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  • Writer's pictureMichael Baker

Unknown Warriors - Shell Shock

Exactly 105 years ago today, the 11th Battalion of the Border Regiment, nicknamed the Lonsdales (after their patron the Earl of Lonsdale), embarked from Folkestone for France and the Western Front. On 1 July, 1915 - the first day of the battle of the Somme - the battalion lost 490 other ranks and 25 officers out of a total of 850 men. 8 days later, after retrieving what was left of their dead comrades, members of the battalion were ordered on a trench raid. It never happened after the intervention of the battalion MO, who said the men were severely shell-shocked and had had enough. The upshot was that, after a court of enquiry, the doctor was relieved of his post and the Lonsdales were humiliated before the rest of the regiment, labelled a disgrace to the army. This brutal episode marked the beginning of the British Army's attempt to eliminate the incidence of shell shock on the Western Front by making an example of so-called 'shirkers' and by erasing any record of the term among casualties. Listen to the story of the Lonsdales - and its repercussions for the British Army in WW1 - as told by the historian Taylor Downing in Episode 5 of Unknown Warriors. .

An Understanding History podcast.

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