Tag Archives: Gunshot wounds WW1.

7TH FEB:1917: MEDICAL REPORT: PTE BERTIE’S ‘GUNSHOT WOUND’.

Dr N.C.SCLATER, Darna, 1 Earlston Road, Liscard, Cheshire: LETTER to ARTHUR HIBBETT Esq., Education Office, Walsall  Borough  Council.   

ARTHUR HIBBETT.

Darna, Earlston Road,, Dr Sclater’s Home & Surgery 1917, still a Medical Centre.

AT HOME 9-10 a.m. 6-7-11 p.m. Darna, Earlston Road,  Liscard, Cheshire.  (1         

TELEPHONE: 245 Liscard.                         

 7th Feby. 1917.

Dear Sir,

I saw & examined your son this morning.  His arm continues to improvethere 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.

Pte Bertie’s Xray: right forearm gunshot wound to radius (left) & ulna (right) .

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.

Yours faithfully,

N. C. Sclater.

 

********************************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

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. 

Shrapnel from Somme Battlefields. Forces War Records: Plight of Wounded WW1 Soldiers. Western Front Militaria.
Shrapnel & Shell Fragment. <www.history.army.militaria> USA  WW1 Military Magazine.

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. 

Pronation & supination of  right forearm.

(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!

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19th July 1916: ‘YOUR BROTHER: I FEAR THE WORST HAS HAPPENED’. ‘ONE SHALL BE TAKEN THE OTHER LEFT’.

South Staffordshire BadgeeH.E. BIRD, C. QMS 1/5th South Staffords Bn Head Quarters, Berles au Bois (1): LETTER to Pte BERTIE HIBBETT, The Cenacle, Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton, Cheshire.

                                                         19/ 7/ 16

Dear Bert,

I was pleased to hear you have got to Blighty and hope your wound will soon be healed (2). 

SYDNEY HIBBETT 20 in 1914.
SYDNEY HIBBETT
20 in 1914.

With regard to your brother Sid, I am extremely sorry to say I fear the worst has happened.  The last thing I can get to know of him was that he was severely wounded, lying in No Man’s Land.   He was unable to speak but wrote on a piece of paper that he required a drink of water, which one of our chaps gave him, but could not stay with him. That is the last we have heard of him.

I hope we may hear of him again, for he was a brave man and one who did his duty without fear or favour.  If, as I fear, the worst has happened, I hope you will try and soften the blow to your parents as much as possible. 

All papers, letters etc I found in a pack belonging to you or your brother I have handed over to L.Cpl. Jones A.O*, as Sid told him if anything happened he was to forward them.

Venables
Arthur Venables. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Visit 2006.

Your chum Venables* is also missing, we can get no news of him at all (3).

Kind regards,  Yours sincerely,

H.E.Bird  C. Q.M.S.  Censor J. N. Wilkinson.

*********************

Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett 1965‘MY MEMORIES of the FIRST WORLD WAR’. 

It took us one and a half days to reach Le Treport where I was put on a bed in a tentThe next morning I awoke to see, in my bed, a basin of blood from my wounded wrist.  I was transferred from the tent to a Hotel-turned-Hospital on the cliffs of Le Treport.

lE tREPORT.
Treport-Coteaux et Trianon-Hotel, aux Terrasses. A nurse has written Pte Bertie’s address ‘Red Cross Hospital, New Brighton’ twice on the front. Posted 7.7.1916.

I was in the bed next to another wounded soldier being treated by a doctor; he was trying to get a bullet out of his patient with forceps, but the forceps kept slipping.  The sound of it got on my nerves.  I went out of the room, but it was likegoing from frying pan into the fire’, for on the landing four orderlies were trying to keep a  soldier down on his bed; he was raving with pain (4). I was glad to get back into my room again.

It was not long before I was labelled ‘Serious’, for I was wounded not only in my right wrist but had an extra ‘Blighty’: wounds to my neck and my left wrist as well.  The wound in my neck came when I was running out of the trench at Foncquevillers.  I was ordered home.

The voyage across the Channel was memorable indeed for, while I was eating a late dinner on board, I heard that my brother, Sydney, had been seen dead in No Man’s Land.  On his breast there had been a small piece of paper on which he had written,Pour a drop of water between my lips, thank you.  Now every Good Friday I am reminded of how the dying do thirst, when we sing His are the thousand sparkling rills … and yet he saith ‘ I thirst’ (5).

On hearing the news of my brother I could eat no more, but went straight to my cabin bunk. Two shall be in the field of Battle, one shall be taken and the other left’ (6).

***************************

ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB
ELIZABETH HIBBETT WEBB

The details of my uncle’s death, given by Chaplain H.E Bird’s in his Letter of 19th July, 1916, tie up closely with my father’s ‘Memories’ 1967. These in turn no doubt rely on a note in my father’s 21st Birthday Album, 12th July, 1916, but probably added some years later which reads: ‘Soldier Jones gave a piece of paper to my Mother on which was written by my brother Sydney, as he lay dying on the battlefield: Pour a drop of water between my lips. Thank you’. 

 (1) The Revd H.E. BIRD C QMS: Chaplain to the Forces, serving with the 1/5th Staffordshire Regt. (As Chaplain to Queen Mary’s School, Walsall, he probably went straight to the Front without any specific training). 1/5th S Staffords were now at Berles au Bois, a commune, 5 miles (8Km) approx. from Foncquevillers. His letter is presumably in answer to one from Pte Bertie Hibbett enquiring about his brother. 

(2) A ‘Blighty’: a serious wound that sent a soldier back Home. My father’s Blighty was a gun-shot wound to his right wrist & a wound to his neck (both of which we were aware of as children); he also had a minor wound to his left wrist. The German heavy 77mm guns had fired from 3 miles away behind Essarts. [See 1st July Operations. Appendix 1.]

(3) Arthur Venables* dressed Pte Bertie’s wound on the battlefield. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. His family lived near 95, Foden Rd. See previous Hibbett Posts.

(4) Anaesthetic in WW1: chloroform, ether, ethyl chloride and nitrous oxide (oxygen mixture).  The RAMC had pitifully few resources to cope with the grossly under-estimated number of casualties for the first day of the Somme. Pte Bertie’s fellow patients at Le Treport either did not have any anaesthetic or were re-acting badly to it’s effects. See <https://www.asaabstracts.com&gt;: no development in anaesthesia since mid-19th Cent. /no new anaesthetics until 1940, but experience of WW1 put Britain at forefront of 20th Cent. development in anaesthetics. It is amost  unfortunate irony how modern medicine owes some of its existence to the existence of war‘. Anthony L. Kovac MD. University Kansas. 2006.

(5Hymn based on Christ’s words from the Cross, ‘I thirst’, John 19.29. Mrs Cecil Alexander, 1875. (6One shall be taken the other left’Matthew 24. 40-44. Apocalyptic/ poetic language to describe the Last Days, a future End Time (Eschaton). 

NEXT POST: 20th July 1916: ‘Back in the Homeland bearing the Marks of Unthinkable Experiences’.