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War Hospital Magazines and the cartoons of identity, resilience and healing in England.

University of Huddersfield

Dr Alice Brumby is a member of the Centre of Health Histories at the University of Huddersfield. Her recent research has focused upon the impact of the First World War and interwar period on mental health care and patient welfare in Britain. She has published work on mentally ill ex-servicemen institutionalised within Ministry of Pensions Hospitals in England. Her work has also contributed to a programme of public engagement and co-production, including co-curating an exhibition on the medical impact of war to coincide with the Centenary of the First World War, in connection with the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds and Worcestershire’s Medical Museums.

Disablement, amputation and treatment within War Hospitals in England spelled the end of many Tommies’ military service, as they were forced to readjust to hospital life, and their diseased or broken bodies and minds. One response to healing, came in the form of writing about their illnesses in hospital magazines. In the preface to a special edition of the Huddersfield War Hospital Magazine, the editor notes that for the wounded patients who had submitted work, the magazine was a source of ‘pride, pleasure and profit.’ He noted of the 43 wounded ‘boys’ who had contributed to this particular edition that their works displayed ‘great thought, seriousness in outlook, but never sorrow!’

Using a selection of hospital magazines and other sources, this paper will highlight the diverse responses of soldiers and doctors to war, showing how the use of satire and humour in these magazines could maintain morale and resilience amongst disabled and seriously wounded men. This paper will add to other writings on hospital journals, by identifying how the themes of resilience and identity can be explored through these writings and artworks. It will seek to establish how medicine, hospitals and surgery led to a sense of identity amongst those wearing the ‘hospital blues’ during and immediately after the First World War in Britain. Overall, the hospital magazines, with their cartoons, pictures and stories, provide an insight into the unique cultural and artistic responses of wounded patients and show how they responded to their experience of wartime Britain and readjusted to their new lives after their war was over.