Battle of the Somme

Photo of the Day

Sidney Stanfield in 1918.

Sidney Stanfield in 1918. Photo: courtesy Susan Paris

Wounded,Conflict, Casualties and Care

How battlefield surgeons treated shellshock, shrapnel and gas

And poor Jim was laying there cuddled up in a heap as men die. Don?t forget we was all young, we didn?t die easy. You don?t die at once, you?re not shot and killed stone dead. You don?t die at once. We were all fit and highly trained and of course we didn?t die easy, you see. You were slow to die and you?d find them huddled up in a heap like kids gone to sleep, you know, cuddled up dead.

Sidney George Stanfield (Stan) was born in Tinui, near Masterton, in 1900. He worked as a farmhand before sailing for war in 1916 with the Wellington Infantry Battalion. He saw action in France and Belgium and at the end of the war was still nearly two years under the age limit for service overseas.

On being a stretcher-bearer at Passchendaele 12?14 October 1917

It rained and rained and bloody rained, and rained and rained, see. Just like here in the autumn time, when it comes to rain and it was cold. And we were picking them up from a gathering point as a regimental aid post. Well there were hundreds of men laying out, around. You couldn?t get them inside, it was an old German concrete emplacement and you couldn’t get them all inside, but the doctors were working inside. And they were just laying around where they?d been dumped by the stretcher-bearers from off the field and at one period I believe there were 600 stretcher cases laying round the place in the wet and cold, just dying there where they were dumped off. They weren?t even laying on stretchers, just laying on the ground with an oil sheet tied over them if anyone thought to do that, or if one of their mates could do it. Just laying there, because the stretchers were used for picking up other men, you see, there couldn?t be a stretcher for every stretcher case. We just carried till you couldn?t carry more. You just went until you couldn?t walk really, you just went until you couldn?t walk.

On how infantrymen saw themselves at Passchendaele

An ordinary infantryman at Passchendaele was a pretty dumb beast. That?s how he?s treated, you see. He was only gun fodder and when all is said, and that?s what I feel. We were pretty dumb beasts you see, or we wouldn?t have been slapped, thrown into that sort of warfare, because it was hopeless before you started. We all knew that.

There was one place at Passchendaele ? where we heard a man crying at night out in front and went out and we couldn?t find him and we heard him crying part of the next day. Calling, you know, calling, sort of crying, not screaming or anything, crying out. We just knew there was a wounded man lying down under something you see. We never found that man. That’s the only thing that’s stuck in my memory. The others, I?ve seen them lay gasping and panting and scratching up the dirt with their fingernails on their face and all crawling around semi-delirious and all sorts of things.

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Photo of the Day

Sir Harold Delf Gillies (17 June 1882 ? 10 September 1960) was a New Zealand-born, and later London-based, otolaryngologist who is widely considered the father of plastic surgery. The horrific new injuries that came with the First World War led to the pioneering work in plastic surgery by Harold Gillies, a special kind of war hero.

Sir Harold Delf Gillies (17 June 1882 ?- 10 September 1960) was a New Zealand-born, and later London-based, otolaryngologist who is widely considered the father of plastic surgery. The horrific new injuries that came with the First World War led to the pioneering work in plastic surgery by Harold Gillies, a special kind of war hero.

How do you Fix a Face That?s Been Blown Off by Shrapnel?

While the emotional repercussions of war aren’t easy to measure, photos of soldiers who went home injured after WWI tell a pretty unsettling story

Warning Some Images Maybe Disturbing.

Over a million soldiers died in World War One, and double that amount went home injured. For many of those lucky enough to return, the wounds they had suffered in Europe would leave them permanently disfigured.

The trenches protected the bodies of soldiers, but in doing so it left their heads vulnerable to enemy fire. Soldiers would frequently stick their heads up above the trenches, exposing them to all manner of weapons.

At the start of the war, little consideration was given to the trauma of facial injuries. It came as something of a surprise that so many victims survived to the point of treatment. Escaping the war with your life was seen as reward enough. The advent of plastic surgery would radically change that perception.

The biggest killer on the battlefield and the cause of many facial injuries was shrapnel. Unlike the straight-line wounds inflicted by bullets, the twisted metal shards produced from a shrapnel blast could rip a face off.

Not only that, but the shrapnel’s shape would often drag clothing and dirt into the wound. Improved medical care meant that more injured soldiers could be kept alive, but urgently dealing with such devastating injuries was a new challenge.

Harold Gillies was the man the British Army tasked with fixing these grisly wounds. Born in New Zealand, he studied medicine at Cambridge before joining the British Army Medical Corps at the outset of World War One.

Gillies was shocked by the injuries he saw in the field, and requested that the army set up their own plastic surgery unit.

Warning Some Images Maybe Disturbing.

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Photo of the Day

Advancing across no man's land in the mist. An assault force advancing across no man's land in what apprears to be either a morning mist or a gas cloud ...

Advancing across no man’s land in the mist. An assault force advancing across no man’s land in what appears to be either a morning mist or a gas cloud …

The Battle of the Somme

But all that my mind sees

Is a quaking bog in a mist ? stark, snapped trees,
And the dark Somme flowing.

Vance Palmer (1885?1959),

?The Farmer Remembers The Somme?

The Battle of the Somme, fought in northern France, was one of the bloodiest of World War One. The aims of the battle, were to relieve the French Army fighting at Verdun and to weaken the German Army. However, the Allies were unable to break through German lines. In total, there were millions dead and wounded on all sides.

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was one of the largest battles of the First World War. Fought between July 1 and November 1, 1916 near the Somme River in France, it was also one of the bloodiest military battles in history. On the first day alone, the British suffered more than 57,000 casualties, and by the end of the campaign the Allies and Central Powers would lose more than 1.5 million men.

A truly nightmarish world greeted the New Zealand Division when it joined the Battle of the Somme in mid-September 1916. The division was part of the third big push of the offensive, designed to crack the German lines once and for all. When it was withdrawn from the line a month later, the decisive breakthrough had still not occurred.

Fifteen thousand members of the division went into action. Nearly 6000 men were wounded and 2000 lost their lives. More than half the New Zealand Somme dead have no known grave. They are commemorated on the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, near Longueval. One of these men returned home to New Zealand in November 2004; his remains lie in the tomb of the Unknown Warrior outside New Zealand?s National War Memorial.

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Photo Of The Day

Photo: Michael St. Maur Sheil Nearly 70 feet deep, the Lochnagar Crater was formed after an explosive-packed mine was detonated during the Battle of the Somme.

Photo: Michael St. Maur Sheil
Nearly 70 feet deep, the Lochnagar Crater was formed after an explosive-packed mine was detonated during the Battle of the Somme.

Landscape Is Still Scarred by World War I

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Actual WWI Film footage of the Battle of the Somme. July-November 1916

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