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From the Editor
  1. Johno Breeze
  1. Correspondence to  Major John Breeze, Specialist Registrar in Maxillofacial Surgery, Academic Department of Military Surgery and Trauma, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, Research Park, Vincent Drive, Birmingham, B15 2SQ, UK; johno.breeze{at}

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I am very proud to have collated this special edition of the Journal commemorating the start of the First World War, a conflict that helped define the fledgling Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) which had only been formed 15 years prior. Each author was asked to identify an article written in the J R Army Med Corps (or in one case the BMJ) during the war, or relating to the medical care during that period, and to write a commentary on it to identify concepts first introduced during that period and to demonstrate how their specialty has developed since.

Many conditions that are now so familiar to us were first described during this period, ranging from disorders as varied as shell shock, with its contemporaneous comparison to post-traumatic stress disorder, to trench mouth (destructive gum disease seen in poorly nourished individuals who usually smoke). Articles written on what would become physiotherapy or allied corps, such as nursing, were not published at all, and those authors were asked to find articles on similar topics or to specifically comment on why such articles were not published at that time. I expect that to many readers, the defining articles will be the excerpts taken from two previously unpublished war diaries. One is from the great grandfather of a serving RAMC officer, and is accompanied by his original photographs of life with the East Lancs Field Ambulance, and the second is the diary of Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Goodwin. This diary was bequeathed by the family to the Army Medical Services museum and gives an enthralling account of how the actions of an RAMC officer would directly influence, at points, the course of the whole war.

In the interests of space, the complete original articles are not reproduced, but are available online at (, and individual links are given on the individual articles. Selected extracts from the original articles are reproduced throughout these contemporary commentaries.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.