The Wounded Bear
Listen to Captain Murray’s Story
Like most officers in the Australian Imperial Force during the Great War I started out as an ordinary private. Getting promoted through the ranks means two things. One is the boss thinks you’ve got leadership skills, which is pretty good. The second thing is not as good. Usually you’re taking over from someone who’s been badly wounded or worse.
Fortunately for me my wound is not too bad, so no one is going to take my job. I’ll be back in the lines in no time. You can tell how many times a bloke has been wounded bad enough to be hospitalised by the stripes on his left sleeve. I’ve just got the one but I’ve seen some fellows with four or five wound stripes. They are either very lucky or very unlucky.
I got my wound when a shell exploded and some shrapnel hit me. It burned like bugger when it bit into my arm but even then I knew I’d be OK. The stretcher bearers taking me to the Aid Post were all smiles and said I scored a “Blighty Wound”. Blighty is the nickname for England and it meant my wound was bad enough to need a month or so in an English hospital but not that bad that I’d have any problems recovering.
But not all wounds can be bandaged. I’ve had a lot of men forced out of action because of Shell Shock. This is really terrible. They call it Shell Shock because sometimes the Germans send so many shells into our lines that your nerves come unstuck. Having hundreds of these things exploding around you is the scariest thing you could imagine. No-one knows if it’s because the shells have rattled your brain or some blokes nerves have frayed beyond what you could imagine. Whatever the cause, it can be so bad that some men don’t fully recover, even though we send them to good hospitals in England.
Most of us diggers who enlisted in 1914 thought this war would be a Great Adventure and we’d be home by 1915. But life at Gallipoli; in the trenches of the Western Front; and these modern weapons – like the aeroplanes, tanks and poisonous gases – make it so dangerous that we’ve long got over the romance of war. I’ll be happy to get home with my one wound stripe.
At the end of the war Australia added-up all the men who’d been hospitalised with wounds. They reckon it was around 155,000 but that probably includes blokes who got wounded more than once. They didn’t add-up all the men who were hospitalised with sickness, disease and other injuries. If we did that the number would be much, much higher.