Doctors in the Great War, Ian R Whitehead

Doctors in the Great War, Ian R Whitehead

During the First World War over half of Britain's doctors ended up on active service, helping to run a medical service that ran from regimental medical officers and field ambulance units right at the front line back to major hospitals in France and Britain.

This is a serious study of the issued faced by the RAMC in the face of conflict on a much larger scale than ever before. The RAMC had to cope with a much more rapid expansion than its Continental equivalents, which had been designed to deal with mass conscript armies, rather than the small British volunteer army.

The study covers a wide range of topics. We start with a look at the period between the disasters of the Crimea to the outbreak of the First World War, a period in which the civilian medical profession and military medicine struggled (successfully) to get the Army high command to understand and appreciate the significance of medicine.

Once the war started a whole series of new problems appeared, starting with how to recruit enough doctors for the army, while also keeping civilian medicine operating, how to use those new doctors, how to organise the profession, the structure of medical care and the role of each step between the trenches and the major hospitals and how to deal with the new medical problems of trench warfare, including the use of gas.

The physical structure of the military medical services is at the heart of much of the book, looking at issues such as promotion, the use of medical specialists, the role of regimental medical officers, field ambulances, casualty clearing stations and the various hospitals, and the many critical attacks on the system. Most of the many attacks on the system emerge as unfounded, but there were issues about career progression, where promotion meant a move away from active medicine into administration. 

Don't expect a series of anecdotes about military life - this isn’t that sort of book. There are quotes from serving doctors, but these are tied to the serious issues being discussed. Instead this is a detailed analysis of how the medical profession coped with the unprecedented demands of the Great War, and as such is a very valuable addition to the literature on the Great War.

1 - Doctors and the Army, 1854-1914: The Struggle for Recognition
2 - The Medical Volunteers: The Recruitment of Medical Officers, 1914-1916
3 - Medical Practitioners and Compulsory Service, 1916-1918
4 - Medical Students and Military Service
5 - Medical Women and War Service
6 - RAMC Administration on the Western Front
7 - Doctors and Military Medicine: The Training of Medical Officers
8 - The Way of the Wounded: The Medical Officer's Work from Front to Base
9 - The Fight against Disease

Author: Ian R Whitehead
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 320
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2013 edition of 1999 original

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