War and Medicine II

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned this exhibition as one probably worth seeing, and yesterday finally got myself along to the Wellcome Collection near Euston, which I had never visited before. Yes, tt is well worth visiting.

I was most interested in the WW1 stuff, of course, and there is plenty of it. More or less as soon as you go in there is a film showing the RAMC at work. It traces the journey of a wounded man from the front line back to the ship that will take him to Blighty. All shown as a very efficient process, and one suspects things didn’t go as smoothly on days when casualties were in their thousands. Very illuminating, though.

The exhibits that struck me most were Henry Tonk’s great paintings of the facially disfigured – drawn with such care and respect. There is a large  section about facial disfigurement, including a film of a woman making a facial prosthesis, and a couple of specimens of actual tin prostheses:

I found the Mind section less impressive. There is a clip from the film War Neuroses, purporting to show cures carried out at Netley, but looking far too much like a P.R. exercise. A case deals with “shell-shock” by listing all the men shot for desertion, and highlighting the case of Harry Farr, who had been given the “shell-shock” diagnosis a year before his desertion.  There seemed to be an implication that all those shot at dawn were suffering from mental illness. Dubious.

While at the exhibition I bought my ticket for the Remembering War conference there on Saturday. Should be good.

One Comment

  1. Iain
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this write-up which has tipped this show from the “probably should see” to the “absolutely must see” category. I have wanted to see more of those Tonks pictures for some time.


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