7 juin 2018

The aftermath of Wold War I

Key figures

The First World War resulted in heavy human losses for both the French and German sides, as illustrated by these figures:  

  • – 10 million dead
  • – 19 million wounded
  • – 10 million mutilated
  • – 9 million orphans 
  • – Germany : 1,950,000 dead (1 out of every 30 inhabitants)
  • – Great-Britain : 870,000 dead  (1 out of every 57 inhabitants)
  • – France : 1,391,000 dead (1 out of every 25 inhabitants )

Gueules cassées (broken faces)

Soldiers returning from the front were often traumatized and disfigured. They were known as gueules cassées or “broken faces”. It is estimated that 40% of French soldiers were rendered disabled and 14% of the wounded were facially disfigured. Artillery and machineguns accounted for over two-thirds of all wounded. Disfigured soldiers were sent to specialized clinics, where they received facial-reconstruction treatments including medical and aesthetic prostheses. It was during this period that maxillofacial surgery was born.

Shell shock

In addition to physical injuries, soldiers suffered especially from mental traumas. It was during the war that the term “shell shock” was coined to describe the posttraumatic stress disorder afflicting frontline soldiers. 

Treated by specialists, this disorder would affect both the individual soldier (loss of personality, fear of being rejected by one’s family, etc.) and society, as shell-shocked soldiers were isolated and ignored. Various charitable associations and the Loterie Nationale launched in 1933 would eventually provide financial assistance to these wounded soldiers and encourage their social reintegration.