During the Great War, the battalion and regimental stretcher bearers transformed the medical landscape of the western front battlefield and beyond. In this presentation, Emily Mayhew will detail how bearers developed extraordinary skills at both the point of wounding and during the casualty evacuation phase that ensured casualties were able to survive complex injuries that would otherwise have been deemed fatal.
With little formal medical training prior to their arrival in France, bearer teams worked closely with their RMOs to adapt to the challenging landscape and casualty continuum. By 1916, the stretcher bearer skillset included haemorrhage control, pain management, specialist injury-specific casevac, futility decision making, end of life care, working knowledge of German, PoW walking wounded management, cartography, innoculation, battalion morale maintenance - and most of this whilst under fire.
First World War stretcher bearers are the protoypes for today's paramedics, and have thus transformed modern civilian as well as military medical care. Their greatest achievement, sustained over the entire period of fighting on the Western Front, was to offer hope of survival and care to soldiers dreading and enduring the consequences of the battlefield.