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Steve Bramley

Self Inflicted Wound

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HI All,

I have been re-reading extracts from the (1915) the war diary for 2/1 NMFA today. It details all casualties with name rank number and a brief description of the injury.

One Lance Corporal's injuries are described thus: 'GSW hand L self inflicted'

I assumed that a self-inflicted wound was a courts martial offence?

I have looked through the CM registers for 1915 and 1916 and have not found his name.

He was discharged 20/4/19 due to his wound and was issued a SWB.

He also has an MIC and full medal entitlement.

Am I also to assume from this that the comment in the FA diary was an error or overlooked?

Does anyone have any thoughts/opinions as to what happened here?

Regards,

Steve.

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Possibly it was self inflicted but not deliberately? In the same way as missing the nail and hitting your thumb is self inflicted but not deliberate. There must have been lots of ways to wound yourself accidentally (and not on purpose)

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Thanks Centurian,

That makes sense. I've come across several others around the same time clearly recorded as accidental (but not in the FA diary). This one is perhaps unusual as it is the first entry of its type. Another quick scan shows a couple of later 'bayonet' wounds, not logged as self-inflicted, but as the Brigade was holding at the time these must also have been accidentally self inflicted.

Cheers,

Steve.

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He would have had a Medical Board for the purpose of examining & reporting (Army form A/2).

Or. Army form W3436.

Report to be rended in the case of Officers & other Ranks who,without any visible wound,become non-effective from physical conditions claimed or presumed to have originalid from effects of British or enemy weapons in action.

Or Army form W3423.

Report on Accidental or Self-Inflicted injuries.

If he deliberate did the SIW he would have had a courts martial.

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Thanks for your reply Mons,

Steve.

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Not First War, but I have the service record of an Aussie who was wounded (broken hand) when he tripped over a stone rushing to sound an air raid alert, and the inquiry that it was not self-inflicted.

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I agree that SIW need not be intentional. I have scars on various bits of my anatomy marking a variety of accidents. I am struggling to envisage a self inflicted GSW to the left hand that was accidental. A pistol perhaps?

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I am always sceptical of hand injuries, particulary territorial soldiers, because they used to put their hands above the parapet in hopes their trigger fingers would be shot off. It meant a one way ticket out of hell.

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Yellow - And the same was said about Indian Army native troops as well.........

Tom - especially likely with a captured pistol IMHO.

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Yellow - And the same was said about Indian Army native troops as well.........

And just about anybody else who the tale teller had a low opinion of - but I've never seen any credible account of a specific incident

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Given that the Indian Army was 100% volunteer and mainly professional soldiers highly unlikely.

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Squirrel, is is sadly correct. It is nice to think all WW1 soldiers were super dooper fighters of right and justice but at the end of the day they were just human. I would of probably of done the same. There were your Colonel Richard Sharpes as well as your Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswells who participated in the war. It is important we all remember that.

Given that the person who told me this was actaully there, I`m more inclined to believe that person than an author 90 years later who is perhaps just filling in gaps in their works with no basis of historical fact.

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Yellow - Where the "information" regarding the native troops of the Indian Army comes from I was unaware until your post but it is discredited in the History and in Gordon Corrigan's book "Sepoys in The Trenches".

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Squirrel, is is sadly correct. It is nice to think all WW1 soldiers were super dooper fighters of right and justice but at the end of the day they were just human. I would of probably of done the same. There were your Colonel Richard Sharpes as well as your Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswells who participated in the war. It is important we all remember that.

Given that the person who told me this was actaully there, I`m more inclined to believe that person than an author 90 years later who is perhaps just filling in gaps in their works with no basis of historical fact.

But it still isn't a verifiable specific incident - I'm afraid there was such a thing as old soldiers tales. After 50, 60 years or more memories are not always certain - I've been told stories that could not possibly be true although I'm sure the teller was sincerely stating what he remembered. Come to think of it I've been to reunions of events only 20years ago where people who were there had completely different memories (sometimes conflicting) of the event.

There's a great story told by George Macdonald Frazier set in a Sergeants' Mess where they are trying to remember what tune the pipe major was playing when he won the VC in a battle many years ago. Everyone has a different version and in the end it turns out that even the Pipe Major himself couldn't remember - but there was an official Regimental version in the history.

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Hello Steve

Even if the wound hads been deliberately self-inflicted it need not have led automatically to a court martial. COs had the power to "try" and punish summarily most minor offences committed by men under their command, e.g. by field punishment No.1 or 2. The priority was to retain trained soldiers within their units, and thus as effective combat soldiers, as much as possible.

Whether deliberate or not, the fact that he served a further four years suggests that the wound was not particularly permanent or serious, and the fact that he would have to continue to serve on, despite the wound, might have been retribution enough!

Ron

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...............................

Given that the person who told me this was actaully there, I`m more inclined to believe that person than an author 90 years later who is perhaps just filling in gaps in their works with no basis of historical fact.

Anyone who has talked to old soldiers will know that their recollections will run the gamut from cold, hard fact to downright lies. Listen, as I have done, to half a dozen arguing about an action in which they all took part and that becomes very apparent. If an author provides verifiable references, his version has to be preferable to anecdotes. The stories will always convey the excitement, the fear and the exhilaration in a way that few if any books can but the history is in the books.

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Centurion........with bullets, grenades and shells all around self preservation is more important to Tommy Atkins than the latest jingle of the pipe major. Remembering your friend next to you who on the front line got himself shot might I think be something one would never forget.

Proof is in service records when cross referenced with Battalion War Dairies. One would certainly struggle confirming it did or did not happen with Indian troops........all their service records were destroyed. If I find a hand wound on a day in a war diary in which the battalion took part in no direct action with the enemy........I`m sorry but I make the assumption.

The hard fact is three thousand eight hundred and ninety four men were found guilty of causing self inflicted wounds on themselves by court martial............and those are the ones who were caught.

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If I remember correctly negligently-inflicted wounds were also subject to discipline. "unfitting self for duty" isn't it? Like sunburn or malaria because you didn't take your quinine.

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Captain Maberly Esler

Royal Army Medical Corps

"The first hut I had was occupied by Sikhs, and they all had wounds through the palms of their hands, and we thought, "This was very extraordinary, the only part of their body that was exposed to the enemy was their hands," and we came to the conclusion they must have held their hands up above the trench so they could be shot through the hands and get invalided home, and that was obviously what had occurred. But never any charge was brought against them, of course. But we formed our own opinion that it must have been that. There were thirty in my ward and they all had hand wounds, all through the palm of the hand. The conclusion was pretty obvious that they had been putting up their hands to be shot at." (Max Arthur quoting Captain Maberly Esler, 2003, p88)

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Thanks chaps,

Interesting discussion. A good point made Ron. I'm swaying towards the first suggestion by Centurian but as someone mentioned its difficult to interpret/second guess someone's diary entries 90 years later.

It's the way that the diary is written though that made me ask my question. I'm not sure if it is typical of a FA diary. It is much more personal (if that's the right word) than a typical infantry battalion wd. It reminds me a little of the German diary extracts that I've read.

Below is an example:

Apr 19th 1915.

Casualty list followed by:

'Of the above, I wished Pte J. , who has been at the aid post since the night of 17th-18th, suffering from GSW to the abdomen to remain for another 24 hours, but Lieut T. MO 5 L. insisted on sending him up to the dressing station, against the wish of the O/I/C. motor ambulance convoy. Have reported the matter to ADMS.'

For your interest these are the other 'suspect' casualty list entries.

Apr 10

Pte L. GSW Foot L, self infl.

Apr 12

Pte S GSW Knee R, self Infl.

Apr 28

Pte N. GSW Hand, L self inflicted

May 11th

Pte B. GSW Hand L, (self infl.)

2/Lt R. Bayonet wound, neck, (Accident)

May 13th

Pte H GSW Trigger Finger Accident

June 2nd

Pte S Bayonet Wound Hand, R

Pte V Bayonet Wound Thigh, L

June 5th

Pte P. Bayonet wound Fingers, L

June 18th

L/Cpl H. Bayonet wound, thigh, L Accid.

Lieut R. Contused wound ankle R. Caused by grenade dropping on it.

Regards,

Steve

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Thanks for your input Sue, very interesting will have a good look later,

Thanks,

Steve

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Sorry, I've just managed to delete it while I was doing an edit - I'll find it again and put it back on.

-----

Try again:

MH106/809

39th Casualty Clearing Station

9th October 1916 to 25th April 1917

Hand written on front of register is ‘Self Inflicted Wounds’

Men suffering from self inflicted wounds were admitted here from a large range of other units, and it would seem to be a collecting centre for this type of injury. Some are entered in the register as ‘accidental’ but it appears that this word has been added at a later date – perhaps when a firm diagnosis has been established. There was a period of closure from November 1916 until February 1917. At this time the admissions went to No. 36 Casualty Clearing Station, and on re-opening, 75 men were transferred from No. 36 on 19th February 1917. The register contains approximately 400 admissions during this period.

The majority of admissions in were transfers from:

Field Ambulances: Nos. 2, 9, 38, 47, 97, 98, 140, 141, 1/3 Northern, and XIV Corps MDS

No. 36 CCS and No. 5 CCS

Injuries included:

Gun shot wounds to feet, toes, legs, elbow, face and hands

Bomb wounds

Detonator wounds [many of these]

Axe wounds

Bayonet wounds

Injuries caused by revolvers and pistols

Petrol burns

Trauma to eyes

There was no apparent difference between left and right hand wounds. It’s noticeable that very few of the men were transferred to Ambulance trains, and thence to England. The majority were kept for a considerable time, and then either returned to other casualty clearing stations, or the New Zealand Stationary Hospital. A large proportion – about a third – were discharged directly back to their units.

Mostly men are admitted singly, but there are occasional cases of two men coming from the same unit on the same day. On 17th October 1916 two men from the 4th Worcesters were admitted together. They were both lance corporals, and a total of 25 years service between them. One had a gun shot wound to his left foot, and one a detonator wound to the right hand. Both spent 29 days at 39 CCS before being transferred out together to No. 5 CCS.

Only one death occurred during the period of the register, and it was the last man named. He was a private from 97th Machine Gun Company who was admitted with a gun shot wound to his abdomen on 25th April 1917 and died the following day.

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For a unit that doesnt bear arms against the enemy in my opinion thats a lot of wounds.

Its strange because 1915 is also the period when said soldier told me that the 4th Lincolns were having the same problems.

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Yellow,

I may have mislead you there. The men listed are admissions to the FA from the 138th Brigade. Only the two bayonet wounds on the 2nd June are 4th Lincolns.

The officer compiling the diary starts adding a prefix number to each case in early May and by the last entry in June is up to 420.

I've checked with a battalion war diary and it appears all except the injury to the trigger finger and the first example in the list occured when out of the frontline, and all except my very first example amongst several other casualties on the same date.

There are two recorded examples of 5th LIncolns being wounded in the frontline during this period by genuine accidents, shot by their own men (both died of wounds). Also among the 5th 24 men were wounded in two seperate accidents, one in a bomb store and the other when 'playing' with a shell detonator.

I'm guessing that all the examples are genuine accidents, but Sue's post would certainly suggest that it happened. And by 1916 it also suggests that the authorities were attempting to do something about it.

Perhaps we'll never know.

Cheers,

Steve.

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You might want to add broken legs to the list. Although I personally have only ever seen this once in a service record to the rifle brigade, jumping into trenches in the hopes of breaking a leg was something that the same man told me about.

Not all wounds were with the aim of getting a discharge, getting a little hospital time with an STD was another major problem.

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