Shell shock/battle fatigue amongst Lonsdales

Shell shock/battle fatigue amongst Lonsdales

Postby spike » Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:52 pm

In the book Blindfold and Alone there is quoted a case of battle fatigue amongst the surviving Lonsdales around July 3rd 1916. The surviving men after July 1st were asked to take part in a bombing attack which the Officer in charge ended up calling off due to a lack of offensive spirit from the men.
The medical officer Lieutenant Kirkwood, reported to the staff Generals that he felt the men were battle fatigued and could not carry out such an attack after the terrible shock of 1st July to their morale. The result was Lieut Kirkwood was sent home and the men were reprimanded by General Gough, in severe terms( something about not in the spirirt of british manhood).
This book is the only mention I have come across of such an event and I wondered if anyone else had come across this from other sources....
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Re: Shell shock/battle fatigue amongst Lonsdales

Postby kerchi » Thu Nov 27, 2008 12:04 am

I remember reading this post a while back and I honestly thought I replied to it; must have been an email instead. Anyway, I was contacted by a gentleman keen to learn more about Kirkwood but I, unfortunately, did not have anything to offer in the way of information that he did not already know. I knew little about this officer but was quite interested about him upon reading some of the things he mentioned to me. Lieutentant Kirkwood RAMC was definitely involved in a disciplinary case, and I quote from the message for which I hope he does not mind me including here:which came about after he advised the then temporary commander of what was left of a deeply shocked and battered battalion to decline orders from the brigade commander to mount grenade and raiding attacks on the German front line.  I suspect from the description of the state of the battalion it was pretty soon after the mauling they took when Lt. Col. Machell was killed.Kirkwood, by the way, apparently survives the war and retires as a Capt, so he must have weathered the setback of a significant discipline finding against him.  Whether he stayed with the Lonsdales I have not managed to deduce, you may know this. The following is from the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Volume 99, September 2006Lt Kirkwood RAMC, a medical officer with the 11th Border Regiment, had certified that one-third of his battalion were unfit to take part in a planned trench raid because they were suffering from ‘some degree of shell shock’. He was relieved of his post the following morning. When the needs of the military conflicted with the needs of the individual, there was no doubt on whose side the medical officer was meant to be.I didn't look into this any further but included also in one of the emails to me was another link to the University of Glasgow website Archive Services Roll of Honour which in part states:George Kirkwood was commissioned as a temporary Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1915 and served in France. Following the loss of 25 officers out of 28, and 500 out of 800 men of the 11th Battalion, the Border Regiment on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in June 1916, Lieutenant Kirkwood was involved in an incident that resulted in an enquiry. Called to examine soldiers of that regiment who failed to mount a subsequent attack on 9th-10th July 1916, he certified that the men were unfit because of shell-shock. It was an unusually sympathetic response and would nowadays be readily supported. After a Board of Enquiry into the circumstances he was mostly exonerated and blame attributed to others in command. He was, however, relieved of his duties with the 11th Border Regiment and sent for duty with the 91st. Field Ambulance.George relinquished his commission as Lieutenant on 15th October 1916, though not, it seems, for long. The London Gazette records his appointment as a temporary Lieutenant on 4th June 1917. He was promoted Captain on 4th December 1917 and finished his war service with 8th Field Ambulance, South Africa. Captain George Kirkwood, who served his men compassionately returned to live and practice in South Africa after the war. He was married to Nellie. He died on 7th January 1931. His name can be viewed on the Roll of Service plaque in the grounds of Pollock House, Glasgow.

Without all the facts it is impossible to fully understand what happened that led to the events that saw an end to his commission as an officer in the Lonsdales. Kirkwood seems to come across as man who believed in what he was doing and that was simply looking after the men's best interests yet those in higher command deemed this to be a punishable offense because Medical Officers who continually declared men unfit for duty was not on!!! This continues to amaze me and the subject alone could be one for a lengthy debate but not wanting to bore the pants off everyone and by keeping things simple, Kirkwood knew what higher command was like and there was high percentage that he knew what they would say or do in event of his actions. Another quote in the email strikes me and this is that Kirkwood felt the ire and venom of a senior chain of command desperate to maintain discipline in the line.  This I can believe yet from the materials I have so far, this is so true.Chris
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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Re: Shell shock/battle fatigue amongst Lonsdales

Postby spike » Fri Nov 28, 2008 1:07 pm

Yes, I think the Divisional Commander was reported as saying of the incident
" If the men were allowed to think like this, then how would we get anyone at all to fight".
As Lt Kirkwood was RAMC , I suspect he was discreetly moved quickly home and then later reposted to another unite( probably with black mark against him) - I am pleased he was able to obtain promotion later it shows he was a man of principle and  courage.
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Re: Shell shock/battle fatigue amongst Lonsdales

Postby kerchi » Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:55 pm

I totally agree, I do however find it difficult to understand how someone who was obviously very useful, good at what he did, cared for the soldiers and always took their helath and saftey seriously, was so easily dismissed and 'black-balled' for want of a better expression, simply because he thought it futile to send already battle fatigued and injured men into further conflict. It baffles me  ???; what use would they have been anyway other than fodder? Sometimes, it seems that the MO's were puppets on the Commanding Officers strings; a quick patch and "oh he'll do" attitude. Not Kirkwood though; he stood up for what he believed to be true and his reward....relieved of duties the very next morning. Crazy  >:(  He was definitely, as you say, a man prinicple and courage.Chris
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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