Book review: “Wounded”

“Wounded” by Emily Mayhew

Reviewed by WW1HA President Sal Compagno

In any war the term “casualty” includes many elements, e.g. killed, wounded, captured etc.  Too often war historians concentrate on the “killed” to summarize battles, final outcome and costs.  But in most modern wars, the wounded figure greater in number than killed.  They are often marginalized and ignored in the total picture.  Emily Mayhew, a British historian, found the neglected issue of the wounded not given enough focus by military or war historians.  She set about researching the treatment of the British wounded in World War 1.  This short, but fascinating study, enlightens a part of that war unseen nor
reported by the media and deliberately kept from the public.  Her research took considerable time as documentation was not often accessible, but her perseverance revealed a broad effort to provide medical care to a war whose massive and brutal  casualties overwhelmed the then medical capabilities.

Her approach was to take the whole medical spectrum through personal accounts and divides the book into chapters titled: Stretcher Bearers, Regimental Medical Officers, Surgeons etc.  As the war progressed and the wounded approached enormous numbers, innovations  such as mobile Xrays, proceeded accordingly but not always with the success perceived.

Frustrations, delays, lack of supplies, plagued all medical units and she carefully categorizes the response.  New and innovative procedures had to developed and some truly remarkable attempts to save lives were achieved. Mayhew has done a worthwhile investigation of a shadow element of the war.

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