‘But now when I am a maimed and not fit for manual labour, this country has no further use for us.’
These are the words of a disgruntled ex-serviceman, Thomas Kelly, a private in the Gordon Highlanders, and a man who returned from the First World War in receipt of a 100% disability pension after having both of his legs amputated above the knee. These are the words of one ex-serviceman who returned from the war with a disability, but his situation was not an unfamiliar one. Nearly 6 million British and German men were disabled by injury or disease in the period 1914-1918 1. The discovery of this letter written by Kelly is a refreshing one, and one that allows us to springboard into the wider story of the opportunity for return to employment for these men.
Training schemes to aid men such as Kelly were set up throughout the country. Many were linked to the more prominent limb-fitting hospitals, such as The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital For Limbless Sailors And Soldiers at Erskine in Scotland, and the Queen Mary Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital at Roehampton. Initially, Kelly received 12 months of training in boot repairing under the instruction of Bailie MacIntosh, Bootmaker, a private employer. However, even with such training, he was never able to obtain employment as a boot repairer and was advised that he was unfit for such work. Kelly received no pay during this training period except a one-off sum, essentially to keep him motivated. He was, however, receiving a full disability allowance at this time. Continue reading »
- 1. Deborah Cohen, The War Come Home: Disabled Veterans In Britain And Germany, 1914-1939 (California: University Of California Press, 2001) p.1 ^