Unfortunately, a staggering 41,000 British soldiers suffered such a fate during World War I. Each was entitled to a free artificial limb. Yet, by 1915, so many men were losing arms and legs on the battlefield that the government simply couldn’t supply enough replacements.
That situation was partially alleviated that same year when Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton opened its doors to its first 25 patients. St Mary’s soon became one of the world’s leading amputation rehabilitation centres, providing treatment and training opportunities so that men could carve out a new life for themselves.
And if there was one silver lining to emerge from the tragedy of World War I amputees, it was that – thanks to centres such as St Mary’s – artificial limb technology would make huge advances in the years immediately after the war.