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PTSD Resolution, a charity for UK forces’ veterans mental health, is organising a first ‘Shell Shock Walk’ in London on Saturday, September 17, 2016. It’ll go from Wandsworth Bridge to Tower Bridge. The walk of eight miles will start at 1.30pm; more details are at Eventbrite.
Organisers of the walk seek to highlight the issues of veterans’ mental health resulting from military trauma, and to raise funds for therapy through PTSD Resolution, which provides free treatment through a network of 200 therapists. Some eight out of ten people who are treated report that they require no further treatment, says the charity.
On the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, it is important to remember that many soldiers faced more than the threat of enemy fire, says Colonel Tony Gauvain (Retired)
Chairman of PTSD Resolution. He said: “Military trauma, then known as shell shock, was little understood and there was no effective treatment available. It not only impacted upon the mental health of these men, but also had serious social and legal consequences.”
Just a year before the battle, for example, the British Army declared that men who developed shell shock as a result of a shell explosion would be entitled to wear a special ‘wounded’ rank and receive a pension. In contrast, men who had not been involved in a shell explosion were entitled to nothing and were instead branded as having a ‘defective character’. But such a narrow definition of the causes of shell shock was problematic because the Army often had difficulty in proving which cases were which. This left many soldiers adrift of the help and support they needed.
Many of the victims of shell shock were court-martialled during World War One and their diagnosis of shell shock was not considered an admissible defence. Of the 346 executions carried out by the British Army, for example, 266 of these were for ‘desertion.’ Another 18 men were killed for ‘Cowardice,’ seven for ‘Quitting A Post Without Authority,’ five for ‘Disobedience to a Lawful Command,’ and two for ‘Casting Away Arms.’ In 2006, the government issued a posthumous pardon to each of these men.
The Battle of the Somme created another 60,000 casualties of shell shock – a figure unmatched by any other battle – and, in its aftermath, the Royal Army Medical Corps was banned from using the term, ‘shell shock’. The condition has lingered and the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme acts as its most potent reminder, PTSD Resolution adds.
Pictured: World War memorial, Axford, Kennet Valley, Wiltshire by Mark Rowe.