Shell Shock

Shell Shock, as described in Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases, was the popular term for a form of nervous disease prevalent in the Army. It was officially adopted in 1916 and applied to all forms of psycho-neurosis; although at the time by neurologists the term was limited to cases of "concussion" and "commotion of the brain", directly caused by shell explosion. Often due to fatigue, anxiety and emotional instability from prolonged strain, resulting in final breakdown, precipitated by by a shell-burst near the sufferer. Owing to the number claims for gratuity for "shell shock," allowable as a battle-casualty, Army Form W 3436 was issued requiring evidence by eye-witnesses of the proximity of a soldier to the bursting shell. One result recorded at Base hospitals was that dread of a return to service in the trenches induced the development of a form of shell-shock among highly strung men, in the form of hysteria, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, blindness and deafness etc.

It was stated in the House of Lords in 1920 that in the early days of the war, before shell-shock was fully understood, death sentences for cowardice and desertion were passed and executed on men, who in the light of later experience were suffering from shell-shock and really not responsible for their action. Shortly after the war the term shell-shock was abolished in favour of the so-called technical term "Psycho-neurosis," owing, among other reasons, to widespread abuses through men unjustifiably posing as shell-shock victims to attract public sympathy. [1]

References / notes[edit]

  1. Edward Fraser and John Gibbons (1925). Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases. Routledge, London p.255.

Glossary of terms and customs[edit]

This page forms part of our glossary of words and phrases of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain during the Great War, which also includes: technicalities, trench slang, expressions in everyday use, nicknames, sobriquets, the titles and origins of British and Commonwealth Regiments, and warfare in general. Please feel free to help expand and improve this content.
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