Is there a guide on this site (I've had a search, but only found general threads). Failing that, how might I get a list of, say, MMs and DCMs for Second Battalion the Wiltshire Regiment, 1914-15?

All the best,

Richard

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Taken a while, but I've now got to the "Duke of Edinburgh's (Wiltshire) Regiment" pages on the roll for the DCM. Definitely learning (slowly) how to work the search engine!

Cheers,

Richard

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I would also recommend selecting a couple of common wound types so you're comparing apples to apples.  Gunshot wound to the chest would seem a good one to choose because it was serious enough to require evacuation.  

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Richard - Determinants of time to recovery were highly variable.  This was the pre-antibiotic era which meant the onset of infection was a major factor in time (and in fact recovery at all.)

Broadly speaking:

1.  Immediate outcome determined to a great extent by:  Site of wound (limbs better than head/chest/abdomen/pelvis), type of wound - rifle vs machine gun vs artillery fragments etc., time to definitive treatment, warmth / ability to keep warm, amount of blood loss, adequate pain relief, presence or absence of gas effects on lungs and and ability to stabilise a mangled limb (the Thomas splint for fractures of the femur (thigh bone) dramatically increased survival.)  

2. Recovery itself:  Early definitive surgery (including where necessary, amputation) to stop bleeding, repair damaged organs, clean wounds, removal foreign material such as fragments of uniforms, mud etc, and remove dead tissue was essential.  Then recovery depended on things such as how much function could be restored - if for example a major joint was destroyed recovery would be longer.  Abdominal wounds broadly took longer than limb wounds etc.  

Risk of complications obviously important - infection as noted, malnutrition especially with some abdominal, chest, mouth/oral cavity wounds which may have prevented adequate eating, inability to mobilise for the hospital bed for whatever reason meant increased risk of pneumonia, skin breakdown and blood clots (risk of "pulmonary embolism").  

Overall a lottery in many respects.  

Andrew

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The phrase " recovery times" is moot, in so far as it begs the question : recovery for what ?  Active front line duty, or less demanding service in rear echelon roles ?

 

Have you referred to the Official History of the Medical Services, Casualties and Medical Statistics ?  I reckon you'll find what you're looking for there,

 

Would you like me to delve into it for you ?

 

Phil

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22 hours ago, Old Forge said:

Are there any recommended works covering accounts of being wounded through to recovery or being invalided out?

 George Coppard, as usual is a reliable witness:-

He was wounded on November 22nd 1917 at Cambrai.  Hit by a German machine gun bullet in the leg which when examined sent an 'arc of blood' high in the air, his femoral artery was severed.  His mates applied a tourniquet and he started out along the medical evacuation chain being carried by German prisoners commandeered by his officer.  He arrived at Birkenhead Borough Hospital on the 29th November 1917.  He took his first walk along the ward in March 1918, he was discharged from hospital in June and after a period of sick leave sent to the MGC Convalescent Depot at Alnwick, Northumberland.  The camp was in the middle of the influenza pansemic, but it was whilst there he was presented with his Military Medal. "In due course I was posted back to Harrowby Camp" (the MGC Training Camp at Grantham) where he was placed in Medical Category 'B' (unfit for active front line duty).  He remained there until the Armistice when in typical fashion he noted the NAFFI served free beer all day. He was demobilised a few days after his twenty first birthday which was on the 26th January 1919.

(George Coppard 'With a Machine Gun to Cambrai')

The experience of just one man but vividly described. How typical no doubt depended on the severity of the wound and treatment in the age before antibiotics but lots of Lysol.  He never fully recovered and received a pension for a short while.  No doubt had the war continued he would have been directed to a Home Service or non-combatant unit.

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On 26/07/2022 at 07:50, aconnolly said:

Overall a lottery in many respects.  

Hi @aconnolly, I appreciate the 'lottery' aspect, hence opening with the apologia for raising a question on the 'how long is a piece of string'! Having read a number of accounts of chest wounds and associated complications, with generally long recovery times and unfavourable outcomes, I then found a chap who was shot through the chest on 14th June 1915, the bullet passing through his left lung. He was in hospital in Cambridge on 18th June and assessed 'likely to be fit for home or overseas service in, say, 4 weeks' on 27th June.

Thanks @phil andrade, without knowing what's in the medical OH, I don't know how to take up your kind offer of help! My question arose because many years ago, a friend told me about his grandfather, who was wounded during the battle of Neuve Chapelle. He was stretchered unconscious back to an aid post and thence by ambulance to Boulogne. When Second Ypres kicked off on 22 April, he was already at home. I don't have any details for the grandfather, but I've often wondered what injuries he'd suffered to get from struck down and unconscious at the front to being on his feet at home in around 5 weeks. Having started to look into it, I found that narratives of individual experiences are surprisingly scarce and memoirs give few if any such details as dates. I'll keep on looking for individual case notes and service records when I have a bit more time. I've obtained copies of 'Memorandum on the Treatment of Injuries in War' (July 1915) and its 1918 update as the Manual of Injuries and Diseases of War', a sample War Diary (13 General Hospital, so I have a better understanding of the mechanics. What I'd like to add is some experiences of going through the pipeline (preferably with dates!)

Thanks @kenf48, that's one memoir I haven't read, but I'll catch up with it!

All the best,

Richard

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A  neighbour when I was a kid was a nice old fellow who had served through the war in the artillery.  He was born in 1890 and lived to 1972.  He had been wounded by shell fragments on the Somme in 1916 and  had been partially buried alive-so that he could not escape a concurrent German use of gas shells. The effects of gas  on his fresh shrapnel wounds meant a wound to his leg never fully healed and his wife used to change bandages every day to the end of his life.

     Thus, at least 56 years-and counting.  I am fairly sure that Harry Patch continued to have after-effects of his wounds also to the end of his life.  So the answer to "How long? is- "As long as there were veterans still alive"

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Mate,

Strange question indeed?

In my case a mine exploded under my Tank, as I was sitting, my lower legs were covered in shrapnel, made up of small pieces of metal, paint, screws, nuts and bolts and what ever was hidden in the floor boards and spaces of the tank. These are still coming out of my body, 50 years later, mostly now small peices of metal and paint.

The cracked back was another question and took time, around a year to walk and get back to unit.

But a length of string is right, to many to guess at, 

hears a few 

SHEPPARD    Harold Vivian    1506    Pte    9 LHR    12R Tos C Sqn? 12-15 WIA 26-3-17 R/knee injury during fighting at 1st Gaza rtn 5-17 att 8 MVS 11-17 rtn 12-17 to hosp (appendix) 4-18 rtn to L/Cpl 8-18 to T/Cpl (from doueal) 5-19 revert to hosp 7-19 RTA MU 

SINCLAIR    Horace John    1507    Pte    9 LHR    12R tos C Sqn 12-15 to 3 LHTR 3-16 to Arty Dtls 5-16 to AATD UK 6-16 to 8 Trg Bn UK 10-16 to DCo/32Bn 11-16 qual lewis MG 12-16 WIA 21/22-2-18 R/foot shot reported 1 wounded after relief by 58Bn in front line at Gapaard near Warneton and move into reserve at Wulverghem near Messines rtn 2-18 to L/Cpl 5-18 to T/Cpl 7-18 revert when WIA 29-7-18 R/thigh shrapnel reported 8 killed and 40 wounded in operation by 8 Bde to straigthen line out against the German 232nd RIR at Morlancourt F&B to AIF depot (4 com) Hurdcott UK 10-18 later WWII Wo2 2Bn VDC

MARKER    Herman Peter    1573    Pte    9 LHR    12R tos A Sqn B Troop 12-15 to hosp (VD) 1-17 rtn 3-17 WIA 19-4-17 L/foot & arm shrapnel reported in attack on the Atawine Redoubt at 2nd Gaza rtn 7-17 

Some stayed a few days, to weeks, to months and to years

If not recoverable they were sent home to recover and dischange, and or both.

I have many thousands of Aussies from the Light Horse, who suffered wounds during service, possibly why we had the highest losses per men serving.

S.B

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As a student nurse back in 1987 one of my first patients, had been shot through the lung on D-Day, his wound was still open and needed daily dressing, it was also causing a final deteration in his health, he died about a month later.  I think it quite legititmate to say he 'died of wounds received' 43 years after the event.

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Writing from memory here, so I’ll risk making a mistake, and cite a figure of eighty percent of all the wounded - including gas cases, which is important- recovered sufficiently to return to some form of duty.

 

The figure is from the official history, medical statistics: it probably alludes to France and Flanders.

 

It’s astonishingly high, isn’t it ?

 

Had I not seen it, I wouldn’t believe it.

 

The gas cases were bound to inflate the recovery rates, because they were, by and large, temporarily disabled.  That said, an old man I used to know remained permanently afflicted by its effects, although he lived to be ninety.  It should also be noted that no more than ten percent of all admissions of battle casualties to medical facilities were gas cases.

My great uncle was shot through the upper arm at Mametz Wood in July 1916 : a Blighty one.  He was sufficiently recovered to be redeployed to East Africa as an officer in the King’s African Rifles, in 1917 ( I think).

The implication for the standard of medical care is  striking.  It must’ve been high.  The mortally wounded or gassed accounted for seven per cent of all admissions , which reflects the severity of wounds and the intensity of the fighting. The corollary is that only thirteen percent of the wounded were too badly hurt  to return to duty of any kind. 
 

Cases of multiple woundings are bound to distort the assessment, but the impression is - in my interpretation- one of remarkable success, even a triumph of sorts, if the word can be properly applied to such a harrowing and traumatic narrative.

Editing : forgive my arithmetic : thirteen per cent of all wounded equates to fourteen percent of surviving wounded. I’m also fretting about that eighty percent: it might’ve been 78%.  I’m on holiday In Cornwall, away from my bookshelves .  The overall picture is still impressive, isn’t it, allowing for my imprecise rendition ?

Phil

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Thanks all, lots to think about and follow up. My question wasn't so much 'how long did recovery take?', rather, what sources might provide examples of wounding and the time taken through the various stages of the medical chain. I'll follow up the suggestions received, but will also look at the medical histories in TNA when I next get a chance to visit. Some examples are available on the TNA website (a collection provided to support the national curriculum for schools). The examples come from a collection (not digitised) called 'First World War representative medical records of servicemen, MH 106', which I will certainly look at (after WO158!).

A salute to @stevenbecker, thank you for sharing your own experience and the other examples you provided.

On 02/08/2022 at 12:31, phil andrade said:

The overall picture is still impressive, isn’t it, allowing for my imprecise rendition ?

On 02/08/2022 at 09:46, T8HANTS said:

I think it quite legititmate to say he 'died of wounds received' 43 years after the event.

^^^ absolutely agree with the two quotes above!

All the best,

Richard

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2 hours ago, Old Forge said:

The examples come from a collection (not digitised) called 'First World War representative medical records of servicemen, MH 106', which I will certainly look at (after WO158!).

MH 106 has been digitised and is available on Find My Past. https://search.findmypast.co.uk/search-world-Records/british-armed-forces-first-world-war-soldiers-medical-records By definition they are admission registers and therefore tell you when a man was admitted and the disposal of his case. They will not answer the question 'how long to recovery?' merely their movement along the evacuation chain, e.g. 'ambulance train'; 'hospital ship'; 'died' etc. They will tell you if a man was discharged to some form of duty, for example he might be admitted with scabies and discharged a few days after treatment. I don't think that is what you are looking for.

As Dennis Winter notes in his classic 'Death's Men' "Quite apart from these gaps in knowledge was a backwardness in medical technology.  Since there were no practical X-Rays for hospital use, battle hardware was likely to remain in the body with all the possibilities for septicaemia later. Haemorrhages were always likely to be fatal since blood transfusion was in its infancy...blood groups were discovered by trial and error.  The lack of antibiotics was even more damaging. Nearly all field wounds went septic within six hours."  George Coppard noted when the blood spurted from his wound he stuck his thumb in it which was contrary to all instructions. 

Winter also cites statistics from Medical Statistics, previously referred to above by other respondents and which can be read online here.

Winter also notes where you were wounded was significant and cites a sample of 1,000 abdomen wounds to British soldiers, 510 died on the battlefield, 460 in the ambulance and 22 after surgery, leaving just eight survivors, how long they took to recover is not recorded.  Head wounds accounted for 47% of field deaths, brain surgery was also in its infancy. Chest wounds it appears were more survivable.  One statistic quoted which you might find relevant is that 38% of patients at the Base Hospitals were discharged within two weeks whilst 36% remained between one and three months. Only 15% stayed longer.  As has also been noted on recovery men were directed to non combatant roles either in theatre or Home Service.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, kenf48 said:

By definition they are admission registers and therefore tell you when a man was admitted and the disposal of his case. They will not answer the question 'how long to recovery?' merely their movement along the evacuation chain, e.g. 'ambulance train'; 'hospital ship'; 'died' etc.

Hi @kenf48. the MH 106 examples I linked to are reasonably comprehensive case histories. Likely some cherry picking when the collection was put together. 

All the best,

Richard

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2 hours ago, kenf48 said:

MH 106 has been digitised and is available on Find My Past. https://search.findmypast.co.uk/search-world-Records/british-armed-forces-first-world-war-soldiers-medical-records By definition they are admission registers and therefore tell you when a man was admitted and the disposal of his case. They will not answer the question 'how long to recovery?' merely their movement along the evacuation chain, e.g. 'ambulance train'; 'hospital ship'; 'died' etc. They will tell you if a man was discharged to some form of duty, for example he might be admitted with scabies and discharged a few days after treatment. I don't think that is what you are looking for.

As Dennis Winter notes in his classic 'Death's Men' "Quite apart from these gaps in knowledge was a backwardness in medical technology.  Since there were no practical X-Rays for hospital use, battle hardware was likely to remain in the body with all the possibilities for septicaemia later. Haemorrhages were always likely to be fatal since blood transfusion was in its infancy...blood groups were discovered by trial and error.  The lack of antibiotics was even more damaging. Nearly all field wounds went septic within six hours."  George Coppard noted when the blood spurted from his wound he stuck his thumb in it which was contrary to all instructions. 

Winter also cites statistics from Medical Statistics, previously referred to above by other respondents and which can be read online here.

Winter also notes where you were wounded was significant and cites a sample of 1,000 abdomen wounds to British soldiers, 510 died on the battlefield, 460 in the ambulance and 22 after surgery, leaving just eight survivors, how long they took to recover is not recorded.  Head wounds accounted for 47% of field deaths, brain surgery was also in its infancy. Chest wounds it appears were more survivable.  One statistic quoted which you might find relevant is that 38% of patients at the Base Hospitals were discharged within two weeks whilst 36% remained between one and three months. Only 15% stayed longer.  As has also been noted on recovery men were directed to non combatant roles either in theatre or Home Service.

 

 

 

Do you feel confident about those figures cited by Denis Winter ?

 

Something seems wrong to me.

 

Now I’m home I’ll check the wound figures in the Medical History.

 

Forgive me if I am being unduly critical, but the way Winter’s depicted the record is hard to reconcile with an overall wound mortality of seven to nine percent after admission to medical care.

 

The 510 abdominal cases who “ died on the battlefield “ imply killed in action.

 

iNow I’m getting confused !

 

Perhaps I’ll have to eat humble pie.

 

Phil

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Pension/discharge papers would be a good source to search. One recent one I'm looking at is a gas poisoning.

Poisoned 6.5.16 and sent home, some recovery in a hospital in Oxford but he was not well enough to go back and was initially posted to a home defence battalion of Royal Berkshire Reg. A medical board in January 1917 found unfit for any service and he was discharged. At that stage he was described as thin with little strength. Difficult breathing with a troublesome cough especially at night. Occasional vomiting with headaches and sleeplessness (I bet that last one was stress).  Post War he worked as an insurance agent (he had previously been a photographer so perhaps chemicals was a problem). He lived to 1960 aged 80 he had outlived both his daughter and wife.

A personal example was my great Uncle who served in a Pioneer battalion, was gassed and then later on was buried alive. The resulting shell shock made every hair on his body fall out and his hands shook, I always remember watching him shake most of his tea into the saucer and his wife used to pour it back in and apologise for him! A good indicator of societies intolerance of mental welfare issue. Pre war he had been a draper and was never going to thread a needle again, post was he was a debt collector and kept a wig head on his desk, when he went home he left the wig at work, I've no idea why...he died quite young in 1961 of lung cancer he had always had difficulty after the gassing but smoked heavily....

 

2 cases different outcomes.

 

Mick.

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1 hour ago, phil andrade said:

Do you feel confident about those figures cited by Denis Winter ?

I have no idea, nor do I know his source that is why I attributed them to him. It may be a starting point for the OP.

There is a chapter in his book 'After the Battle' which includes treatment of the wounded. First published in 1978 he cites the OH and Statistics of the Military effort in his bibliography.  He does make the point the principal concern of the Army was to 'recondition' wounded soldiers for service.

We all know the aphorism as far as statistics are concerned.

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Yes, the lies and the damned lies.

Sometimes it’s more innocent : a kind of lost in translation syndrome.

On the face of it, the citation implies that 99.2% of abdominal wounds proved fatal.

 

To be gut shot was a desperate business, and fatality was all too often the result  : but surely the outcome was better than that ?

 

By the criteria that are available, it seems to me that the British Medical service in the Great War achieved wonders, given the horrific task imposed.

 

My reckoning is that this applied not only to survival rates, but also to speed of recovery and expeditious return to duty.

There were scores of thousands - hundreds of thousands, I dare say - of cases of multiple wounding, and this could only have been because men were treated and returned to duty in short order.

 

Phil

 

 

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At last !  Some information from the Medical History of the War, page 284.

 

An analysis of wounds…..

 

Abdomen :  43.37% fatal ;  46.56% returned to duty ; 6.61% discharged as invalids ;  0.21% discharged from hospital  (indefinite) ; 2.99% records incomplete; 0.25% disease changed.

The abdominal wounds were by far the most lethal in that table , with the next most dangerous being Lower Extremity, with amputation ( 31.03% fatal).

 

Chest wounds were 16.26% fatal, head, face or neck 8.61% .

 

Even the most dangerous wounds, then, yielded a greater percentage of returned to duty than deaths.

 

This is a bit like trying to read a telephone directory, but, given a bit of time, I might be able to find data about speed of recovery and return to duty.

 

Phil

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Unwilling to relinquish my task without helping find data to answer the OP, I cite this from page 277 of the Medical History.

 

A sample of 206, 976 wound cases is tabulated according to time spent in hospital :

 

1 week and under : 32,637

1-2 weeks : 18,119

2-4 weeks : 13,439

1 month : 18,949

2 months : 41,207

3 months : 23,872

3-6 months : 27,899

6-9 months : 9,345

9-12 months : 4,434

12 months : 358

Over 12 months : 3.901

Incomplete : 12,816

 

Nearly a quarter of them, then, were discharged from hospital within a fortnight.

 

Phil

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My great grandfather was shot in the stomach in  March 1918 and apparently returned to the New front in aug/September of 1918.

If he hadn't survived I wouldn't be typing this 😧

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While this is certainly a “how long is a piece of string” question, it is impressive that Phil Andrade has been able to find statistics that, at least to some extent, address the question asked scientifically rather than anecdotally.

For me the individual stories are more interesting, but I appreciate that anyone properly studying the subject has to try to draw more generalised conclusions from individual cases.

To add to the ideas that have already been suggested, it might be worth mentioning (again) the War Diary of No. 2 British Red Cross Hospital, which from February 1917 applied code words to individual officers, probably telegraphic in origin, which (I think we can now be fairly confident) charted their recovery from being dangerously ill (IDEIESMO) to improving so that they were well on the road to being out of danger (IDEEPAW), and finally being out of danger (IDEISABATE), Other code words indicate when the officers were transferred elsewhere (IDEENRENG, IDEENTRANS, IDELJACK), though the difference between these is hard to fathom. See this thread for more details https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/293484-tifevisit-ideiesmo-ideepaw-ideisabate-ideentrans-ideenland-ideljack-idiercat-ideenreng-codes-in-2brc-wd/#comment-3053878It would be possible to look at this WD to glean the names of individual officers whose records might repay study, but limitations on it being an across the board study are obvious, including the following:

 

1.      The code words only began to be used from February 1917 (though it is possible that similar information was recorded previously, only in longhand – I have not considered the WD before February 1917 in sufficient detail to say whether that is so or not);

2.      With one or two exceptions, only officers were treated at No 2 BRC Hospital;

3.      To merit having any code words applied to  him a man had to be “dangerously ill” – many, many men went through the hospital, many with very serious injuries, my grandfather among them, without ever reaching the point of being declared “dangerously ill”;

4.      The records stop at the point at which the men left No 2 BRC, which was always before they were fully recovered, as naturally they were sent across to Britain as soon as they could safely be moved.

On the plus side, the WD generally gives at least brief details of the nature of the wound suffered by men who became dangerously ill. Also, quite a high proportion of the men were from Canada, Australia or New Zealand, so their service records are available. As recorded in the other thread to which I have provided a link, I have had a look at some of these, and find that in some cases previous injuries are recorded, from which the men had previously fully recovered.

Reminding ourselves that Canadian/Australian/New Zealsnd records are more complete than UK records suggests a method of study which may be more comprehensive; to select, say, Canadian soldiers whose names began with a specific letter, or perhaps, say the 10 most common Canadian names (ensuring no class bias) and look at their service records, to ascertain which of them suffered injuries, and then go on to look at the type of injury and recovery period.

Personally I find individual stories to be completely fascinating in their own right, and am grateful to those who have posted personal stories on this thread. As I have said, my own grandfather was injured on the Somme on 9 September 1916, and in his diary he charts his recovery from his wounds in some detail. Arriving at No 2 BRC via the RAP, dressing station and CCS, the doctor in charge initially said that he couldn’t be moved for “some time”, but presumably the pressure of even more serious cases arriving from the front was such that there was a change of plan, and thus he was sent across to England on 13 September 1916. There he was admitted to Miss Birkett’s at 7 Mandeville Place, London, where he remained until 1 November 1916, at which point he returned to his family home in Bury, at which point he says that his wounds were not yet healed. He was passed fit for light duty on 9 January 1917, though he probably would have been allowed to stay at home a little longer if the doctor had realised that his unit, the 5th Reserve Battalion, was immediately to leave Bury to go to Ripon for training. On 15 February 1917 he was passed fit for Home Service, did his first Route March two days later, and on 17 March 1917 was passed fit for General Service. The unit moved to Scarborough for more training at the end of April 1917, and on 9 June 1917 he left Scarborough to return to France. He arrived in Etaples on 14 June 1917, and joined the 1/5 Lancashire Fusiliers at the front on 22 June 1917, meaning that he had been absent from the front for 9.5 months in total. If you count his recovery as being the point at which he was declared fit for General Service, it was a period of just over 6 months, which, from my reading of other memoirs etc., and not on any scientific basis, I have the impression was about average for a serious wound to the core of the body without complications.

My grandfather is perhaps unusual in charting his recovery so precisely. George Coppard in his book With a Machine Gun to Cambrai and John Lucy in There’s a Devil in the Drum, more or less end their accounts at the point at which they were wounded, skimming over their recovery, possibly because neither returned to the front afterwards (actually, George Coppard did give a little more detail about his recovery from an earlier wound which was accidentally inflicted by one of his comrades on 17 October 1917, a gunshot wound to the foot, from which he says he was more or less fully recovered in 4 months, returning to France on 9 April 1917 after a period of retraining in Britain).

I too rather skimmed over the details of my grandfather’s recovery in the edited version of his diary which I published in November 2020, as, though the details are interesting to a family member (like Steviebullsatatter neither my sister nor I would have been here if he had not survived), I judged that they would not be of such interest more generally (sorry Grandpa!). I did include the bare timeline of his recovery as set out above, however.

As an addendum, and not directly on topic, it is apparent from John Lucy’s account of his wounding that he was only too well aware of what the implications of an abdominal wound might be as regards his chances of survival. Thus he said to the doctor who examined him at the RAP, just before he was stretchered away “Please wait a moment. I want to ask you a serious question. I wish to know if my stomach wound is serious. I’m not worrying about the others. They feel as if they would heal.” The doctor did not know whether the wound had penetrated the gut, and dare not probe at the RAP, but it seems that it had not done so, fortunately for Lucy.

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The mortality from abdominal wounds cited by Denis Winter in Death’s Men seemed grossly exaggerated to me, and my foray into the Official Medical History has vindicated my  doubts: but the fact remains that nearly half of all men who were admitted to medical care with such wounds did not survive, and that the mortality rate from such wounds was six times greater than the average death rate among admissions.

 

The return to duty data are hard to reconcile.

 

Page 111 from the Medical History cites the following rates for admission for wounded and gassed in France and Flanders 1914-18 :

 

Deaths : 7.61%
 

Returned to duty in theatre of war : 29.4%
 

Evacuated overseas : 62.62 %
 

Remaining on medical discharge on 31.12.18 : .36%
 

A big preponderance of “Blighty Ones” notwithstanding, only about thirty per cent went back to the Western Front after recovery.

 

What happened to the rest ?

 

My own great uncle might serve as an example. He recovered and returned to duty, but in East Africa.

 

Most of the anecdotes tell us that recovery and return to duty entailed going back to France and Flanders.

 

Phil

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