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NIGEL

DISFIGURED SOLDIERS

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Just been reading a posting by Andy on the disfugured pilot in the Battle Of Britain---------I remember seeing a programme in 1978 about the guinea Pig Club which was about the first people to have plastic surgery in WW2--------what happened to all the service men who lost limbs and were disfigued in WW1----I can never remember hearing or seeing anyone from that time when i was younger, i remember people from WW2 but not WW1

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Most just tried to get back on with living, fitting back into their community and into their old jobs if they could (and if the jobs were still there for them). Others moved into residential care homes like The Star and Garter in Richmond - my next door neighbour's father was one of them. I met a number of men who had lost legs. One of them, Alan Castle had worked for a tailor in London. He answered Kitchener's call, found himself with the Royal Naval Division and fought at Gallipoli and on the Somme. He lost his right leg high above the knee after he was wounded at Beaumont Hamel in November 1916. After his subsequent recuperation and limb fitting he was sacked by his employers. The reason? He couldn't show the customers to the door quickly enough. So much for the land fit for heroes.

As regards facially disfigured men, New Zealand ENT surgeon Harold D Gillies (later Sir Harold Gillies),established and led the first specialised plastic surgery unit at The Queen's Hospital, Sidcup. Facial plastic surgery was carried out there between 1917 and 1925 and a book, called "Plastic Surgery of The Face" was published in 1920. You can read more about the work of Gillies and the hospital at:

http://website.lineone.net/~andrewbamji/

Paul

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I can't remember where I saw it (probably on PBS), but I saw a program within the last year or so wherein they talked about a doctor (in England I believe), it was during or shortly after the Great War who was engaged in perfecting the making of prosthetic facial masks that soldiers who were horribly facially maimed could fit over their faces when going out in public. I wish I could remember more.

Chris

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Chris

The sculptor Derwent Wood (1871-1926) put his talents to use in making thin metal masks to cover disfigurements. There are a number of well known photos of him at work. Maybe this is the chap you are thinking of.

Paul

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Concerning this Horrific Effect of the power of Wars Machinery,I recommend the Book" Battle:Passchendale 1917 Evidence of War's Reality" Published 1981 by Travelling Light 62 West Hill SW18,Which carries Examples of Photographs of these Prosthetics,Metal Masks to cover Appalling Facial Damage{including from the Bridge of the nose to the lower jaw}I will try to download some copies later,but they do require a Strong stomach!I would expect that the reason few Disfigured Ex WW1 Veterans were seen is that the Majority would have died sooner than normal as a result of their injury or would have been kept in homes especially established to keep them from Public Gaze &{I seem to recall a traumatic 1960s TV Programme~Play}of a Multiple Limb amputee in such a home being kept in a Moses Basket Affair on a Trolley Bed,for many years}That said I have the DCM Group of a Stretcher Bearer who lost a leg rescuing a Colleague,who led an Active Life as a Railway Worker & lived into the 1960s,but adversely an MM & Bar winner who having lost an Arm & post~war his Wife to a Warwickshire Cricketer,committed suicide in 1934,I am sure life was very difficult for all these War Damaged Men,there was no Counselling,Outreach groups,or the like;most chose the company of like minded souls,in various Ex Service organisations,where No questions would be asked as their comrades understood as outsiders couldn't,Many were employed in the British Legion Poppy Factory,being housed in Legion accomodation,safe from the outside world,Others,including My Maternal Grandfather,ravaged by Gas in 1915,turned to Alchohol,to try to numb the horror of his youth.It was a different time.Society veiwed these things differently as did the Powers that be.

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It's also worth reading 'The Roses Of No Mans Land' by Lyn MacDonald. This covers medical services in WW1 including reconstructive surgery and the masks (pioneered by the French) mentioned above.

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My grandfather lost a leg in WW1, he was fitted with a wooden leg after the war and retrained by the British Legion to be a french polisher. Sadly to say though they didnt retain the records of this, it would have helped in my search whilst doing the family tree

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My great-grandfather (serving with the 11th DLI, 20th Division) was badly burnt during a Flammenwerfer attack and subsequently spent over 2 years in Netley Hospital undergoing extensive treatment for the burns that covered a lot of his body. He had also contracted frostbite, having lay out in No-mans Land for three days before being recovered. As a result, the ends of his feet were amputated.

Post-war, he continued to work (on and off) in the Steelworks at Hartlepool, stuffing the ends of his steel capped boots with newspaper to make up the room. He suffered from the effects of his injuries for the rest of his life, ultimately dying from them in 1963. My grandmother recalls the indignity of being visited by the "means testing" man from the local authority during the 1930's. On one occassion my great-grandmother (a rather formidable woman) became so infuriated by his attitude, she ended up throwing him out of the house! In contrast, my great-grandfather was a quiet, unassuming man who only became agitated when the "bairns" got too close to the fire.

Certainly not a land fit for heroes..............

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And Douglas Haig got an Earldom, an estate and £100,000.

Phil B

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Henry Tonks, surgeon and artist, recorded in pastel drawings the faces of men with severe facial damage. He witnessed the maxillo-facial reconstructions of men’s faces carried out by Harold Gillies.

I find there is considerable tenderness, compassion and care in his drawings, as well as the medical objectivity which is not surprising given Tonks’ training. They are remarkable and moving.

I don’t want to provide a link because the images are disturbing and are easy enough to find with a search engine; Tonks himself had grave misgivings about displaying the wounded men’s faces to public curiosity. My source is ‘A Bitter Truth: Avant-Garde Art and the Great War’, Richard Cork, 1994 (which is itself an arresting and captivating book with illuminating text).

Gwyn

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The French called them 'the men with broken faces'. There was an interesting rush of film in the Aussie documentary 'Poziers' showing some injured soldiers and the growth of new skin from their foreheads etc.

Whilst not WW1, an interesting book to read is 'The Last Enemy' by Richard Hillary, who was badly burnt after being shot down in the Battle of Britain. He describes his injuries and the surgery to remedy them in some detail.

Ian

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And Douglas Haig got an Earldom, an estate and £100,000.

Phil B

Life is not fair ... nor are human or social reactions to the "horrors" of war. Haig got the "grateful thanks of the nation" ... but, John Churchill got so much more and think about what happened to the maimed veterans of his campaigns. Bitterness doesn't always have to be over the easily seen damaged. Think of the reactions in the US about the treatment of my war and the treatment of this, present, war ... Viet Nam ... Iraq ... I think WWI maimed were probably treated a heck of a lot better than those of the Boer War ... and not as well as those from WWII ...

I do know that one of the real reasons my Father chose the Air Corp was the concept of being Okay or Dead ... no laying around in a fox hole wounded ... I chose Tanks because inside, you're okay or dead ...

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Whilst not WW1, an interesting book to read is 'The Last Enemy' by Richard Hillary, who was badly burnt after being shot down in the Battle of Britain. He describes his injuries and the surgery to remedy them in some detail.

Ian

He was one of the Guinea Pig club as they were all burnt extremely badley as the only place for the petrol tank on a Spitfire was under the pilots seat

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Thankfully there were many groups looking after the veterns.

The Australian Goverement set up the Repat System with hospitals to look after the men.

There was also a payment to all disabled soldiers which my own Grand father found helpful.

I remember being in such a hosp after my injury in the early seventies and found it a eye full to a young 19 year old soldier to be with these men.

But the nurses were great. With what they had to handle each day.

It was an expirence I will remember for a life time.

S.B

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I found an old 'factory picture' the other day which included a man caled Nelson. Checked up and the same 'Nelson' had been reported 'seriously wounded', and later 'with severe facial wounds' in local paper. It is quite plain in the picture circa 1939 that he had been badly wounded in the face.

BTW Check out 'Facing Armegeddon' from Pen and Sword (Cecil and Liddle) on this subject.

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I can remember,when I was very young,I am 62 this month.My grandparents lived in ST PAULS BRISTOL.We lived in MONTPELIER,BRISTOL.In those days no one had cars and so we walked everywhere.We often walked past a strange building with all sorts of odd looking people around it.One day I asked my dad what it was.He tild me it was LORD ROBERTS WORKSHOPS where old soldiers who had been wounded worked.Most of the men were old and must have been wounded in the first war.There was one man that I particularly remember.He had no legs.He had no artificial legs either.He had a trolly,with iron weels.In his hands he had two sticks with which he would push himself along at,what appeared to me,to be enormous speed.You could hear him coming because of the noise that the weels made on the ground.I can remember being frightened of this man but everybody else would take no notice of him.

Its funny what one remembers,

Cheers.

JOHN.

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I did hear that the B.B.C. employed a lot of men who were disfigured in the First war in the mail room answering listeners letters. The mail room was situated in the basement of Broardcasting House and the men would arrive and leave out of hours so as not to come in contact with others. This infomation was part of documentry on Radio 4 some time ago, it seems that Lord Reith had made some sort of unoffical and personal commitment to these men.

Paul.

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An interesting film concerning the effects of disfiguring wounds is that called 'The Officers Ward', a French film shown on BBC 4 a few months back. I can't vouch for how realistic it is, everyone must decide for themselves, but I found it worth my while. Hearing the thoughts of the officer while discovering what parts of him were ok, and those that were missing, as he was lying on a stretcher in a church, was very moving.

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I have a book called the Horror of it, which as some pictures of facial injury. There is one poor chap who as lost all of his face from the top of his nose down to his lower jaw. God only knows how this poor chap went through life it's a wonder he lived at all, I do not look at the book much as it is very depressing.

Annette

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I understand how you feel Annette but now those poor people are no longer with us perhaps those pictures should be published more often if only to make people think twice before starting things which end up that way

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I was going to post it here but then throught twice about, it will upset many, and so it should. The book the Horror Of It was published before the 2nd World War to try and make people stop and think about starting another war sadly it never worked.

Annette

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shame it should have annette

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Marco,

What horrid photographs. I am, however, a bit suspicious of the fourth photograph. Even with modern day health care and technology, such an injury would be unsustainable. He eyes look too well, and the lack of injury would lead me to suggest that his photograph may not be what it seems! I shall leave it at that.

Rob

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I suppose someone might say they were the " LUCKY " ones Marco

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