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

Overview


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 witnessed. The bullets hit fast and hard, went deep and took bits of dirty uniform and airborne soil particles in with them. 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 ...
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Overview


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 witnessed. The bullets hit fast and hard, went deep and took bits of dirty uniform and airborne soil particles in with them. 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 unimaginable injuries adapted with amazing aptitude, thinking and reacting on their feet to save millions of lives.

In Wounded, Emily Mayhew tells the history of the Western Front from a new perspective: the medical network that arose seemingly overnight to help sick and injured soldiers. These men and women pulled injured troops from the hellscape of trench, shell crater, and no man's land, transported them to the rear, and treated them for everything from foot rot to poison gas, venereal disease to traumatic amputation from exploding shells. Drawing on hundreds of letters and diary entries, Mayhew allows readers to peer over the shoulder of the stretcher bearer who jumped into a trench and tried unsuccessfully to get a tightly packed line of soldiers out of the way, only to find that they were all dead. She takes us into dugouts where rescue teams awoke to dirt thrown on their faces by scores of terrified moles, digging frantically to escape the earth-shaking shellfire. Mayhew moves her account along the route followed by wounded men, from stretcher to aid station, from jolting ambulance to crowded operating tent, from railway station to the ship home, exploring actual cases of casualties who recorded their experiences.

Both comprehensive and intimate, this groundbreaking book captures an often neglected aspect of the soldier's world and a transformative moment in military and medical history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this singular work of “historical rediscovery,” Mayhew aims to relate the “central experience” that a wounded British soldier on the Western Front between 1915 and 1918 would have had, from the blasted trenches to the ambulance trains and on to “Blighty” (a sentimental nickname soldiers used for Britain). The Imperial College researcher gives voice to those who braved the bullets, as well as those who risked their lives to save and comfort the injured. Relying on archival documents, Mayhew develops her unconventional history like a novel, beginning with soldier Mickey Chater as he’s dragged from the battlefield “drenched in blood” in March 1915. “There would be no great victory for him to remember, only this pain,” the author writes. She then interweaves the heart-wrenching accounts of stretcher bearers, preachers (who showed “that even on the corpse field there is room for love and the gift of service”), and doctors, nurses, and orderlies at frontline aid stations and hospitals who tried to keep the wounded alive, or at least record their final words: “Before he died he thought he was with you all and put out his hands... with such a glad smile,” one nurse wrote to a mother. Mayhew’s exceptional presentation brings to life unforgettable struggles from a long-ago war, when common men and women rose to uncommon heights of bravery and compassion. Maps and 20 photos. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"A singular work... Mayhew develops her unconventional history like a novel... Mayhew's exceptional presentation brings to life unforgettable struggles from a long-ago war, when common men and women rose to uncommon heights of bravery and compassion." --Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)

"These voices of battle-resigned, happy, content, afraid, and stoic-give us a history of World War I that we have never quite experienced. VERDICT: A fascinating narrative, taking readers beyond the battles in the trenches to the battles with life and death that followed." -- Library Journal (STARRED REVIEW)

"Beautifully written, this harrowing trip to the trenches of World War I tells one of medicine's most pivotal chapters with the pace and tension of a novel." -- Discover

"This is a beautifully, heartbreakingly told book, extremely well researched, and timely for any time. It wasn't the war that ended all wars, but the view that Mayhew weaves of this war, and all wars, will stay with you." -- Philadelphia Inquirer

"Wounded combines a fresh-and vital-perspective on World War One, supported by an enviable depth of research. But what elevates Emily Mayhew's book above the many others on the war is the compassion, the well of emotional resonance underpinned by scholarship as easily accessible to the layperson as it is to the academic. It brings the reader closer to a visceral experience of the twentieth century's first and arguably most terrible world war and its lingering human cost. It should be on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to understand the Great War." -- Jacqueline Winspear, author of Maisie Dobbs

"A highly readable account... This is an engaging book, written in narrative style because many official documents about the care of the wounded were simply not thought worth keeping, so anecdotal evidence is paramount. They are voices that deserve to be heard." -- Daily Express (UK edition)

Library Journal
11/01/2013
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199322459
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/12/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 271,226
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

Introduction

1. Wounded
Mickey Chater, Neuve Chapelle, 12 March 1915

2. Bearers
Earnest Douglas, William Young, James Brady, William Easton

3. Regimental Medical Officers
John Linnell, William Kelsey Fry, Alfred Hardwick, Charles McKerrow

4. Surgeons
Henry Souttar, Norman Pritchard, John Hayward

5. Wounded
Bert Payne, Montauban, 1 July 1916

6. Nurses
Jentie Patterson, Winifred Kenyon, Elizabeth Boon

7. Orderlies
Alfred Arnold, Harold Foakes

8. Wounded
John Glubb, Menin Road, 21 August 1917

9. Chaplains
Wilfred Abbott, Earnest Crosse, Charles Doudney, John Murray,
Cyril Horsley-Smith, Montagu Bere, John Lane Fox

10. Ambulance Trains
Nurse Bickmore, Nurse Morgan, Margaret Brander, Leonard Horner

11. The Station, Furnes
Sarah MacNaughtan

12. Wounded
Joseph Pickard, Moureul, Easter Sunday 1918

13. The London Ambulance Column
Claire Tisdall

Epilogue
Acknowledgements
Notes and References
Timeline

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