Due to the rate of venereal disease (VD) in the armed forces during the First World War, there some dismay regarding the demobilisation, or discharge, of men. How could it be ensured that they were not suffering from VD in a communicable form?
A medical examination could give some degree of an answer, but the most stringent means of detection was the Wassermann test (an antibody test for syphilis). However, with the large numbers of men to deal with, this was not deemed practicable. Everything depends on numbers: too many men, requiring the help of even more bacteriologists; if they wanted to keep the men until they were cured, then a large amount of hospital accommodation would be needed. In April 1918, the War Office stated that:
‘The Officer i/c the hospital, or the Senior Medical Officer of the discharge centre… will confidently inform the MO of Health of the County or County Borough in which the man intends to reside that the soldier is suffering from VD, in order that suitable arrangements may be made for the man’s treatment on his return to civil life.’
There was also fear with regards to men who had been discharged and were suffering from VD and the potential result this could have upon their wives, or upon the women they might marry in the future. Continue reading »