centre pioneered treatment for victims of shell shock
old military hospital at Seale Hayne is now an agricultural
First World War devastated the lives of a generation of young men.
But the trauma of war didn't end when the guns stopped firing. For
many soldiers shell shock was one of the devastating legacies of the
hospital at Seale Hayne near Newton Abbot played a remarkable role
in curing First World War soldiers suffering from shell shock.
Thousands of soldiers returned from the battlefield shell shocked
from the sheer horror and fear of the war.
By the end of the war, 20,000 men were suffering from shell shock.
Thousands more had experienced its symptoms during their military
But one remarkable doctor based in Devon believed he could cure them
Hurst worked at Seale Hayne in rural south Devon, one of the medical
centres used to deal with the trauma of the men returning from the
Hurst pioneered the treatment of victims at Seale Hayne in Devon.
the time there was little sympathy for shell shock victims.
Shell shock was generally seen as a sign of emotional weakness or
Many soldiers were charged with desertion, cowardice, or insubordination.
The unlucky ones were subjected to a mock trial, charged, and executed.
shock victims found themselves at the mercy of the armed forces' medical
Treatment was often harsh and included...
the country, doctors were mystified by the condition that became known
as shell shock.
and physical re-education
shell shock was thought to be caused by soldiers being exposed to
shock victims at Plymouth's Seale Hayne were encouraged to work
in the fields to forget their trauma
But doctors coudn't find any physical damage to explain the symptoms.
Medical staff started to realise that there were deeper causes.
soldiers found themselves re-living their experiences of combat long
after the war had ended.
Shell shock victims often couldn't eat or sleep, whilst others continued
to suffer physical symptoms.
Officers suffered some of the worst symptoms because they were called
upon to repress their emotions to set an example for their men.
The war poet Siegfried Sassoon, himself a victim, describes the psychological
pain of shell shock in his poem "Survivors".
He talks of soldiers with "dreams that drip with murder" and their
"stammering, disconnected talk".
'lucky' ones were treated with a variety of 'cures' including hypnosis,
massage, rest and dietary treatments.
Hayne near Newton Abbot, the approach was revolutionary for its time.
the farm at Seale Hayne - a soldier forgets the misery of the
Arthur Hurst, an army major, made the only film about how shell shock
victims were treated in Britain.
His miracle treatments meant that he was able to cure 90% of shell
shocked soldiers in just one session.
Hurst took the men to the peace and quiet of the rolling Devon countryside.
The men toiled on the farm, and were encouraged to use their creative
"The main work was occupational therapy," explained Arthur's
"These solders who had been shell shocked had lost vital faculties
like walking and speaking.
"They were given jobs to do and this was interspersed with intensive
therapy sessions," said Christopher.
"My father was the guiding genius here and he cured these cases
by means of persuasion and hypnotism."
Hurst's pioneering methods were both humane and sympathetic. It was
a miracle that literally saved the lives of dozens of shattered men.
stunning views to nature - take a webcam tour of Devon.
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