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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

MAIMED IN THE GREAT WAR


Katie Elizabeth Stewart
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Just to clarify - I understand that museums and specialist medical collections would be appropriate homes for prostheses. I was referring to a pile of facial prostheses which I saw at a military fair, casually thrown down as though they were any old junk among old tins and tatty boxes of shrapnel, to be poked at and picked over, and 'modelled' (yes) by warped individuals who fancied a funny pose for their mates.

I thought that was insensitive, given that these had become someone's public face in place of the one he was born with and which had been taken him from through no fault of his own.

Of course, they might have been fakes. It was possibly 15 years ago, which seems a bit before the craze for forged Great War memorabilia.

Gwyn

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  • 3 weeks later...
On my hotmail account, an advert flashed across the screen. It was atypical of the sort one usually sees - 'Buy Iceland Turkeys for Christmas' or whatever. It read: 'Henry Lumley, Royal Flying Corps.' Then, it gave a date of a crash in 1916 and said 'horrific burns to face and neck.' With something of a sense of foreboding, I clicked the link. Further examination found it to be a report on the updates to the new skin grafting exhibition at the British Army Museum, entitled 'Faces of Battle.' Just one glance was enough to show me that here was something I did not know about the Great War - obviously, I knew that infantrymen with their heads above the parapet but not the remainder of their bodies were extremely susceptible to horrific wounds to the face and neck such as Lumley's, but nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for what I saw, and frankly I am having trouble getting it out of my mind. Please only click this link if you have a realistic idea of just the level of physical damage artillery could inflict. I realise this probably includes almost everyone on the forum, but I thought I ought just to warn people. I am sharing it, however, simply because I think we need to know just how horrendous this war we discuss really was.

Hello. Katie Elizabeth;

Lumley, being in the RFC (Royal Flying Corps) likely suffered the burns due to a flaming aeroplane engine spewing oil and gas behind it. Was he "lucky" to survive the crash? God alone knows. As a boy in Glasgow, I remember scores of disabled ex-servicemen, some with no visible wounds, who were scarred for life and scraping a living on the streets. As an adult, I have walked the compounds of Auschwitz and searched for traces of my family. As a veteran myself, I'm not sure what it all means.

God bless,

Antony Cunningham Kozlowski

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It means freedom is not free.

Thank you for your service.

Thank you, Tom.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've not had time to read everything in this thread, but wanted to add my thoughts on the topic.

These are perhaps the cases that I find most disturbing, the ones who came home physically broken. It's one thing to be missing an arm or a leg, but to have your face totally mutilated and disfigured must have been unbearable. I've read stories of the countless men who committed suicide because they could no longer live with the reality of their lives, scaring their children and families. It's heartbreaking to read these accounts and to think they chose that as their only option.

Has anyone done research on how extensive the so-called plastic surgery business was? I realize that for the most part there wasn't what we call 'plastic surgery' today, but I know there were face masks and things like that made for facially disfigured men.

I'd be interested to learn more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There is an account in 'With a machine gun to Cambrai' of a chap who had been hit in the face and had lost both of his eyes and his jaw along with much of the rest of his face. If memory serves, they finished him off with some morphine.

Wonder how often that happened in the field, otherwise there might have been even more disfigured veterans.

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It is likely that the majority with such severe trauma, would not have lived long, their airway would have been comprimised, or would have neurological pathology. If they lived long enough to get to hospital, it is likely that infection would have killed them, most probably meningitis, endocarditis, and general septicaemia, leading to septic shock. The reality of war is shown in these pictures, horrors which are still occuring to our servicemen, and also to members of the public involved in accidents today. Today our medical expertise and treatments have improved so that people now live, though the bckground behind these treatments comes from lessons learnt in the theatre of military medicine.

The pictures may be shocking, but image what the real life picture would have been. A person, who drooled all the time, had potentially suppurating wounds, discomfort all the time, and whose life and hat of their family changed for ever.

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My mother had cancer when I was 18 and had to have the whole of one cheek and half the lower jaw removed

Using a rib, a big chunk of her back and some veins from her wrist surgeons reconstructed her face

We today owe a big debt to those surgeons who started these processes years ago

I can well remember the cold feeling of dread going into the hospital wondering what I was going to see and resolving to be normal even though I felt like running away - heaven alone knows what she must have felt like. Thank God it was nothing like as bad as I thought it might be. In her ward the saddest, scariest cases were those who had been wounded by vitriol throwers - brought in from all over the world for specialist attention.

I have immense sympathy for those whose injuries were so much worse and let us not forget their families

Technological progress can be a two edged sword too. I remember reading that many of these wounds were due to the heavy alloys used to make shells at that time which gave rise to large, comparatively slow moving fragments. By WW2 shells were apparently made of lighter alloys which killed more people than they wounded with lighter faster moving fragments. Unfortunately WW2 was highly motorised so all the fuel more than made up the difference in facial injuries with burns.

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