War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

The Men With Broken Faces

The Men With Broken Faces is my colleague Dr Marjorie Gehrhardt’s book that has just been published today. This book is a major addition to our understanding of the First World War, and while the subject is difficult, the disfigured soldier, it is a very, very important story to hear.

The nature of trench warfare (in a flat landscape), mechanised warfare, and metal helmets (ironically that could shatter and shear off faces), all contributed to hundreds of thousands of facially-wounded men (and women) in the war. The results were devastating. Disfigured soldiers, for example, were put in wards with the blind at the back of ships on their route back home from the war. Once in England, specialised hospitals took care of these patients, and in one village, Sidcup, blue benches signified to the townsfolk that disfigured soldiers were there, and that one would approach the benches knowing this. Men literally could not “face” their families with such devastating disfigurement. The result of this was incredible innovation in maxillofacial procedures which we continue to benefit from directly to this day. These include skin grafting, reconstruction of faces using bone grafts, and the use of artists in the surgical suites etc. Socially, these often isolated soldiers, formed strong bonds, published their own magazines and newspaper, and formed social support groups.

As an aside, I have met soldiers who served in Afghanistan who have benefited directly from the experiences of the men with broken faces. Any civilian who has had any maxillofacial surgery (cleft palate, jaw repair, and even facial transplants) is a recipient of the innovation of the Great War surgeons and artists who worked as teams. This is a very important story, and a fascinating story and Dr. Gehrhardt is a leading expert in the field. Well done Dr. Marjorie Gehrhardt! I am so proud to call you my colleague, and collaborator on an article concerning a Canadian and the men with broken faces!

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled The Men With Broken Faces. It was posted here on November 03, 2015.


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