Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A Ghastly Wound

Wednesday 23rd December 1914: It is always interesting and informative to hear from our boys at the front, even if the news they relate might, at first glance, seem rather out of date. Private H. Clark of 332 Hitchin Road, Luton, a reservist who went to the front with 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is now in the London Hospital recovering from a terrible wound received near Ypres on 31st October. He writes us a letter which gives a remarkable instance of what a soldier can go through and live and though he is likely to be partially disabled for the rest of his life, he is quite cheery, says he is getting on well and sends wishes for a Merry Christmas.

With regard to his injury he says: “I got wounded with shrapnel. A piece of shrapnel cut clean through my shoulder and tore my side right open. I had to run and walk for a mile and a half and blood was pouring from me like a tap. I reached a barn and found some RAMC(1) chaps. They bandaged me up and I reached Ypres in a collapsed condition. I thought I was on the way to England, but the trainload of wounded was shelled by the Germans. I was transferred to the Duchess of Westminster’s War Hospital, France and a piece of shrapnel that nearly cost me my life was found embedded in my ribs, having torn my left lung. The doctor says it’s a miracle that I lived to go under an operation, as I was dangerously ill and almost bloodless. A nurse was sent to watch me and I had to have the foot of the bedstead tilted up to keep what little blood there was in my body(2). I am terribly torn open from hip to top of shoulder and the doctor fears I shall be partially disabled for the rest of my life. Though I have been in hospital six weeks I cannot lift my left arm and my side is still open, though considerably better. It will be a long time before I leave hospital and the doctors say they have never seen a case like it before”

The piece of shrapnel taken from Private Clark’s body is sent on to us for our inspection and it looks quite capable of inflicting a very ghastly wound. It will be a gruesome keepsake for the family. Referring to the dangerous nature of shell wounds Private Clark says: - “These pieces of shell are hot when they penetrate the body and cause blood poisoning, lock jaw and death in a very short time if not extracted”.

Source: Luton News 24th December 1914

(1) Royal Army Medical Corps

(2) Blood transfusion was in its very early infancy and very far from being used in cases such as this.

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