A Silver Lining Through the Dark Clouds Shining: Marshall vs Boyle


British soldiers with wheeled strecher on the Boiselle-Amiens road. IWM Q721

From 1912, anaesthetics were included in the curriculum of all medical schools. However, when Great Britain entered the First World War on 4th August 1914, the role of an anaesthetic specialist was not recognised.

During the War years, this changed and specialist anaesthetic posts were created in the military in 1916. The change was driven by the death of nine million people during this global conflict and an unprecedented number of wounded. The training these
anaesthetists received is unclear.

The provision of pain relief and anaesthesia was crucial. At the start of the War nitrous oxide and oxygen anaesthesia was in its infancy. This is the way wounded soldiers received treatment:

Evacuation to regimental aid posts

Sent to advanced dressing stations or field ambulances

Sent to casualty clearing stations in ambulance convoys

Evacuated to a base hospital by train or barge

Transferred to the UK on a hospital ship

Every hospital that could, received casualties and extra hospitals were set up in universities, schools and stately homes.