World War I
By: Aakash Ramsay, Joey Liner, and Dan Begg
In World War I, also known as the Great War during 1914-1918, there were hundreds if not thousands of psychological casualties. Life in the trenches was rough, wet, muddy (Thompson, 2004). Desperation and despair can set in when humans are in those living conditions. The term shell shock was used to describe what happened to these psychological casualties. Some felt intense fear and revulsion during the fighting and could not cope. (Thompson, 2004). Hugh S. Thompson notes in his memoir Trench Knives and Mustard Gas that he attempted to rally his squadmates after they collected they scattered remains of their comrade who had died during a raid. (Thompson, 2004, pg 59). He continued to fight on till the end of the war, dealing with the pressures of combat leadership and the fighting itself.
Many soldiers fighting in this war seemed to have more severe symptoms if they attacked their foes with a knife or bayonet (Bourke, 2011). The closer the range between soldiers, the worse the symptoms became. It appears that many soldiers were not able to effectively perform their duties after being diagnosed with “shell shock” (Bourke, 2011). As noted in Shell Shock During World War I, the British Army dealt with 80,000 cases of this debilitating breakdown by the war’s conclusion (Bourke, 2011).
This video shows war neurosis and the effects of treatment on British soldiers during 1918.
Thompson, H. S., & Ferrell, R. H. (2004). Trench knives and mustard gas: with the 42nd Rainbow Division in France. Texas A & M University Press.
Bourke, Joanna. (2011). Shell Shock during World War I. BBC-History. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/shellshock_01.shtml