Wednesday, March 18, 2009

La Grande Guerre des Soignants


Dr. Patrick Loodts, author of the splendid site, Médecins de la Grande Guerre,  has written a book, in collaboration with his daughter, Isabelle Masson-Loodts, on Belgium's medical personnel during the First World War. Faced with an appalling lack of equipment at the beginning of the war, these heroic men and women struggled against tremendous odds to care for its victims.

From the book description: 

Durant la Première Guerre Mondiale, au milieu d'un continent tombé par l'oeuvre des nationalismes exacerbés, dans la plus grande des barbaries, des hommes et des femmes, isolés dans des abris ou des baraquements signalés d'un croix rouge, ont fait preuve d'une merveilleuse imagination pour soigner le mieux possible les victimes de la guerre. Grâce à eux, la médecine fit, en quatre ans, des progrès considérables. Jamais ces soignants ne perdirent foi en leur idéal, malgré les moyens dérisoires à leur disposition et le peu de considération dont ils joussaient au début des hostilités. 

Au travers du récit des progrès médicaux réalisés durant ce conflit et des témoignages de médecins, infirmières et brancardiers ayant pour la plupart oeuvré en Belgique, les auteurs nous expliquent pourquoi La Grande Guerre des Soignants ne doit pas être oubliée!

During the First World War, in the midst of a continent fallen prey to exacerbated nationalisms, surrounded by the worst barbarities, men and women, isolated in shelters or camps marked with a red cross, demonstrated amazing ingenuity in their efforts to care, as best they could, for the victims of war. Thanks to these people, in four years, medicine made considerable progress. These caretakers never lost faith in their ideal, despite the laughable means at their disposal, and the lack of consideration they experienced at the outset of hostilities.

Through the discussion of the medical progress achieved during the conflict, and through the testimonies of doctors, nurses, and stretcher-bearers, who worked, for the most part, in Belgium, the authors make clear to us why the Great War of the medical personnel must not be forgotten!

From the preface by Dominique Hanson, director of Belgium's Royal Museum of the Army and Military History:

...C'est le premier mérite de cet ouvrage. Il jette un éclairage sur différentes facettes de la problematique médicale au sein de l'armée belge durant le premier conflit mondial. Il suit tout d'abord l'organisation ou plutôt la réorganisation de son service médical au fur et à mesure des opérations militaires jusqu'à la stabilisation du front, puis, au fil des grands épisodes conduisant à l'Armistice... Son deuxième mérite et de présenter une iconographie non seulement variée mais remarquable et originale. 

...(I)l est heurex que l'auteur soit un médecin. Ses propos et commentaires sont moins désincarnés et plus humains que ne risquent de l'être ceux d'un historien maniant le scalpel froid et méthodique de la critique historique. 

...This is the first merit of this work. It sheds light on the different facets of medical issues within the Belgian army, during the first worldwide conflict. It follows, first of all, the organization, or, rather, the reorganization of Belgium's medical service, alongside the development of military operations, up to the stabilization of the front; then, in the context of the major episodes leading to the Armistice...Its second merit is to present illustrations which are not only varied, but remarkable and original.

...It is fortunate that the author is a doctor. His comments and discussions are less abstract and more human than those of a historian, coldly and methodically wielding the scalpel of historical criticism, might be...

I encourage anyone who understands French to listen to this interview with Dr. Loodts and his daughter; they discuss their topic with such warmth and passion! 

2 comments:

de Brantigny........................ said...

I have been to this site. It has reminded me of my time in the service. I have a little trouble with some of the pictures. Probably why I never watch too many war movies.

What the Prussians did in the first war the Nazis lived up to in the second.

Poor Belguim one of the most peaceful corners of the planet no war in 99 years came to it's borders and then the two worst in 30 years.

Thanks for your article.

Brantigny

Matterhorn said...

Yes, it is horrible what they went through.

It makes me angry when agitators trying to get Belgium split up along the Flemish/Walloon divide talk contemptuously about the place as a "artificial country," with no "real identity"; I even recall reading in a Flemish separatist polemic that Belgium "never inspired sacrifice or charity" so there was no point keeping it in existence.... This is a horrible thing to say, when all the Belgians- Flemings and Walloons - have gone through so much together, and when there are so many stories of heroism- in fact there was ALOT of "sacrifice and charity."