Dr N.C.SCLATER, Darna, 1 Earlston Road, Liscard, Cheshire: LETTER to ARTHUR HIBBETT Esq., Education Office, Walsall Borough Council.
AT HOME 9-10 a.m. 6-7-11 p.m. Darna, Earlston Road, Liscard, Cheshire. (1)
TELEPHONE: 245 Liscard.
7th Feby. 1917.
I saw & examined your son this morning. His arm continues to improve, there being good union at the place where the bone was shattered (2). There is a very narrow & deep sinus (a kind of tunnel-way) in the site of the wound (3). This I have no doubt will take some weeks (possibly months) in healing. Your son’s health & spirits are good.
I do not know whether it will be a source of satisfaction or regret to you, but in my opinion I do not believe he will ever again be a soldier ‘at the front’. He will however have a first class arm with which to perform his work in life.
N. C. Sclater.
This news must have been welcomed with joy by the Hibbett Family. The operation was successful and their son’s future was secure. The ‘gunshot wound’ was serious enough to prevent his return to the Front but his hand was not worthless, he would be able to write & draw and have the career he chose. But Dr Sclater does not mention the ‘shell shock’ that Pte Bertie was to suffer all his life.
The 10 million military deaths in WW1 have been remembered ever since on War Memorials world-wide. It has taken the WW1 Centenary to focus attention on the 20 million soldiers who suffered life-changing wounds and to honour the extraordinary work of medics & nurses.
Officially my father’s wound is recorded as a ‘gunshot wound’ but I have not been able to determine whether this referred to ‘shrapnel’ (ball bearings, nails & other metal pieces packed into shells) or to ‘shell fragment’ (shell casing exploded into a myriad pieces). In 2016, the iron pieces I picked up in No Man’s Land between Foncquevillers & Gommecourt, are 3-4 inches average and similar to those illustrated below.
From very early childhood I was fascinated by the hole in my father’s wrist. He called it a ‘shrapnel’ wound. He was often in pain but never grumbled. To him it must have been an ever-present reminder of his Walsall pal, Arthur Venables, who stopped to give him first aid and was later killed that day. See Menu: My Memories of the First World War.
(1) Dr N.C.Sclater. See Hibbett Letter 25th Nov. 1916. His home & surgery in Liscard is still a busy Medical Centre today.
(2) Forearm Bones/ Radius & Ulna: Hibbett Letter:13th Dec.1916. Muscles of the arm & forearm are attached to the radius & ulna to provide movement for everyday tasks and allow the hand to pivot at the wrist.
(3) Sinus (tunnel-way): deep & slow to heal, serious cause for concern if infected & unable to drain. The possibility of amputation of Pte Bertie’s hand or forearm is not mentioned in the Hibbett Letters but the threat must have been there since he was wounded on 1st July 1916.
NEXT POST: 7th FEB. 1917: The U.S.A. has come in at Last – only Two years 6 Months Too Late!