Division I

  Abstracts Submitted: Division I - Undergraduate students - Arts & Humanities


BRITISH SHELL SHOCK VICTIMS OF WORLD WAR ONE AND THE EFFECT OF SOCIAL CLASS ON PERCEPTION AND TREATMENT

Sarah Collier and Stephen Fritz, Department of History, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614

The First World War is one of the most far reaching, traumatic times in the written history of human beings. Soldiers were expected to maintain good morale and loyalty to their country while enduring inhuman living conditions, such as life in the trenches. It is hardly difficult to believe that these men were traumatized by what they experienced in their daily lives, especially while at the front. While citizens of many nations had reported instances of ‘shell shock,’ all of these nations had very different perceptions and ways of handling shell shock. In this study, the intended focus is on the British perception and treatment of shell shocked soldiers and the differences based on the men’s social class. First, the daily living conditions and the ongoing exposure to fear and mentally draining experiences were described to provide a backdrop for the soldiers’ lives during the war. Then, the study shifted toward more specific instances of shell shock by looking at William H. R. Rivers’s work at the Craiglockhart War Hospital and the beginning of The Hydra, a literary magazine published by patients at the hospital. The Hydra provided a forum for many to present their work, including famous poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon whose work is evaluated in this study. Lastly, the study made a comparison of the affect of social class (soldiers as officers or as enlisted men) on the public’s perception and the medical profession’s treatment of soldiers’ suffering from shell shock. This comparison included the methods of treatment available and the processes of reintegrating the soldiers back into society after their service in the war. Most likely, British soldiers of the First World War did not understand the situation they entered into when they signed up for the military. The trenches, constant shelling, and sheer amounts of death that would surround them for years often became too much for some men to handle. This resulted in numerous cases of shell shock of both officers and enlisted men, despite the n....