Recovering from injuries
Shropshire’s Orthopaedic Hospital
Agnes Hunt had set up a children’s hospital at Florence House in Baschurch. Money had been raised to build an operating theatre in 1907 and in 1913, a new X-ray equipment was installed. This proved invaluable for the removal of shrapnel when the home was used to treat wounded soldiers during the First World War. Working with the surgeon Robert Jones they pioneered medical treatment.
The uncle of Robert Jones, Hugh Owen Thomas, had developed the use of braces and splints to support limbs when a casualty had to be moved. Reviving this method saved a great number of lives in World War I. At the beginning of the war 80% of soldiers whose legs had been fractured on the battleground died of their wounds. During 1915, after Robert Jones’ reintroduction of this special splint to immobilise the leg immediately on the battlefield, 80% survived these injuries! Stretcher bearers were trained to use the splint in total darkness, which meant that they became confident in using it even in extremely poor conditions.
Do you think improvements in medicine happened more quickly because of the need to treat so many injured men?
Many soldiers who survived injury were disabled for the rest of their lives.
Follow this link and read ‘Disabled’, a poem by Shropshire poet Wilfred Owen that puts you in the place of someone living with a disability.
Large numbers of wounded soldiers needed time to recover from their injuries and many were brought to Shropshire to convalesce. Casualties were often transported by train or motorised ambulances. These photographs show ambulances being unloaded at Berrington War Hospital.
Many large houses were given up for the war effort and turned into convalescent hospitals. Convalescing meant recovering with nursing and rest. Fresh air was regarded as an important aid to recovery, many wards were open sided and patients were encouraged to spend time in the gardens to get the benefit of country air.
The uniforms of convalescing soldiers consisted of a blue jacket with white lining, blue trousers, white shirt and a red tie. They were made in just a few sizes, to fit all soldiers – which actually meant they fitted hardly anyone, were baggy and poor quality with no pockets – the soldiers wearing them did not feel like heroes from battle. The practical benefit was that, unlike the regular uniform, these could be more easily washed. The suit was known as a hospital suit, or often hospital blues.
This War-times Alphabet was written by eleven-year-old Anne Kynaston Mainwaring when home from boarding school in the summer of 1916. Her home was Oteley, a mansion overlooking the mere at Ellesmere, which had been turned into a hospital the previous year. The commandant of the hospital was Anne’s mother, May Mainwaring, referred to under the letter C. The poem gives an insight into attitudes at the time and life in a hospital.
A is for armour all shiny and bright
that men used to wear when they went off to fight.
B is for button that ought to be bright
when you fight for your King, your home and your right.
C is for commandant whose uniform is red
and when a train load comes in she takes names from each bed.
D is for danger a most dreadful thing
but still we must risk it to fight for our King.
E is for Englishman exceedingly brave
who fights for his Home and his country to save.
F is for Frenchman also very bold
he’ll do and he’ll dare whatever he’s told.
G is for German not our friend but our foe
you can hear them abused wherever you go.
H is for Hospital where the Tommies all go
to get rid of the wounds given them by the foe.
I is for Iodine such a marvellous cure
that the Tommies there [sic] dreadful pain can endure.
J is for Jack who we must not forget
they sail in a boat and then throw out a net.
K is for Kaiser who we have to fight
for King home and country for Honour and right.
L is for Lehmann a nasty musician
in these dreadful hard times he’d best turn physician
M is for mascot which is sometimes a goat
soldiers have them on dry land and Sailors afloat.
N is for Nurses whose uniforms blue
who tries each poor Tommies’ dressings to do.
O is for operation which means cutting up people
which afterwards makes them feel very feeble.
P is for plaster which covers a cut
which may have been done in an old wooden hut.
Q is for Quarter Master whose uniform is blue
she is not idle she’s got lots to do.
R is for Regiment where the soldiers come from
each one is a hero from General to non-com
S is for sister the boss of the ward
she’s had a full training you may be assured.
T is for trousers that come in all worn
they have to be burnt they’re so dirty and torn.
U is for uniform blue-grey with red tie
the soldiers don’t like them it makes them feel shy.
V is for VAD they are fearfully kind
they join the detachment with a very good mind.
W is for wax which the dentists all use
for false teeth etc which are put on with screws.
X is for x-ray which photographs you
and shows your internals all through and through
Y is for Ypres where is all the worst firing
while we safe at home our gallant soldiers admiring.
Z is for Zog which makes white paint so clean
the ward maids all use it, they ought to I mean!