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.