'Playing the Game To the Army': the Royal Army Medical Corps, Shell Shock and the Great War

  • Reid F
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Cultural differences between regular army doctors and civilians pressed into service played a crucial role in the marginalization of shell shock cases and, thus, in the poor treatment that psychological casualties received during World War I from the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). RAMC wartime training documents and its postwar histories essentially ignored the problem of shell shock. Subsequent historiography, however, has been bitterly critical of the RAMC's ignorance of and lack of care for psychological casualties. Tensions inside the RAMC between army doctors and large numbers of civilian physicians caused the organization to focus on tradition and structure while trying to portray itself as part of medicine's 'liberalizing, progressive, and humanizing tradition.' Lacking experts in mental health, treatment of psychological casualties languished, even as the RAMC celebrated its successes in more traditional venues of wartime medicine. In the postwar years, the contrast between perceived and advertised success and the large numbers of mentally deranged veterans lent credence to the interpretation that the RAMC had treated psychological casualties with deliberate cruelty or neglect. [G. P. Cox]

Author-supplied keywords

  • Great Britain
  • Military Medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Shell shock
  • World War I.
  • obusite

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  • Fiona Reid

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