Medicine in the trenches

ww1-nurse-soldierA 100 years on from WW1, find out about the illnesses and injuries that soldiers would have received whilst living and fighting in the trenches and the care & treatment that they would have received in an age before antibiotics.

The Minor Horrors of War
We look at what were titled ‘The Minor Horrors of War’ such as rats, fleas, flies,body lice, water & mud.  We look at the illnesses they caused and the treatments which were undertaken.  We have some fantastic models of what the human body louse and the humble flea look like.  Body lice, apart from causing itchy bites, also passed on a disease called ‘Trench Fever’, a name given by the soldiers themselves and a disease that many homeless people still suffer from in the modern world.

Gas! Gas! Gas!
Poison gas was a relatively new weapon of war during WW1.  It was designed to be disruptive and move troops away from the fighting on the front line.  We look at the various gases used, their effects, prevention and treatments.  We have several replica WW1 gas masks that we bring along to show.    The original suggestion for a gas mask was to soak a handkerchief in urine and tie it over the mouth and nose but as the war progressed increasingly more sophisticated masks were made.

2014-07-30 09.45.12Innovations of War
There is always a link between war and innovation in medicine and the first world war was no exception.  We look at the use of X-rays, blood transfusion, the Thomas Splint and plastic surgery.  The Thomas Splint, although invented in the 19th C drastically reduced death from fractured femurs as it allowed total immobilisation of the leg and cut deaths from fractured femurs from 80%, down to 20%.  Antibiotics were still some years off, although Alexander Fleming (its discoverer) was a serving Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps during WW1.  Fleming would have seen many men dying from infections which by WW2 his new wonder drug would be able to treat.

2014-07-30 09.46.14-1The Evacuation Pathway
How do you treat thousands upon thousands of men and get them back home to England?  We look at the evacuation pathway back to England, via Casualty Clearing Station, Hospital Train and Hospital ship etc.  The British army had an extremely efficient chain and men could be bought home very quickly.  Triage  was to become a very important part of this chain.

There is time at the end to ask questions and to look at some of the original artefacts that we bring along.  We will require you to provide several tables to set out our replica items on.  Please inform us in advance if this is not possible and we can arrange to bring some of our own.