Shell Shock: Paul Dudley White


Paul Dudley White (1886-1973)
Diary, September 27, 1916

Bequest of Dr. White to the Library of Harvard Medical School, 1973

I received five admissions in C9 last night, all of them shell shock cases from the Morval fighting on Monday.  All but one were badly buried and had exceedingly narrow escapes, one especially who was almost suffocated under 6 feet of earth as the result of a Boche shell explosion.  His comrade was dead when they dug him out.  He himself was unconscious.  He complains now of headache and dizziness, the usual story.  The more severe shell shocks have ringing in their ears, nightmares and many are aphasic.  One of my five who came in yesterday cannot say a word, though he is apparently perfectly rational.  I found him with his clothes on, sitting on the side of his cot, shaking all over.  He tries to speak but doesn't utter a word, merely an inarticulate sound at times.  The more he tries, the more he trembles and shakes.  When I asked him for the address of his next-of-kin, he showed me a picture of his wife and baby and then after much effort managed to scrawl out Paislie, Scotland.  One of the shell shock cases which came in last week was somewhat similar except that he constantly made grimaces.




Cardiologist Paul Dudley White went overseas to France in August 1916 as a member of the supplement to the Third Harvard Unit, working for several months with the B.E.F. at No. 22 General Hospital.  He then returned the following year as part of the Massachusetts General Hospital unit at the A.E.F.'s Base Hospital No. 6. 

White's war diaries provide a detailed and vivid account of his medical work and hospital experiences in Camiers.  The passage displayed recounts a case of shell shock following an attack during the Battle of the Somme.


The Harvard Surgical Unit
Treating the Wounded
Shell Shock: Paul Dudley White