Medicine

Two women in motorised ambulance 'Two women of Pervyse'. Mairi Chisholm and Baroness de T'Serclaes driving their motor ambulance through the ruins of Pervyse, near Ypres. Both women looked after a first-aid post on the Belgian front line for most of the war.

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Medicine and care had to develop very quickly during the war to deal with different types of injuries and casualties. Improvements in transport were a big help.

X-rays

X-ray of bullet in body X-ray showing a bullet in the body

Scientists and doctors found it was important for injured soldiers to be treated within an hour. New, motorised ambulances and trains helped to make getting to the injured easier and mobile X-ray units improved the level of care that could be provided.

These X-ray units could be taken to the soldiers. They told doctors where in soldiers' bodies any bullets or pieces of shrapnel were. The fact that skilled nurses were allowed closer to the front line than in other wars was also very helpful.

With the development of X-ray technology, surgeons were able to detect where a bullet had penetrated. Many operations were successfully performed during the war thanks to this advancement in medicine.

X-rays of soldier's chest in 1915 X-rays of a soldier's chest and armpit in 1915

Blood transfusions

Blood transfusion apparatus, 1914-1918 Blood transfusion apparatus, 1914-1918

Nurses still only had salt water to clean wounds. Soldiers did not always realise that open wounds were more likely to get infected.

Blood was first stored successfully during World War One. This meant doctors could now give blood transfusions to soldiers when they had lost blood. This was a process where they transferred blood taken from a healthy person, to someone who had lost a lot of blood. Blood transfusions prevented many deaths. In previous wars, soldiers with severe burns, tissue damage and contagious diseases would have usually died.

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes and classroom ideas looking at medicine during World War One.

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