War Wounds

Medicine and the trauma of conflict.

War Wounds - front cover 300dpi 2011-02-17

Papers from an international conference held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, September 2009

The history of warfare and the history of medicine are closely intertwined. War has been an accelerator of advances in medical treatment and surgery. As modern weaponry became more destructive, medicine developed techniques and procedures to deal with the volume and nature of battlefield casualties. Preventative medicine has also increased the effectiveness of fighting forces through improvements in soldiers’ health and disease resistance.

The major wars of the last hundred years—from the First World War to more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan—have driven advances in treatments for wounds and pain management, the use of antibacterial agents and more effective prophylaxis against disease and infection, as well as the development of radical new approaches to evacuating, treating and healing the injured.

Nevertheless, war continues to inflict its toll of carnage and human misery on not just combatants but also civilians who are, too often, either the intended or accidental targets of modern conflicts.  For veterans and their families too, the post-war legacy of combat experience can sometimes seem as severe and persistent as the effects of wounds and injuries.

This book will bring together a collection of chapters by historians, medical practitioners and researchers, former and serving military medical officers, surgeons, nurses and veterans, who will explore the impact of war, wounds and trauma through the historical record, reported narratives and personal experiences. The lessons of the past should serve to illuminate problems of the present and to enhance understanding of veterans’ issues and the enduring impact of war on Australian society.

Major themes of the book include the following:

  • Casualties in war, treatment in the field and medical evacuation, civilian surgical teams and field hospitals
  • Soldiers’ and doctors’ perspectives (personal accounts) of wounds and treatment
  • Mine casualties, fear of wounds and acute trauma
  • Shell shock, self inflicted wounds and combat fatigue
  • Illnesses and diseases of war (malaria, dysentery, venereal disease, etc.), maintaining soldiers’ health, the evolution of service medicine
  • Facially disfigured soldiers, advances in surgery, rehabilitation of wounded veterans
  • The cost of war and veterans’ health studies, the aftermath and post mortems, including the Agent Orange debate
  • The lighter side (doctors’ and veterans’ memories)
  • Living with the effects, triumph over disabilities

This collection of papers will showcase the ongoing work of outstanding scholars, medical practitioners, serving defence personnel and veterans. It will heighten general awareness of this important area of military history among the medical and veteran communities and the wider public. It will also highlight the issues of veterans’ health and help to resolve a number of ongoing concerns about specific veteran health effects of war service.

War Wounds is a truly unique book, which offers considerable insights into an aspect of war that is often mentioned but seldom examined as it is here. Medical professionals, military personnel and the general public will all find it a remarkably revealing read.

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Joint Volume Editors:

Elizabeth Stewart is a historian in the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial. She worked for several years as a research officer on the Official History of Australia’s Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948-75 and from 2004-8 was content leader for the Vietnam section of the Memorial’s Conflicts 1945 to today galleries. She is the co-author of two books (with Gary McKay): Viet Nam Shots: A photographic account of Australians at War (2001), and With Healing Hands: the untold story of the Australian civilian surgical teams in Vietnam (2009).


Ashley Ekins is Head of the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. A graduate of the University of Adelaide, he specialises in the history of the First World War and the Vietnam War. He is the co-author (with Ian McNeill) of two volumes of the The Official History of Australian Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948-1975 dealing with Australian army operations in the Vietnam War: On the Offensive (2003), and Fighting to the Finish (forthcoming 2011). He has published widely on the role of Australian soldiers in the First World War and contributed chapters to several books, including the volume he compiled and edited, 1918 Year of Victory: The end of the Great War and the shaping of history (Exisle 2010).



Jay Winter is Charles J. Stille Professor of History at Yale University. He is an internationally renowned scholar of the First World War and its impact on the 20th century

Ashley Ekins is Head of the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Kerry Neale is a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, Australia. She is currently finalising her thesis, entitled “Without the Faces of Men:” the Experiences of Facially Disfigured Great War Veterans of Britain and the Dominions.”

Marina Larsson is a Melbourne historian who has held lecturing positions at La Trobe and Monash universities. She is the author of the award-winning book  Shattered Anzacs: Living with the Scars of War (2009), a study which explores the impact of war disability on First World War returned soldiers and their families.

Paul Weindling is Wellcome Trust Research Professor in the History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University. He directs a project on victims of Nazi human experiments covering several thousand life histories of victims. He also researches physicians who were refugees from Nazism.

Debbie Lackerstein is a lecturer in history in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra. She is currently engaged in research into different perspectives on the liberation of the German concentration and labour camps at the end of the European war in 1945.

Simon Gandevia is a medical graduate and neurophysiologist. He is a founder and Deputy Director of the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute. He has received three research doctorates (PhD, MD and DSc), all from the University of New South Wales. His research focuses on how the human brain controls movement.

David Bradford is a sexual health physician, foundation fellow of the Australasian Chapter of Sexual Health Medicine and was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to sexual health medicine.

Elizabeth Stewart is a historian in the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial.

Graham Walker graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, into the Royal Australian Infantry. He saw active service attached to the 2/7 DEO Gurkha Rifles in Sabah and Sarawak during Indonesian—Malaysian Confrontation and with the 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam where he was Mentioned in Despatches.

Peter Edwards is a consultant historian and writer, who has published on Australian defence and foreign policies for more than thirty years. He has held professorial positions at Deakin University in Melbourne, the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, and currently at Flinders University in Adelaide.

Tony White qualified first as a physician and then as a dermatologist. His appointments have included Visiting Medical Officer, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Clinical Senior Lecturer (University of Sydney) and Colonel Consultant Dermatologist, Army Office Canberra. He is in private practice in Sydney and has a special interest in remote area dermatology.

Sharon Cooper (now Sharon Bown) joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a direct entry Nursing Officer in January 1999. She deployed to East Timor in 2000 and again in 2004, when she was badly injured in a helicopter crash, suffering spinal injuries and facial fractures. Following 12 months of rehabilitation, Sharon returned to unrestricted service.

Graham Edwards was wounded twice as a serviceman in Vietnam, the second time losing his legs to a ‘jumping jack’ anti – personnel land mine. He then spent ten years with the Commonwealth Public Service in the Departments of Defence, Veterans’ Affairs and in the Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service. Graham was elected as a Councillor with the City of Stirling in 1980 and in 1983 was elected to the Parliament of Western Australia, where he served for fourteen years including seven years as a Minister. In 1998 Graham was elected to the House of Representatives in Federal Parliament where he served until he retired in 2007.





Name: War Wounds

Editors: Elizabeth Stewart & Ashley Ekins

Hardback Price Australia: $49.99

eBook Price New Zealand: $9.99

Size: 234 x 153mm or 9¼ X 6 in

Pages: 240 pages, with approximately 30 photographs

ISBN: 978-1-921497-87-2


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