Friday, 09 November 2012 09:38

Disturbing footage from WW1 reveals effects of shell shock on soldiers

    ABOVE: Shocking: In a disturbing video released by British Pathe, a semi-naked solider at Seale Hayne hospital can be seen falling to the floor in a fit after shaking and staggering around the stark, bare room

    Uncontrollable shaking, terrifying nightmares and severe convulsions

    These were among the most devastating symptoms suffered by the many First World War soldiers who suffered shell shock. By the end of the war, more than 80,000 men who had endured the horrors of battle were struggling to return to normality.

    war neuroses victims received little sympathy

    Suffering: At the time, most war neuroses victims received little sympathy or much care and often endured more trauma with treatments such as electric shock therapy and solitary confinement

    And here, disturbing footage compiled by British Pathé film archivists and released to MailOnline today, brings home the terrifying reality that for many the war never really ended. At the time, most shell shock victims were treated harshly and with little sympathy as their symptoms were not understood and they were seen as a sign of weakness.

    But at Newton Abbott's Seale Hayne in Devon, the approach was very different due to the revolutionary approach of a doctor called Arthur Hurst, an army major, who believed he could cure every shell shock victim.

    Private Eagerfield diagnosed as having war hyperthyroidism and hyperadrenalism

    Treatment: Private Eagerfield diagnosed as having war hyperthyroidism and hyperadrenalism. Eagerfield's facial expression is also typical of von Graefe's sign where there is an immobility of the upper eyelid and downward rotation of the eye

    In several medical establishments instead of receiving proper care, many victims endured more trauma with treatments such as solitary confinement or electric shock therapy. But at the military hospital, deep in the Devon countryside, Mr Hurst used treatments such as hypnosis, persuasion, massage and dietary treatments to cure his patients.

    His miracle treatments meant that he was able to cure 90 percent of shell shocked soldiers in just one session. In a disturbing video released by British Pathe, a semi-naked solider at Seale Hayne hospital can be seen falling to the floor in a fit after shaking and staggering around the stark, bare room.

    But after treatment, the man is seen wearing his uniform marching confidently towards the camera. Mr Hurst encouraged his patients to shoot and also staged a reconstruction of the battlefields of Flanders on Dartmoor to help the men relive their experiences.

    Swaying and nose wiping tic

    Swaying and nose wiping tic: Private Read, aged 32 was buried by a shell in August 1917. When he arrived at the hospital, he had an hysterical swaying moving problem and a constant nose wiping tic. It took just two hours of treatment for the twitches to disappear and for Read to be able to walk correctly

    On the wards the men were encouraged to write and to produce a magazine with a gossip column called Ward Whispers. 'The main work was occupational therapy,' explained Arthur's son Christopher to the BBC. 'These solders who had been shell shocked had lost vital faculties like walking and speaking.

    'They were given jobs to do and this was interspersed with intensive therapy sessions,' said Christopher. 'My father was the guiding genius here and he cured these cases by means of persuasion and hypnotism.'

    Private Preston aged 19 had amnesia

    Terrified: Private Preston, aged 19, had amnesia, word blindness and word deafness except to the word 'Bombs!'. Here Preston is emerging from underneath the bed after cowering underneath it

    The term shell shock was coined, in 1917, by a medical officer called Charles Myers - it was also known as 'war neurosis', 'combat stress' and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At first shell shock was thought to be caused by soldiers being exposed to exploding shells.

    Arthur Hurst was ahead of his time

    New approach: One doctor called Arthur Hurst was ahead of his time and believed he could cure every shell shock victim using revolutionary treatments such as hypnosis, persuasion, massage and dietary treatments

    But doctors couldn't find any physical damage to explain the symptoms and medical staff started to realise that there were deeper causes. Doctors soon found that many men suffering the symptoms of shell shock without having even been in the front lines.

    Private Bradshaw was buried in the trenches in 1916

    Recovery: Private Bradshaw was buried in the trenches in 1916. He was left completely paraplegic for two months after. He was taught to move his legs whilst lying down and then to get up and walk around. After a few hours or re-education, he was cured

    Source: Daily Mail

    Related World War History Online Posts

    • War memorial could get revamp
       War memorial could get revamp A war memorial could get a major revamp to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The cross, which was put up in the centre of Market Harborough in 1921, should get renovation and general cleaning, veterans have said. It was given to the town by the War Memorial Committee in honour of the…
    • WWI Christmas card: Museum reveals festive mail from trenches
      WWI Christmas card: Museum reveals festive mail from trenches Above: Embroidered Christmas postcard, sent to Ada by Holly Chrismas A set of postcards sent to a “Darling Sweetheart” from the trenches of the First World War reveal some of the solace a soldier in the trenches found at Christmas through his letters to family and loved ones. Museums tend to provide plenty of visitors with cards during the festive…
    • WWI Pilot Documents Found In Wendover Attic
      WWI Pilot Documents Found In Wendover Attic A 94 year old certificate documenting the entry into the Royal Air Force by a WWI pilot has been found in a Wendover attic. The certificate that dates back to 1918 formalises the commissioning into the Royal Air Force by Lieutenant Frederick Aubrey Lane Sear on the very day that the RAF was founded. Found by Mrs Lesley Holloway a…
    • Trio’s labour of love saves first world war collection for the people of Norfolk
      Trio’s labour of love saves first world war collection for the people of Norfolk A special collection of letters relating to Captain Arthur Humfrey Mason of Necton Hall who died during the WW1 is now in the safe hands of County Archivist Dr John Alban at the Norfolk Archive Centre. Amid the heartache felt in Norfolk during the first world war there were many tragic, heroic and dramatic family stories which have been passed…