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  • Writer's pictureMichael Baker

Unknown Warriors

Understanding The First World War

Shell shock was unknown before the First World War, but rapidly grew to prominence during the conflict. In 1916 it reached epidemic levels at the five-month long battle of the Somme, with traumatised casualties rising fourfold in number. This divided the medics and terrified the military, who feared that troop morale and effectiveness would suffer. As the British Army saw it, it was a problem that had to be got rid of fast. Their brutal solution was as simple as it was callous, with the result that the incidence of shell shock dwindled into insignificance in 1917, even at the hellish battle of Passchendaele. The truth was, 'war trauma' hadn't gone away, it had merely been suppressed. Historian Taylor Downing tells this extraordinary and little known WW1 story at www. Listen in and find out more. This is an Understanding History podcast.

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