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Topic section 2: World War One Veteran
World War One veteran
Picture: DHX.WAR.A004671A.DHA4671.s2embedded.jpg
Wounded British soldiers waiting to be removed from a French battlefield.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

"Next to the loss of life, the sacrifice of a limb is the greatest sacrifice that a man can make for his country."
The Times, 1920

In the years before the First World War (1914-1918), Edward Gray worked as a farm labourer. It was a job he returned to after his war service, but by then his life had changed drastically. In 1917, as Private Gray of the 6th Dorset Regiment, he lost his right arm while fighting in France.

The First World War was total war fought by massive land armies. Tens of th
Tens of thousands of men were wounded by high explosives, often requiring amputations as a result of their injuries
ousands of men were wounded by high explosives, often requiring amputations as a result of their injuries. Servicemen who lost limbs were entitled to free artificial replacements. But, when large numbers of wounded men began returning from the Western Front, the existing system of limb provision couldn’t cope. In 1915, the crisis was partially addressed by the opening of Queen Mary’s Hospital at Roehampton, a hospital dedicated to fitting artificial limbs. Two years later, Edward Gray was admitted there. His arm stump had healed and was ready for a prosthesis. However, despite a growth in both the size of the hospital and its limb production, the ever-growing numbers of amputees had left the system more over-stretched than ever.

Picture: openshaw.jpg

'Openshaw' artificial hand, c1919. The ring and little fingers are strengthened to allow objects to be carried.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

Edward’s first artificial arm was a simple device, with the emphasis on utility rather than appearance. It enabled Edward to return to employment that same year, although he later complained that the arm tended to slip off his shoulder during physical work.

When war ended, the pressure remained to supply every amputee with an artificial limb, and then a spare limb, as well as dealing with ongoing repairs. Peacetime also saw a continuation of the gradual improvements in limb designs that occurred during the war years, despite all the problems. These improvements are reflec
Picture: 10318692s2embedded.jpg

Inside a limb making workshop at Queen Mary’s Hospital.
Credit: NMPFT/Syndication International

ted in Edward’s post-war experience. After a second, similar arm and numerous repairs, he received one of the newly designated British Official Arm Prostheses in 1923.

While some veterans had discarded their artificial arms years before, Edward found his essential for daily life. He described his new arm as ‘most satisfactory’ and a great improvement on his previous two. Indeed, the records suggest that he was still wearing this same model up until his death in 1956.

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Land mines in Cambodia
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Around the world, one person every half hour is either killed or seriously injured by a landmine. After years of conflict, Cambodia contains numerous minefields. In 1983, Lim stepped on a landmine while helping to cut a clearing in a bamboo forest.  > more

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Consequences of Thalidomide
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The thalidomide disaster in the late 1950s was followed by a project to provide the affected children with experimental artificial limb systems. Eddie was amongst the first to use them.  > more
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