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Remembered Today:

First 1918 Flu Victims


PhilB
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The Americans sem fairly sure who their first flu victims were:-

Some, looking for a point of origin of the so-called Spanish influenza that would eventually take the lives of 600,000 Americans, point to that day in Kansas. Shortly before breakfast on Monday, March 11, the first domino would fall signaling the commencement of the first wave of the 1918 influenza. Company cook Albert Gitchell reported to the camp infirmary with complaints of a "bad cold." Right behind him came Corporal Lee W. Drake voicing similar complaints. By noon, camp surgeon Edward R. Schreiner had over 100 sick men on his hands, all apparently suffering from the same malady.

Which is reputed to be the first British outbreak and who the first victim?

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My grandfather's division (9th Scottish) had men out of action with flu in June 1918, but it does not appear to have been as severe as the autumnal outbreak. Most were back in the line after no more than two weeks absence.

Ian

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The mortality rate is quoted as 2.5% so in a battalion of say 600 men they could expect about 15 deaths spread over a few months. Since this equates to a quietish tour in the trenches, they probably wouldn`t think too much of it?

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I wonder how the impact of the flu on those at home was felt by those in the front line? I do not think the front line servicemen in action were particularly badly affected, not until after the war at least. It seems the first wave of flu came in the summer but the second, more virulent wave, was in the autumn.

My great-grandfather, a WW1 civilian, was an October 1918 victim of the flu.

Ian

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If by "British outbreak" you are asking about British sufferers by nationality, rather than in Britain, then I seem to recall watching a TV documentary not that long ago which suggested that the first outbreak of Spanish influenza among British troops was in Etaples training camp, and that it actually began in 1916, spreading gradually until it became the 1918 pandemic. The TV programme was comparing the 1918 pandemic with avian flu. (Cheerful viewing!)

Regards

Simon

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"Not Forgotten" on Channel 4, Sunday gone also made reference to it, with a consultant virologist alluding to the pandemic beginning in a British Military Camp in Northern France, with possible transmission then, as now, by contact with a bird or pig which carried the virus.

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Thanks for the link. So this is the man who may have the dubious honour.

Name: UNDERDOWN, HARRY HUBERT

Initials: H H

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Private

Regiment/Service: The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)

Unit Text: 1st Bn.

Age: 21

Date of Death: 21/02/1917

Service No: G/10475

Additional information: Son of Edwin and Olive Underdown, of Hodge Farm, Smarden, Kent.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: XXI. H. 8A.

Cemetery: ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY

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Hi All, my great grandfather was a coalminer and in march 1918 managed to get out of the pit and attested for the Royal Garrison Artillery, on 2nd july 1918 he was hospitalised for 8 days with influenza and at his next medical shortly after he was found to have a heart condition, he was demobbed in december 1919 and went back to the mines and lived to the ripe old age of 91. Cheers Ian.

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My grandfather's division (9th Scottish) had men out of action with flu in June 1918, but it does not appear to have been as severe as the autumnal outbreak.

Just like that other well known pandemic the Black Death, the Spanish flu wasn't a single wave. For example after the original US outbreak had died down it reentered the US in Aug 1918 via Boston. It would seem that in almost all cases the second wave was more virilent and deadly. However those who'd caught it in the first wave had gained some immunity. If the first wave hit mainly army camps this might explain that the overall death rate was much higher amongst civilians.

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