TRAUMA
The lasting effect of the suffering
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WW1

Trauma in the Great War some title as to us the idea of war and trauma go together, but in times past attitudes were somewhat different.  Possibly the growth in the nineteenth century of what became known as 'Muscular Christianity' and its effects throughout public schools and on to the growing Empire caused the 'stiff upper lip' approach to such suffering. Possibly the ideal of a strong man has always been one who takes the blows and does not cry, and this was taken to extremes during that age. Whatever, it was expected that men ought to bear up and carry on at all times. In many situations such an attitude can suffice for daily life, but war is not daily life and is a  very unusual experience, and the Great War effects with its huge industrial might was an experience known could possibly have foreseen.  

Most soldiers were young, teens and twenties. Many had never left their local area and their experience of life was often limited, especially those from rural areas. Most probably had come across the occasional death of a friend or relative from age or disease, few had any experience of the savagery of war.The Boer War had finished fourteen years before, and only a small number of active servicemen remained from that time.The ensuing war confronted these men with the difficulties of army training and the brutal side of life. Action in the front line, even for a short duration, could mean enduring an enemy bombardment, with shells of many shapes and sizes tearing up the entire world around you.This may have been allowed by an attack, and apart from the fear the fight could lead to a troubled conscience caused by killing the enemy, or the loss of friends and comrades, the cries, often unbearable for survivors, of the wounded, especially colleagues who could not be helped because of the danger. Taking an enemy trench with hand to hand fighting and preparing for a counter attack among a mass of dead bodies often unburied for days or months, worsened by the constant tiredness from sleepless nights and poor food. Pain from wounds and the often difficult conditions all added up inside the soldiers mind. We should be amazed, not at many succumbing to what is now called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but we ought to be amazed at those who did not openly give in to its effects!

Few if any soldier went into the war of 1914-1918 and came out unchanged. All men were affected and many died years later from the effects of wounds, memory or conscience. An Example.  One soldier went forward during an attack with the orders 'Take no prisoners' ringing in his ears.  At the enemy trench three Germans came out held up their hands and shouted 'Kamerad!'  Mindful of his orders he shot them. He was reported to have died in nineteen twenty eight. His death caused by a conscience harmed from obeying orders ten years or more before. It was one incident among many, but one he never could forget.

Paddy Crossan and Bob Mercer of the Heart of Midlothian team both died early. The effect of the war catching up with them and leading to an early death. Mercers heart was weakened by the heavy guns of the Royal Garrison Artilllary and Crossan suffered both wounds and the effects of gas. Thousands more died in similar fashion and are not named on war memorials, though the war killed them just the same.


Jack Cavanagh has a 'must read' page giving much info on the suffering that never left those who served.  Few soldiers who serve in war are warmongers, most become, if not pacifists, keen on 'talk talk' rather than 'war war.'  Jacks page gives some reasons why.
                                
www.fylde.demon.co.uk/jack/htm
www.poppyscotland.org.uk

The Earl Haig Fund
Consider the trauma of removing a comrade, or being yourself removed while in great pain, filthy, tired, hungry and scared. Let alone the trauma of possibly being one of the few of your original regiment left alive.
Is it any wonder such men often went of their heads, and were considered mad?  What about the effect on their wives and families, or the realisation they might never be able to stay with a family because of the dreams that never left them all their days?
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