In a series of blog posts on medical technology in the First World War, we’ve attempted to cover many of the ways warfare influenced people’s lives well beyond the war itself. This month we focus on vision loss, and on convalescence homes during and after the conflict.
There are many reasons soldiers, and indeed civilians, lost their sight during the war. Some injuries were more immediate, such as shrapnel wounds, and others could be diagnosed long after the conflict, with blindness caused by mustard gas being reported 20 years after the war’s end.
In 1914 St. Dunstan’s Hostel for Blind Soldiers and Sailors was founded by Sir Arthur Pearson, author of Victory Over Blindness. A year later it moved to a property in Regent’s Park. The idea was to provide a hostel where ex-servicemen would go after they had received hospital treatment to ‘learn to be blind’. 1 The legacy of the war meant that in 1921 men were still waiting to be accomodated, with 57 men awaiting admission. By 1929 there were still two thousand men in their care. The intake included 103 colonial ex-servicemen who were trained during their time at St Dunstan’s. 2 Continue reading »