SAVILE HISTORY – PROF ANDREW SC RICE ON DOOMED TO GO IN COMPANY WITH MISERABLE PAIN: THE FATE OF MILITARY AMPUTEES AFTER THE GREAT WAR

Limb trauma was the most prevalent category of survivable wound in the Great War and this remains the case for 21st century conflicts. A frequent consequence of limb trauma was amputa

tion and a legacy of the War was the largest cohort of amputees in history; by 1918, in the United Kingdom alone, 42,000 young men had lost limbs. The speaker will review why limb injuries were so prevalent in the Great War and why they were usually managed by lifesaving amputation. He will elucidate the remarkable medical advances through which the mortality associated with thigh wounds converted from 80% in 1914 to less than 10% by 1918. After the War, these young men faced a lifetime of disability, which not only had personal consequences but societal implications, especially when it came to the impact of such disability on gainful employment and on funding pensions. 

Andrew Rice will discuss the case history of Lt Francis Hopkinson, an old Marlburian Durham Light Infantry Officer, wounded in 1917 during the 3rd Battle of Ypres.  He will especially discuss how chronic pain, which manifests both in the amputation stump and in the “phantom” limb, is a “hidden” disability in amputees. Despite considerable advances in other aspects of amputation related disability such as prothesis engineering, post amputation pain remains a medical challenge. Andrew concludes that his profession has failed to learn from history and forgotten the lessons of the Great War.

Andrew Rice is Professor of Pain Research in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College and Hon. Consultant in Pain Medicine at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. He is also a member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides.  During the talk he will refer to historical research conducted by his PhD student Sarah Dixon-Smith who he supervises in collaboration with Dr Emily Mayhew (Imperial College) and Dr George Hay (The National Archives). Her work is funded by The Royal British Legion through the Imperial College Centre for Blast Injury Studies. He will also refer to his current research on the chronic pain consequences of wounding in recent conflicts which is funded by the Ministry of Defence.

Chairman – Savilian Mike Senior