Stonehaven Ladies Probus Club meet

President Meg Duncan introduced Tom Scotland to the May meeting, who talked about “Casualties of France and Flanders 1914-1918”.

Sunday, 25th May 2014, 2:14 pm

As a former orthopaedic surgeon at ARI, Mr Scotland was interested in the history of military acute surgery during World War One.

His talk was riveting, full of relevant statistics, illustrations, interspersed with poetry from Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sasson.

During the four years of conflict, there were 2.7 million casualties.

The worst day was Saturday July 1, 1916; during the battle of the Somme when there were 60,000 injured and 20,000 were killed.

By the time the battle of the Somme ended in November 1916 there were 432,000 casualties, 150,000 killed and 100,000 incapacitated both physically and mentally.

The soldiers faced bullets, bombs, grenades, bayonets, appalling living conditions - giving rise to typhoid, and the introduction of gas - chlorine, mustard and phosgene.

It was soon realised that survival of wounds would be greatly aided if they were cleansed of mud, dead tissue and fragments of shell as soon as possible, to prevent gangrene and tetanus setting in.

In the earlier Boer War only 36% of deaths were due to enemy action, whilst 64% were due to disease.

After being picked up by the stretcher-bearers, the wounded (depending on the severity of the injury) were taken to advanced dressing stations, then on to the casualty clearing stations - which were out of range of shell fire - where the urgent, life-saving measures were taken.

Base hospitals were at Calais and Boulonge.

As the war progressed, improvements were made in medical procedures which reduced blood loss and improved survival rates.

Several Scottish surgeons, including some from Aberdeen: Henry Gray, Charles Hamilton Sorly, and John Fraser, were among those enterprising medical men who pushed forward the boundaries of medical knowledge and found it to be an exciting time to be a surgeon.

Unfortunately shellshock was not recognised as a medical condition.

Vote of thanks was proposed by Mary Milne, who describing Mr Scotland’s talk as very interesting and thought provoking.