Shell Shock and Trauma

Shell-Shocked Solider being Treated with Electrical Shock Treatment (Image source:

Shell-Shocked Soldier being treated with Electrical Shock Treatment
(Image source:

The proper diagnosis and treatment of huge numbers of traumatised servicemen remained a hugely contentious subject throughout the war and beyond. Even the appropriate name for the condition(s) were contested: the authorities sought to avoid the misleading term shell shock (implying as it did that the physical effects of exploding shells were the main cause of trauma) but it remained rooted in the popular mind. Many in the military were inclined to suspect that shirking and cowardice, or hereditary predisposition were at the root of many cases. To admit the reality of shell shock would undermine morale and encourage desertion.

This ambivalence was keenly felt by shell shocked patients as captured in this poem by Gunner McPhail in Springfield War Hospital, Tooting (formerly the first Surrey County Asylum):

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