Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Emily Mayhew's "Wounded"

Emily Mayhew is a Research Associate at Imperial College London and an examiner at the Imperial College School of Medicine. She is a consultant and lecturer to museums including the Wellcome Collection, the Imperial War Museum and the Royal College of Surgeons.

Mayhew applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Wounded: A New History of the Western Front in World War I, and reported the following:
Anyone reading page 99 of Wounded - A New History of the Western Front in the First World War would find the material puzzlingly unrepresentative. There is a nurse, to be sure, but the page is mostly about other residents of the Field Hospital where she worked - a bandy-legged fox who stole from the hospital garbage, a posh French hunting dog rescued from No Mans Land by the chief surgeon- and the social activities that took place when the Field Hospital wasn't receiving battle casualties. The animals patrolled the food stores and kept the rats down and were used as therapy in the wards by the nurses who encouraged patients to get back on their feet by taking them for walks in the nearby woods. Half the page is taken up with a description of a game that was popular among the medical staff: a paper chase, also known as Hare and Hounds, where a trail of paper shreds was laid in the nearby countryside and then one member of staff was chased by the others. The first to arrive back at the Field Hospital was the winner, either a Hare or a Hound. Not much war there - but there are hints. The nurse, Winifred Kenyon, has mixed feelings about encouraging her patients to walk the animals. If they are strong enough to walk, then soon they will be strong enough to go back to their battalions and fight again. It is the patients who lie in bed tearing up old newspapers to make the trail for the paper chase game, testifying to the strong social bonds they have with their carers. Nurses and orderlies move them out of their wards to watch the game in the sunshine, cheer the runners on and keep a surreptitious book on likely winners. The Field Hospital, closer to the front line than it is to any of the towns or military camps to the rear, is a world of its own, self-sustaining and kept both medically and socially effective by its nurses. Closer to the war than any women before them, the nurses developed very particular expertise and skills to respond to the nightmare of casualty on the Western Front. From complex resuscitation techniques, to the care of the dying, the breaking of bad news to soldiers with limb loss or other serious wounds, to the vital social life that kept everyone together and sane, all of it was dependent on the nurses and their dedication to their patients and their colleagues in an extraordinary time of war and sacrifice.
Learn more about Wounded at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue