The Backwash of War: The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as Witnessed by an American Hospital Nurse

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  • Hardcover
  • 158 pages
  • The Backwash of War: The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as Witnessed by an American Hospital Nurse
  • Ellen N. La Motte
  • Dutch
  • 18 July 2017
  • 9789023455646

10 thoughts on “The Backwash of War: The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as Witnessed by an American Hospital Nurse

  1. says:

    The Backwash of War The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as Witnessed by an American Hospital Nurse by Ellen N La Motte is the account of an American battlefield in nurse in French hospital in Belgium The stories of her experiences were so horrifying and bad for moral the book was banned in the United States until 1934 When he could stand it no longer, he fired a revolver up through the roof of his mouth, but he made a mess of it The ball tore out his left eye, and then lodged somewhere under his skull, so they bundled him into an ambulance and carried him, cursing and screaming, to the nearest field hospital.These are the opening two sentences of the first of fourteen stories The story goes on to explain that since he failed in his attempt he was to be nursed back to health, using valuable medical supplies, and when he was well enough, put up against a wall and shot What La Motte witnessed scenes like this and others that make Johnny Got His Gun seem like a child s book La Motte does not seem to have an agenda like many anti war writers, but wants to bring to light the realities of a romanticized war Medals were handed out much like candy It was for the benefit of the morale of the civilian population, that when they saw a soldier walking the streets of Paris missing limbs they would notice the Coss de Guerre pinned on his chest Other stories tell of the stench of the hospitals where gangrene and meningitis were winning many of the battles A Surgical Triumph is a very disturbing story on a wounded son of a hairdresser Modern advances in medical science saved this soldier s life and it is a triumph for the medical community, but is it a triumph on a personal level La Motte removes all romantic notions of war as seen from the eyes of a nurse She tells of the soldiers, medical staff, and the generals who make frequent rounds handing out medals in extremis Despite motorized ambulances and a serious attempt to take care of the wounded, WWI was a miserable for anyone wounded as it was for anyone in the trenches History tends to soften our views of the past In this year, the one hundredth anniversary of World War I, the re release of La Motte s book will remind readers that no matter how glorious war is made out to be, there is a very dark and tragic side to every war.

  2. says:

    has the Gutenberg link, if I can figure out how to do it.Here is the webpage, which might be simpler Steelwhisper This short collection of vignettes, written by an American nurse, is based on her service at field hospitals in Belgium during WW1 It speaks volumes about the reality of that war and about the absurdity of all wars This book should be read by all who want to know what that war really was like Ellen Newbold La Motte was deeply moved by her experiences What you read is deeply cynical This cynicism is absolutely appropriate Her message rings loud and clear.

  3. says:

    Ellen La Motte, a woman who made her name in nursing in the United States by developing new, and at the time controversial, methods for treating tuberculosis, was among the first American nurses to volunteer to work in Europe during the early years of The Great War She worked not in Paris, but in a front line unit 10 kilometers from the front line, a line which, she points out, never moves, merely takes lives on both sides She is stationed at that field hospital for months and primarily works with the most gravely wounded There is a dirty sediment at the bottom of most souls War, superb as it is, is not necessarily a filtering process, by which men and nations may be purified Well, there are many people to write you of the noble side, the heroic side, the exalted side of war I must write you of what I have seen, the other side, the backwash They are both true. loc 696 The details are often bloody and graphic for this was a bloody and graphic war, violence was all around, with occasional days of quiet and boredom waiting for the next influx of casualties There is so little to be done Surgery, morphine, the priest, the medals, death This war was called the first industrialized war but man had not yet learned how to treat it s heroic victims.The tone of the book varies from affronted to cynical to what seems veiled and not so veiled sarcasm She is a nurse but also a reporter.La Motte originally sent articles back to The Atlantic Monthly and then published these 14 in a book under the title Backwash in 1916 The United States entered the War in 1917 and the government banned her book in 1918 She republished it in the 1930s It has been reissued now for the Centenary of World War One.This is a short book but that is really all one needs.An ecopy of this book has been provided by the publisher through NetGalley for the purpose of review

  4. says:

    Brutal, poignant and honest account of the devastation of war and the succeeding deterioration of humanity.Pretty tough book to read yet utterly engaging, I couldn t look away The truth in this book is hard to swallow, the vilest side of humans could be witnessed during trying times like war After reading so much on the sufferings of the severely wounded from the start till the end of the book, I felt the hospital aren t really helping these people They are just adding on to their misery and pain Makes me think bleeding to death is merciful than rotting inside our while you are still alive These unfortunate soldiers could have pass on faster if not for the intervention of medicine in the guise of saving life I felt like yelling at them to STOP PATCHING UP THE DYING AND LEAVE THEM THE HELL ALONE Leave them in peace please He was pretty ill when brought in, and if he had died promptly, as he should have done, it would have been better But it happened at that time that there was a surgeon connected with the hospital who was bent on making a reputation for himself, and this consisted in trying to prolong the lives of wounded men who ought normally and naturally to have died So this surgeon worked hard to save Grammont, and certainly succeeded in prolonging his life, and in prolonging his suffering, over a very considerable portion of time He worked hard over him, and he used on him everything he could think of, everything that money could buy. The tone of this book is dripping with unbelievable amount of sarcasm I could feel the author s intense anger reverberating through the text with such force I felt like being punch in the gut and slapped on the face BUT it s alright because her words are nothing but the truth however ugly the truth was and I am glad she had the courage to write this book and to tell it like it is She was using sarcasm as a medium to bring across her distaste on war and was deeply sadden by the devastation it has brought to the innocents.For a in depth review please do refer to Steelwhisper s thoughful review I have to thank her bringing this book to my attention.BOOK DETAILS Title The Backwash Of WarAuthor Ellen Newbold La MotteG P Putnam s SonsPublication Date October 12th, 2008 Ebook First published in year 1916 Publisher G P Putnam s Sons New York and LondonType Memoir, approximately 24,156 wordsGenre Historical War Memoir a diary turn book Tags Keywords view spoiler classics, historical, soldiers, war, severely wounded, dying, death, prolonged sufferings, war, true account, diary, nursing, military hospital, humanity, amputation, disfigurement, tragedy, disability, mutilation hide spoiler

  5. says:

    I stumbled across The Backwash of War while looking for accounts and diaries from medical personnel.Already then I had been aware of something curious in some of the nurses diaries I had been reading You get to think, and it s maintained then as now, that all these nurses, whether professionals or VADs, were angels in white , relieving the pain, sadnesses and stress of the freshly wounded soldiers, or holding their hands as they died That sort of thing, the propaganda.However, while there were a very few accounts which clearly showed very compassionate nurses, the vast majority were anything but Some of these diaries came over as downright cold, distracted even, as if the patients were a nuisance, some disturbence to whatever else for they actually had undertaken this work It was quite awful considering all those broken men, shuttled through the medical system like so much barely alive meat and treated without much compassion at all I was puzzled I mean, why would anyone risk their life and well being, ostensibly to help, only to treat the wounded patients worse than one would treat cattle on the way to the slaughterbank So, I came upon La Motte s small booklet, started reading and my jaw dropped so far under the table, I had to go hunt for it This book is dripping with the most vicious kind of sarcasm and cynicism you can imagine It is red hot aflame, aggressive, so brutal that you back off a bit for fear it bites you, and badly at that Ellen La Motte is clearly very very angry about a lot of what happened during her time at the front She tells it in short vignettes, the length of a letter, and she doesn t spare anyone Not the cold fellow nurses, either too religious to dress a naked man, or too intent on meeting an officer for marriage, or simply out at the front to be away from a stifling home Not the many callous surgeons, often experimenting on the fresh meat cycled through their OP theatres and wards, or testing how much the human body could deal with before dying The army, which on one hand forces nurses and doctors to put together the deserters, so they can be shot, or pinning medals on the chests of those about to die The soldiers and the veterans themselves, and those gullible people at home She gave them all her anger and rage.Acid will drip hotly from your brains after reading, but I finally grasped why so many accounts of medical people read so very curiously It took another book, Not So Quiet Stepdaughters of War, also written by a woman, an ambulance driver, to set matters really into perspective for me Because I have to confess I initially thought La Motte had to be way over the top Smith settles the score with her book, however La Motte quite clearly was even comparatively mild in her accusations and descriptions She also was absolutely truthful, as Smith s book bears out by referring to many exact same things, just from another perspective These two women have helped me to a deeper insight into what really was taking place at the front and directly behind it during the Great War than practically everyone else put together, maybe with the exception of several of the war artists It is by the way absolutely not astonishing that both books, La Motte s and later Smith s were forbidden rsp taken out of print They both do what George Scott Atkinson demands in his A Soldier s Diary that the truth be told to the public without belittling it.

  6. says:

    When he could stand it no longer, he fired a revolver up through the roof of his mouth, but he made a mess of it And so begins the first of thirteen vignettes, simplistic and simultaneously elegant recounts of war The Great War, The War to End All Wars and the events witnessed by a military nurse The memories, told bluntly and without apologetic snide, seem to flood into you as you read each account the second random than the first and the third arbitrary than the second All told with the same clinical monotone and the unpretentious grace of conviction, sharing only the destroyed foundation of war and its aftermath Each one seeping into the crevices of your skin, bruising you and staining you like dried blood under the edges of your fingernails or crawling ever further into the curve of your cuticles and yet, the accounts are ghastly, fogging your literary senses in a way that makes it feel like fiction, like fable, so clearly evident in the nearly comical and feigned detachment, articulated by strict precision of the our author, Ellen N La Motte, one of the most celebrated voices of the First World WarShe was to demonstrate that lives could be saved as well as lost on the front line and that courage was not solely confined to the soldiers of the savage conflict It seems to be the core belief of the novel, or series of essays rather, that lives could be saved and that lives could be lost both on the front lines of the war each man fighting his way through suffocation of an oppression manifesting itself in only glimpses and on the home fronts too the fear of a child being taken the death of civilians mourned only momentarily by their loved ones Through all the accounts of death and the maladies of the body told in semi graphic detail, one message stood out to me in its pulsating passion and its captivating conviction, a message of the decay of mind and the absence of reason Somewhere higher up, a handful of men had been able to impose upon thousands, a state of mind which was not in them, of themselvesIndividual nobility was superfluous All the Idealist demanded was physical endurance from the mass There was a part early on in the book that I fixated on It was in La Patrie Reconnaissante translated as, recovering the homeland , when, in a field hospital a man lay dying, suffering through agony and fits delirium as he waited for his end Somehow, this man s death seemed, to me, to epitomize the way we wage our wars fast and quick after the brewing of tension, with blind spots in between the start and the end making up the moments in which we wonder if the possible triumph is truly worth the callouses and cuts on our hands, before being torn down with the jagged edges of bureaucracy, leaving fire in its wake The pain we are able to cast The pride we carry on our dying shoulders through this all It all seems so simple in the end, after the blood has been shed and the nations have been divided just a chapter in a textbook or a hour on the discovery channel After all of this, I still believe Motte said it better And all that night he died, and all the next day he died, and all the following night he died, until towards the nearing end it became evident that his was a filthy death He died after three days cursing and raving Before he died, that end of the ward smelled foully, and his foul words, shouted at the top of his delirious voice, echoed foully Everyone was glad when it was over As for the war, like the man, it seems once it approached The end came suddenly, and everyone was glad when it was over.

  7. says:

    WHAT an amazing book Honestly, I don t believe I ve ever read a historical source like it THE BACKWASH OF WAR is not done as a documentary And it certainly isn t first person nor the type of history you would get with Xenophone or Gregory of Tours Instead, this is a book of vignettes And the author, Ellen Newbold La Motte, gives you stories that are drawn on her experience as an American nurse volunteering in Flanders during WWI.Her writing is astonishingly good It s philosophical, poetic, poignant, and very successful in relating the horrors of war In fact, if I had had her experiences, I m quite sure I would have had to write them down, or else go mad.Take the suicide When he could stand it no longer, he fired a revolver up through the roof of his mouth, but he made a mess of it This ball tore out his left eye, and then lodged somewhere under his skull, so they bundled him into an ambulance and carried him, cursing and screaming, to the nearest field hospital.Since he had failed in the job, his life must be saved, he must be nursed back to health, until he was well enough to be stood up against a wall and shot. Nurse Ellen writes of the irony of the time and expense of saving this man How the surgeon took so much time to partially repair him, and spent so much in materials to save his life, items that might have been used for men who wished to live All that ether and gauze All spent so that the poor fellow, with his eye left dangling, could be shot by his countrymen Because well, discipline is important.About the Croix de Guerre she writes, He had performed no special act of bravery, but all mutil s are given the Croix de Guerre, for they will recover and go back to Paris, and in walking about the streets of Paris, with one leg gone, or an arm gone, it is good for the morale of the country that they should have a Croix de Guerre pinned on their breasts. This is a blunt author A blunt book A book I reacted to strongly If you are like me you ll find her insight into how the system worked very interesting Just as some of her asides are She comments at one point, for example, about the patients in her ward discussing how when they over took a German gunnery site, they found the Germans chained to their weapons.Read this book which was banned in the United States after we entered the war You will not find stories that are purposefully uplifting But I think you ll marvel at the women and men who worked in that horrific environment Who volunteered for it review copy.Includes excellent introductory material that gives background information on the author and the book.

  8. says:

    I was provided a gratis ebook copy of this book through NetGalley.This 200 page book packs a powerful punch It s said that any book that s truly about war is anti war, and that s the case here La Motte never judges the politics behind the Great War the greatest open criticism she offers is in one section where she scoffs at the men who show off pictures of their wives and sniffle at how they miss her, then use convenient Belgian prostitutes , but she paints a visceral image of the consequences The forward of the book says that the original publication sold well in America in 1916, but after the country entered the war, the government quietly banned its publication That doesn t come as a huge surprise to me The book is extremely graphic even by modern standards.These are the two opening sentences in the first story When he could stand it no longer, he fired a revolver up through the roof of his mouth, but he made a mess of it The ball tore out his left eye, and then lodged somewhere under his skull, so they bundled him into an ambulance and carried him, cursing and screaming, to the nearest field hospital.In particular, La Motte isn t shy about describing the conflicting stenches in the ward I had to Google the term anal fistula good times, there As a writer who loves researching medical subjects, this book is gold I will likely buy a print copy so I can easily bookmark sections I can compare it to A Surgeon in Khaki by Arthur Anderson Martin, a WWI memoir of a doctor who died in duty soon after his book s publication Martin is far gentlemanly in his ward descriptions, instead going into detail about the different damage offered by varying types of bullets, and a constant frustration at Britain s lack of preparedness for the war La Motte as a female and American nurse is much deeper into the psychology of the ward she offered true vignettes, rather than stories Both are excellent books, and the writers bring very different viewpoints to the same horrible place.There are many books and reprints on World War I being released right now at this centennial of the war s begin These chronicles are invaluable They offer an important look at the past, but also show how little has changed.

  9. says:

    For English, please see below Ellen N La Motte beschreef als verpleegster in WOI het leven in een veldhospitaal vlakbij de loopgraven Haar boek werd in 1916 verboden omdat het een kant van de oorlog schetste die de overheden liever niet gepubliceerd zagen Mede door haar laconieke schrijfstijl zijn de verhalen erg confronterend over kapotgeschoten mannen die gruwelijk verminkt naar huis terugkeren of voldoende opgelapt worden om opnieuw als kanonnenvoer te kunnen dienen Erwin Mortier geeft in zijn inleiding heldere achtergrondinformatie, maar ik miste toch nog hier en daar een voetnoot met wat extra uitleg voor iemand die niet zoveel afweet van de situatie in de Eerste Wereldoorlog English This is the true story of a American nurse in a field hospital very near to the infamous trenches of World War I I put true between brackets above, because it is clear that she intended this for publication and hence it is not like a real diary or journal Her book was published during the war, but quickly got banned on both sides of the ocean because the governments didn t like her vivid and accurate description of the situation She writes about men who return home totally mutilated, or who get patched up just so that they can get blown up again Her laconic writing style makes it even upsetting.In this new Dutch edition, Erwin Mortier added an illuminating introduction He also included two other pieces by La Motte that are less literary and personal in style The only drawback I noticed was that there were still some things unclear to me while reading her text, so I would have appreciated some footnotes here and there with specific explanations Otherwise, this is a book which taught me lot about this war that s always a bit overshadowed by that other big war.

  10. says:

    This short collection of stories are extremely powerful I will carry their impact for a long while The writer, in her wisdom and sensibilities, seems ahead of her time Not many have taken the time, or interest, in writing about the backwash of war, about the lingering and suffering in its wake This work gives life to these less glamorous, necessary journeys between glory and death.

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