Wounded: A New History of the Western Front in World War I

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Oxford University Press, 2013 - History - 275 pages
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The number of soldiers wounded in World War I is, in itself, devastating: over 21 million military wounded, and nearly 10 million killed. On the battlefield, the injuries were shocking, unlike anything those in the medical field had ever experienced or witnessed. Gone were the neat round holes made by rounded ammunition in previous wars that could be easily found and extracted and didn't leave much damage behind. Instead, the new ammunition was cylindro-conical and exploded from new powerful weaponry. The bullets hit fast and hard, went deep and took bits of dirty uniform and airborne soil particles in with them. Shrapnel fragments were just as bad, tearing open jagged wounds that, if the casualty could survive long enough, provided the perfect environment for infection and sepsis. Soldier after soldier came in with the most dreaded kinds of casualty: awful, deep, ragged wounds to their heads, faces and abdomens. And yet the medical personnel faced with these unbelievable injuries adapted with amazing aptitude, thinking and reacting on their feet to save millions of lives. Wounded is the story of the men and women who created the complex and heroic medical infrastructure that saved so many lives during the First World War. These included the stretcher bearer on the frontline whose hands bore the scars of splintering, rotting handles; the surgeon working 36 hour stints in makeshift operating tents; the nurse being jolted along an ambulance train, caring for patients day and night; as well as those who served and fought and could not have survived without the medical personnel's care. The motif of a journey links the various stories and chapters together, as does a sense of shared suffering. The evocative, visceral descriptions of what is largely familiar terrain - the mud and the blood of the Western Front - offers a new perspective for readers of WWI history. The world of the wounded has been largely unexplored by historians, and Wounded fills this gap. Utilizing unpublished diaries, letters and other accounts from the war, Emily Mayhew has written a deeply researched book with a refreshing immediacy. She focuses on the Western Front, which became relatively stable and fixed after 1915, allowing for the development of a network of Casualty Clearing Stations. Fully staffed and equipped hospitals in tents and makeshift structures in the field, these stations replaced the network of base hospitals in the French and Belgian capitals and coastal towns, which were too far away to be of any use to soldiers suffering from shrapnel wounds that quickly turned infectious. The development of such stations paved the way for today's medical field hospitals, and saved untold lives across the Western Front. Wounded brings much-needed attention to these developments, as well as to the personal narratives of wounded men and the medical personnel who treated them.

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Wounded: A New History of the Western Front in World War I.

User Review  - Edwin B. Burgess, Margaret Heilbrun - Book Verdict

The personal experiences of the British wounded and their stretcher bearers, doctors, and nurses. Painful reading that illustrates the violence of the war and the battle care available. (LJ 10/15/13) Read full review

Review: Wounded: A New History of the Western Front in World War I

User Review  - Beth Cato - Goodreads

I have read many books, fiction and nonfiction, in search of information on medical practices in World War I. I have found some good books, but this--this is the volume I was seeking all along. Mayhew ... Read full review


Authors Note
1 Wounded
2 Bearers
3 Regimental Medical Officers
4 Surgeons
5 Wounded
6 Nurses
10 Ambulance Trains
11 Furnes Railway Station
12 Wounded
13 The London Ambulance Column
Notes and References

7 Orderlies
8 Wounded
9 Chaplains

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About the author (2013)

Emily Mayhew is a Research Associate at Imperial College and an examiner at the Imperial College School of Medicine. She is a consultant and lecturer to museums including the Wellcome Collection, the Imperial War Museum and the Royal College of Surgeons.

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