In November 1914, a young Belgian solider called Adolf arrived in London. He was unable to move his legs but had no apparent physical injury that could explain his condition – he was shell-shocked.
Adolf was admitted to what was then the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic, in Queen Square, London (now the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery) which had just started to admit soldiers with ‘any nervous ailment’ as well as those with injuries to their spinal cords or peripheral nerves. A recent article that explores the original case notes of the 462 shell-shocked soldiers, including Adolf, treated there during World War 1 and its immediate aftermath includes quotes from the soldiers themselves – in some cases giving voice to the voiceless.
..so many had got back their voice in England……I have not spoken a word since I have been in England but one of my mates told me I said three words in Alexandria ……I could not cough or whistle but now I do both…
So wrote a 25-year-old Australian private who was prepared to risk paying his own fare home to Australia for the sake of getting treatment at Queen Square. Continue reading