Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Soldier's Declaration

Some of the staff at Craiglockhart Hospital

A while ago I worked in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, a psychiatric hospital. My memories of the first day were being told the difference between patients and staff were the patients wore slippers, and being introduced to a patient who suffered shell shock and was still institutionalized some 60 years later.

During WWI the man had been sent to Craiglockhart Hospital (less than two miles from my home) which was used for the treatment of shellshocked officers. Thankfully the chief medical officers at Craiglockhart, Drs River and Brock, treated shellshock as an ordinary reaction to the trauma of war rather than cowardice or insanity.

After the English poet Siegfried Sassoon wrote his Soldier's Declaration declining to return to duty he was declared unfit for duty and sent to Craiglockhart. At Craiglockhart Sassoon met Wilfred Owen and it was thanks to Sassoon that Owen persevered in his ambition to write better poetry. Owen was killed after returning to duty and Sassoon helped bring Owen's poetry to a wider audience.

On 11th November let us not only remember of those who were killed and injured in war but, like the patients of Craiglockhart Hospital, those who suffered the mental anguish of living with the effects of war.


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