Lord Balgonie & "Shell shock"?

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Re: Lord Balgonie & "Shell shock"?

Postby mike snook » 09 Nov 2017 23:19

Egypt, if nothing else, was all the rage in the 1850s wasn't it. Maybe he should have ploughed on to the even more healthy Cape of Good Hope!

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Re: Lord Balgonie & "Shell shock"?

Postby Josh&Historyland » 10 Nov 2017 14:02

I see nothing in the photo that says much that is not common with the majority of Crimean photography, it could indeed be perhaps a fairly classic example of an officer photo. Unless we can find a specific reference to continuing mental damage that is likely to have been caused by the war, I'd suggest the journalist in question and the organisers of the show observe an intensity in his stare that they are overly eager to attribute to that seen in men immediately coming back from action in WW2. Given the nature of the fighting and the photographic process in the 1850's I'd find this dubious.

For what it's worth I did an article about various side issues of the battle of Waterloo in 2015, curious to see more about Wyndham and the old legend of not shutting doors I looked into, so far as I could, the question of shell shock and PTS in earlier times. What I found indicates, of course, that men did get changed by their experiences but tended to handle whatever it was they took back with them in a different way to today. (Probably helped by the fact no one thought there was anything medically suspicious about soldiers who had seen combat)

I'll quote the part of my article, which will summarise what I found.

"Please, don’t shut the door.
Wolfgang Goethe was a writer but he had managed to get himself on the staff of the Duke of Saxe Weimar as an observer. In 1792 he witnessed the battle of Valmy, and as a civilian he found the experience disturbing. He noted the eerie sound of incoming artillery fire “The sound is quite strange, as if it were made up of the spinning of a top, the boiling of water, and the whistling of a bird.” He never forgot the heightening sense of surreality and disturbance he felt in the battle “I could soon realise that something unusual was happening in me … as if you were in a very hot place, and at the same time impregnated with that heat until you blended completely with the element surrounding you. Your eyes can still see with the same acuity and sharpness, but it is as if the world had put on a reddish-brown hue that makes the objects and the situation still more scary … I had the impression that everything was being consumed by this fire … this situation is one of the most unpleasant that you can experience.”
Goethe’s disturbance probably relates to many soldiers new to battle. Yet the effects of war on the mental stability of its participants, hundreds of years ago is a grey area, however the fact that it did effect the survivors is known.
In particular veterans would describe the terror of coming under artillery fire, and others who had felt the impact of the projectile’s slipstream as it passed by them. Though physically unscathed the force of it could knock a man off his feet, French surgeons even began to notice that soldiers exposed to the phenomenon of passing shells would fall into a kind of protracted stupor. They called it “vent du boulet” explaining that the men had been frightened by the wind of a passing cannonball. In modern terms this is called cerebrospinal shock, “typified by twitching tingling and partial paralysis”.
However it was noticed that after returning from a war some men exhibited post event symptoms of battle. Presumably isolated cases became “sad, taciturn, listless, solitary, musing, full of sighs and moans. Finally, these cease to pay attention and become indifferent to everything which the maintenance of life requires of them. This disease is called nostalgia.” The French felt that men from rural areas were more likely to exhibit the symptoms of “nostalgia” and prescribed listening to music, exercise and “Useful instruction". In Britain doctors had noticed “vent du boulet” exhibited in men who had felt cannonballs pass, they diagnosed such casualties as suffering from “Wind Contusions” which may have given rise to the term of cowardly men being called “Windy” or having “Got the wind up”. The British knew of “Nostalgia” as well but they also euphemistically called it “Male Hysteria”, since women already had a “Hysteria” and this specific kind of soldier ailment would rarely manifest itself in women.
In the case of Waterloo, veteran’s accounts are laced with suggestively vivid passages of surreal thought patterns. Bullets hitting cuirassier’s breastplates and it sounding like an army of demented tinkers, or hail on a plate glass window, their fallen lying like upturned turtles on the ground, and one remembering a small tortoiseshell kitten seen lying dead in the mud near Hougoumont. Lady De Lancey noted that she had seen many men became so moved by the strain that they would shamelessly burst into tears.
In the aftermath of Waterloo a particular case of “Nostalgia” (A much better word than hysteria) seems to have displayed itself in Captain (Guards rank Lt Col) Henry Wyndham, 1790-1860. In 1815 Wyndham commanded the Light company of the 2nd (Coldstream) Guards, and at Waterloo his company was deployed in the kitchen garden beside the west wall of the Chateau Hougoumont, on Wellington’s right flank. With him was the light company of the Scots Guards both under command of Colonel McDonnell of the 2nd, both were deployed by half companies, one wing in front and one in reserve. When the first French attack hit the buildings the Guards drove the enemy back into the wood, but then became perilously over exposed and withdrew back down the line of the wall, pursued hotly by the French 1st Légère. Retiring on their reserve wings the light companies came barrelling around the sharp northwestern corner of the great barn and straight through North Gate. Which no sooner was it closed than was suddenly forced open and the French began to pour inside, a melee of visceral close quarter fighting occurred, with bayonets, swords and musket butt’s. In the struggle to close the gates and stop more French from getting in Wyndham was severely wounded but saved by Corporal James Graham, who then employed his considerable strength to helping force the gates closed. When they were shut, the remaining French inside were killed to a man in a brief but savage mopping up operation that does not bare thinking about.
Wyndham survived and returned to England to his home at Pentworth House in Sussex, however the scars of that terrifying brush with death left their mark on him. For the rest of his life Henry Wyndham, no matter how cold it was or how howling the draught let in, could never bring himself to close another door. Nor would it appear anybody else for that matter, for his niece commented once, that no Wyndham had closed a door since Hougoumont."

https://adventuresinhistoryland.com/201 ... -a-battle/
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Re: Lord Balgonie & "Shell shock"?

Postby jf42 » 10 Nov 2017 19:56

Thanks, Josh.

That story has always bothered me. I can understand Wyndham ('Windy'?) being troubled by his memories of the fighting at Hougoumont, particularly the vicious melée in and around the courtyard but- and I know it is a mistake to expect neurotic behaviour to conform to logic- but on an emotional level I would have expected him either to be troubled more by an open door and its implications, or by the act of closing a door, but not by the simple fact of 'wood int'hole' as they say in Bolton.
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Re: Lord Balgonie & "Shell shock"?

Postby Josh&Historyland » 10 Nov 2017 21:38

I always gathered the issue was in the action of closing the door triggered unavoidable memories, being as at Waterloo "his" side of things was that the door needed closed & the effort was directed thus, but all one can do is speculate.
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Re: Lord Balgonie & "Shell shock"?

Postby jf42 » 14 Nov 2017 11:43

Ah, yes, a neurotic relation to anything door-related, that would be make more sense. Not so much 'windy' as draughty.
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Re: Lord Balgonie & "Shell shock"?

Postby jf42 » 14 Nov 2017 11:59

mike snook wrote:Egypt, if nothing else, was all the rage in the 1850s wasn't it.


I wasnt aware of that.


mike snook wrote:Maybe he should have ploughed on to the even more healthy Cape of Good Hope!

As ever

M


Curiously, both my father and grandfather went to the Cape to convalesce in the 1940s. My father, somewhat involuntarily after he 'stopped one in Cyrenaica.' The bullet that punctured his liver having also clipped a lung, in March 1943 he was sent south on a steamer loaded with 'lung cases.' As they proceeded down the Red Sea at a leisurely pace, with shipboard burials an almost daily occurrence he wondered if his recovery was as assured as the doctors had told him. It looked as if the ship might run out of passengers before it reached Mombasa.
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Re: Lord Balgonie & "Shell shock"?

Postby RobD » 15 Nov 2017 19:36

A lot of people with tuberculosis went out to the Cape to convalesce - And many recovered well, the boost in vitamin D from UV exposure probably being crucial. (Alpine sanitoria succeeded for the same reason).
Cecil Rhodes was one example of a man whose poor health (probably TB) was boosted by living in the Cape.

The downside of this southern migration being that TB was introduced rapidly into Africa, where the local population had not evolved to resist it.

History makes fools of us all, and the Cape, from where I am writing, is now one of the worst-affected areas for TB on earth.

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