On Tuesday 4th June 2019, over 125 GCSE History and prospective Year 8 GCSE History students took part in a ‘Medicine in the Trenches’ workshop, run by Frontline Living History.

All students now have to study ‘The British sector of the Western Front, 1914-18: injuries, treatment and the trenches’ in-depth as a part of the History GCSE and this session had been specifically designed to help support the teaching and learning of the Edexcel ‘Medicine Through Time’ historic environment study.

Two authentically dressed World War One officers showed the pupils how wounded and sick soldiers in the trenches would have been treated.The workshops were supported by hundreds of authentic artefacts, hands-on and role play activities and carefully-chosen period images and film. Most importantly they were based entirely upon the actual experiences of those who served Britain during the Great War. Pupils had the opportunity to try on gas masks, become stretcher-bearers and handle many artefacts from the trenches, including a deactivated Lee Enfield rifle, blood transfusion kits, amputation saws, helmets and some shrapnel.

Students explored important topics such as:

  • Conditions in the trenches and how they impacted upon the health and well-being of soldiers, how they affected the wounds, recovery and treatment of casualties.

  • Common trench illnesses including lice infestation, trench foot and PUO.

  • Wounding and disease agents, and their relative significance.

  • The introduction and effectiveness of personal protective equipment such as shrapnel helmets and gas masks.

  • The roles of the different medical staff working on the Western Front.

  • The Casualty Evacuation Chain from Battlefield to Blighty.

  • The legacy of Great War battlefield medicine—how experimentation, improvisation and innovation developed medical techniques and technologies leading to better care for Great War casualties and for everyone since.

It was a fantastic day, which really brought history to life for our pupils. A huge thank you to David and Richard from Frontline Living History for a well-run, interactive and informative workshop.