On 7th June 2018 we visited The National Archives in London. We met with Sara Griffiths, David Langrish, Grace Bell and Alex Duthie. They had prepared a talk for us about the First World War and brain injuries, finding us examples of the medical records of soldiers that received head injuries. Head injuries were so common that doctors had a standard set of sheets to record where on the head the injury was.
We looked through the medical records of several soldiers and read about the types of treatment they received. We were able to see original x-rays showing shrapnel lodged in a soldiers back and head. While many people survived their initial wounds they later succumbed to infections and died from these. We also saw photographs of people with facial injuries who had reconstructive surgery, a practice that advanced greatly during the conflict as doctors developed new ways to operate and restore people’s faces.
Most excitingly we were able to look into a box of materials that was not yet archived which contained details of soldiers with head injuries. People are not normally allowed to handle the original materials so we were very honoured to be able to do so.
Our visit really helped to give us an idea of what it would have been like to be a wounded soldier at this time and the types of treatment you might receive.
“ The Hospital Brain Injury Co-ordinator became someone who absolutely understood how I felt, I didn’t need to explain. I could talk about my fears and worries. She was such a great support through the difficult days, but could also celebrate the small step successes, which was important to me. ”