Shell shock

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by swordman, Aug 20, 2013.

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  1. Posted Today, 11:28 AM

    Old fashioned shell shock was the name we used. anyone suffering from the genuine article was very badly wounded indeed. The effects of battle exhaustion were often bizarre in the extreme. I had a good mate that suffered BE on the night we did the assault crossing of the Escaut Canal, near Petit Brogel. That took place, starting about one in the morning on a pitch black night. The canal had steep concrete banks that we had to get the FBE boats up. . .(That crossing was a bloody horror, part of the Market Garden operation) Previous to the start, we had been dive bombed with incoming mortar and shell fire. At that point, my mate went completely bomb happy. I sat with my arms around his shoulder telling him that all would be well, and I would look after him...All to no avail, I had to leave him there in the ditch sobbing. After, he was never the same, he acted like someone that had suffered a stroke. We tried to care for him by ensuring (Where we could ) that he would be left behind to do some duty, while we went off into the days actions.

    I never managed to find him after the war...And that is sad,,,, For he had seen some pretty savage action, including the hand to hand fighting in the "Bloodiest Square mile in Normandy"

    The other man that went bomb happy was during Operation Goodwood, where we took a horrible hammering. In this case while based in an orchard, under a huge stonking, this man went mad and tore about the orchard trying to stab everyone with his Commando knife. He was rugby tackled and tied ......

    The behaviour of some of the patients was over the top, and totally unpredictable. I never came across any moves to other units.

    Shell shock...For some reason was looked on as unmanly, or even disgust. How bloody stupid was that. For BE is probably the worst wounding of them all, for you carry it with you all of your life, If you recover then it still stays with you.....

    I would be proud to shake Harry's hand..... if I could.

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  2. Grownup_Rafbrat

    Grownup_Rafbrat LE Book Reviewer Good Egg (charities)

    Very moving, Swordman, and thank you for telling us about it. I do hope you can find Harry and that he's managed to recover a bit of hapiness since those dark days.
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  3. Cowardice has nothing to do with Shell shock. It is what happen to the human mind when what they experience is totally unbearable any longer. Some of the barrages and fighting many went through, would make the bravest wilt under pressure.

    In this case that I write about, the man in question was a tough little fellow able to stand damn near anything, until that final moment when he succumbed. He had taken part in some pretty ghastly fighting at times, under tremendous fire.....

    It is time like this that you take care of your own.... If anyone had treated this man with anything but respect, they would have been dealt with amongst ourselves....

    I suffered severe injuries ...Thankfully BE was not one of them.....
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  4. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Remember this is not the NAAFI.
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  5. Swordman,
    The camaraderie back then must have been something that has stayed with you all these years.
    The day on day shared experiences I presume must have bonded you guys pretty tight?

    I do enjoy your posts as I find it a most fascinating time in History.
    I've just bought the book "with the Jocks" about the Kings Own Scottish Borderers and their advance through the low countries and into Germany.

  6. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Because so many were involved I'm sure it was a case of 'all in it together' & so got on with whatever they had to do next, especially when they came home.
    One instance I know about was an old boy who lived not far from me, he was a Jap POW & on the railway. Came home, married, raised a family with no problems & then in later life he retired & his wife died, that left him living alone & he used to wake in the middle of the night sweating that the Japs were coming up the stairs to get him. I'm sure one of the things that kept him sane was his ability to talk about his experiences & often used to talk to groups about being a FEPOW.
  7. My late father was in the RN during WW2, serving in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Red Sea. For most of the war he was on a rescue and salvage vessel with the task of towing in ships which couldn't make it under their own steam, usually due to battle damage, or searching for survivors if the ship had gone down. In cases where the ship couldn't be kept afloat the tug used to rescue as many as they could. He was regularly under air attack during the process. He used to tell me some of his stories, particularly the funny ones, but I only recently learned from my mother than on one occasion they came across several life boats lashed together. My dad never said whether they found any survivors so I guess the occupants were all dead or dying when found.

    My mother is adamant that my father had been suffering from PTSD ever since the end of the war, but he got on with his life, settled down and raised a family. He never dwelt on the bad times but they obviously stayed with him. He got involved with the RBL and various service charities in later life and was collecting for the Poppy appeal well into his 80's. He always maintained that it was service comradeship that kept him going during the war and he tried to give something back by helping the service charities afterwards.

    Incidentally my mother also told me that she only started getting grey hairs when I went of to NI and the Falklands...

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  8. What does amaze me is that so few went "Bomb happy" Taking into consideration the never ending day after day in action, and some of the fire we came under.....IT would please me very much to have got n touch with that old mate.. (I did search for a long time) But obviously I could not find him...Now? I am 88 I doubt very much many Vets have reached this age.

    My circle of very close veteran mates have all gone on to where they got to.. Derek A Sapper Ted an infantry man, Denis a torpedo plane pilot Swordfish. So many old mates .....Dick Harris Suffolks my dearest friend. and recently another old mate died. same regimen.t
  9. Excellent book - one of the classics on infantry soldiering.

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  10. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Yes swordsman there are less & less of you each year & I think it's important that those who remain tell their story.
    My late father in law was a Chindit. He never spoke to his wife or children about the jungle, it was only when I married his youngest daughter he did tell stories but that was only to me, perhaps he saw a common bond I don't know. My wife was 19 when we married & after just over a year in UK we left for various countries the Queen sent us to. Dick died a couple of months after we returned to the UK some 10 years later. My wife says one of her big regrets is she didn't know her father when she was an adult & able to talk to him about his life.
  11. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    I have heard more convoy victims died from hypothermia than drowning.
  12. Swordman,
    Harry Patch from the First World War made it to 111, so you have a few years yet to catch up.

    I'm sure with the power of the internet you could track down your Harry to see what happened to him.

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  13. My Great Grandfathers Brother was a career soldier before the war and with the BEF at the outbreak of war (Bren Gunner Or such I think) and was fortunate enough to get evacuated during Operation Dynamo following several very near escapes and misses.

    From what I recall of what was told about him he came back suffering from Shell shock and post traumatic stress (as we know it now) and was invalided out of the forces on return to Britain. Rest of the family were Cammell Lairds workers and got him a position there. By all accounts he was never the same however.

    Would have liked to have met more of my older family members but they mostly passed shortly before my birth.
  14. Plenty of members here and on Rum Ration who are interested in research and finding the past so maybe its doable.
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  15. Swordman - Late to read this post (linked via another one regarding "doing a runner under fire") and it never fails to stagger and amaze me what you guys had to endure.
    Without wanting to sound contrite; Thank you for what you did. It may seem, looking at today's world that it might not have been worth the effort, but I can assure you, it was.
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