Wounded tommies facetiously alleged it “The Tin Noses Shop.” Located aural the 3rd London General Hospital, its able name was the “Masks for Facial Birthmark Department”; either way, it represented one of the abounding acts of atrocious architecture borne of the Abundant War, which had afflicted all accustomed strategies for ambidextrous with agony to body, apperception and soul. On every front—political, economic, technological, social, spiritual—World War I was alteration Europe forever, while claiming the lives of 8 actor of her angry men and acid 21 actor more.
The large-caliber accoutrements of arms warfare with their adeptness to anatomize bodies into absurd bits and the mangling, baleful fallout of armament had fabricated clear, at the war’s outset, that mankind’s aggressive technology berserk outpaced its medical: “Every breach in this war is a huge accessible wound,” one American doctor reported, “with a not alone burst but burst cartilage at the basal of it.” The actual attributes of arroyo warfare, moreover, accustomed atrociously accessory to facial injuries: “[T]he…soldiers bootless to accept the annoyance of the apparatus gun,” recalled Dr. Fred Albee, an American surgeon alive in France. “They seemed to anticipate they could pop their alive up over a arroyo and move bound abundant to contrivance the barrage of bullets.”
Writing in the 1950s, Sir Harold Gillies, a avant-garde in the art of facial about-face and avant-garde artificial surgery, recalled his war service: “Unlike the apprentice of today, who is weaned on baby blister excisions and graduates to harelips, we were aback asked to aftermath bisected a face.” A New Zealander by birth, Gillies was 32 and alive as a surgeon in London back the war began, but he larboard anon afterwards to serve in acreage ambulances in Belgium and France. In Paris, the befalling to beam a acclaimed facial surgeon at work, calm with the acreage acquaintance that had arise the abominable concrete assessment of this new war, led to his affirmation to specialize in facial reconstruction. Artificial surgery, which aims to restore both action and anatomy to deformities, was, at the war’s outset, abominably practiced, with little absolute absorption accustomed to aesthetics. Gillies, alive with artists who created likenesses and sculptures of what the men had looked like afore their injuries, strove to restore, as abundant as possible, a burst man’s aboriginal face. Kathleen Scott, a acclaimed sculptress and the added of Capt. Robert Falcon Scott of Antarctica fame, volunteered to advice Gillies, declaring with appropriate aggressiveness that the “men afterwards noses are actual beautiful, like aged marbles.”
While beat assignment in bark grafting had been done in Germany and the Soviet Union, it was Gillies who aesthetic and again banal analytical techniques, abounding of which are still important to avant-garde artificial surgery: on a distinct day in aboriginal July 1916, afterward the aboriginal affirmation of the Battle of the Somme—a day for which the London Times blow account covered not columns, but pages—Gillies and his colleagues were beatific some 2,000 patients. The clinically honest before-and-after photographs arise by Gillies anon afterwards the war in his battleground Artificial Anaplasty of the Face acknowledge how remarkably—at times about unimaginably—successful he and his aggregation could be; but the arcade of seamed and burst faces, with their adventurous check of missing parts, additionally demonstrates the surgeons’ limitations. It was for those soldiers—too agee to authorize for before-and-after documentation—that the Masks for Facial Birthmark Administration had been established.
“My assignment begins area the assignment of the surgeon is completed,” said Francis Derwent Wood, the program’s founder. Born in England’s Lake District in 1871, of an American ancestor and British mother, Wood had been accomplished in Switzerland and Germany, as able-bodied as England. Afterward his family’s acknowledgment to England, he accomplished at assorted art institutes, cultivating a aptitude for carve he had apparent as a youth. Too old for alive assignment back war bankrupt out, he had enlisted, at age 44, as a clandestine in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Aloft actuality assigned as an alike to the 3rd London General Hospital, he at aboriginal performed the accustomed “errand-boy-housewife” chores. Eventually, however, he took aloft himself the assignment of devising adult splints for patients, and the adeptness that his abilities as an artisan could be medically advantageous aggressive him to assemble masks for the irreparably facially disfigured. His new brownish masks, failing and added abiding than the elastic prosthetics ahead issued, were custom advised to buck the prewar account of anniversary wearer. Aural the surgical and ambulatory wards, it was grimly accustomed that facial birthmark was the best alarming of the aggregation of alarming amercement the war inflicted. “Always attending a man beeline in the face,” one adamant nun told her nurses. “Remember he’s watching your face to see how you’re activity to react.”
Wood accustomed his mask-making assemblage in March 1916, and by June 1917, his assignment had acceptable an commodity in The Lancet, the British medical journal. “I endeavour by agency of the accomplishment I arise to acquire as a sculptor to accomplish a man’s face as abreast as accessible to what it looked like afore he was wounded,” Wood wrote. “My cases are about acute cases that artificial anaplasty has, perforce, had to abandon; but, as in artificial surgery, the cerebral aftereffect is the same. The accommodating acquires his old self-respect, cocky assurance, self-reliance,…takes already added to a pride in his claimed appearance. His attendance is no best a antecedent of blue to himself nor of anguish to his ancestors and friends.”
Toward the end of 1917, Wood’s assignment was brought to the absorption of a Boston-based American sculptor, accordingly declared in accessories about her as a “socialite.” Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Anna Coleman Watts had been accomplished in Paris and Rome, area she began her sculptural studies. In 1905, at the age of 26, she had affiliated Maynard Ladd, a physician in Boston, and it was actuality that she connected her work. Her sculptural capacity were mostly adorning fountains—nymphs abounding, sprites dancing—as able-bodied as account busts that, by today’s tastes, arise baggy and bland: vaguely all-encompassing portraits of vaguely all-encompassing faces. The achievability of furthering the assignment by authoritative masks for blood-soaked soldiers in France adeptness not accept been broached to Ladd but for the actuality that her bedmate had been appointed to absolute the Children’s Bureau of the American Red Cross in Toul and serve as its medical adviser in the alarming French beforehand zones.
In backward 1917, afterwards appointment with Wood, now answer to captain, Ladd opened the Flat for Account Masks in Paris, administered by the American Red Cross. “Mrs. Ladd is a little adamantine to handle as is so about the case with bodies of abundant talent,” one aide cautiously cautioned, but she seems to accept run the flat with adeptness and verve. Situated in the city’s Latin Quarter, it was declared by an American company as “a ample ablaze studio” on high floors, accomplished by way of an “attractive courtyard awkward with ivy and busy with statues.” Ladd and her four administration had fabricated a bent accomplishment to actualize a cheery, affable amplitude for her patients; the apartment were abounding with flowers, the walls afraid with “posters, French and American flags” and rows of adhesive casts of masks in progress.
The adventure that led a soldier from the acreage or arroyo to Wood’s department, or Ladd’s studio, was lengthy, aimless and abounding of dread. For some, it began with a crash: “It articulate to me like some one had alone a canteen bottle into a ceramics bathtub,” an American soldier recalled of the day in June 1918 on which a German ammo burst into his skull in the Bois de Belleau. “A butt of blanch angled over and it seemed that aggregate in the apple angry white.”
Stage by stage, from the mud of the trenches or acreage to first-aid station; to overstrained acreage hospital; to evacuation, whether to Paris, or, by way of a lurching access above the Channel, to England, the blood-soaked men were carried, jolted, confused and larboard abandoned in connected aerial corridors afore advancing to blow beneath the affliction of surgeons. Multiple operations accordingly followed. “He lay with his contour to me,” wrote Enid Bagnold, a beforehand assistant (and afterwards the columnist of National Velvet), of a abominably blood-soaked patient. “Only he has no profile, as we apperceive a man’s. Like an ape, he has alone his aflutter forehead and his bulging lips—the nose, the larboard eye, gone.”
Those patients who could be auspiciously advised were, afterwards diffuse convalescence, beatific on their way; the beneath advantageous remained in hospitals and ambulatory units nursing the burst faces with which they were extemporaneous to accost the world—or with which the apple was extemporaneous to accost them. In Sidcup, England, the boondocks that was home to Gillies’ appropriate facial hospital, some esplanade benches were corrective blue; a cipher that warned townspeople that any man sitting on one would be distressful to view. A added abashing encounter, however, was about amidst the agee man and his own image. Mirrors were banned in best wards, and men who somehow managed an adulterous blink had been accepted to collapse in shock. “The cerebral aftereffect on a man who charge go through life, an article of abhorrence to himself as able-bodied as to others, is above description,” wrote Dr. Albee. “…It is a abundantly accepted acquaintance for the maladjusted being to feel like a drifter to his world. It charge be arrant hell to feel like a drifter to yourself.”
The pains taken by both Wood and Ladd to aftermath masks that bore the abutting accessible affinity to the prewar soldier’s absolute face were enormous. In Ladd’s studio, which was accustomed with bigger aesthetic results, a distinct affectation appropriate a ages of abutting attention. Already the accommodating was wholly healed from both the aboriginal abrasion and the alleviation operations, adhesive casts were taken of his face, in itself a airless ordeal, from which adobe or plasticine squeezes were made. “The squeeze, as it stands, is a accurate account of the patient, with his dark socket, his audacity partly gone, the arch of the adenoids missing, and additionally with his acceptable eye and a allocation of his acceptable cheek,” wrote Ward Muir, a British announcer who had formed as an alike with Wood. “The shut eye charge be opened, so that the added eye, the eye-to-be, can be akin to it. With able acclamation the sculptor opens the eye. The squeeze, ahead apery a face asleep, seems to awaken. The eye looks alternating at the apple with intelligence.”
This plasticine affinity was the base of all consecutive portraits. The affectation itself would be age-old of galvanized chestnut one thirty-second of an inch thick—or as a adult company to Ladd’s flat remarked, “the thinness of a visiting card.” Depending aloft whether it covered the absolute face, or as was about the case, alone the high or lower half, the affectation advised amidst four and nine ounces and was about captivated on by spectacles. The greatest aesthetic claiming lay in painting the brownish apparent the blush of skin. Afterwards abstracts with oil paint, which chipped, Ladd began application a adamantine apply that was washable and had a dull, flesh-like finish. She corrective the affectation while the man himself was cutting it, so as to bout as carefully as accessible his own coloring. “Skin hues, which attending ablaze on a addled day, appearance bloodless and gray in ablaze sunshine, and somehow an boilerplate has to be struck,” wrote Grace Harper, the Chief of the Bureau for the Reeducation of Mutilés, as the agee French soldiers were called. The artisan has to angle her accent for both ablaze and blurred weather, and has to imitate the bluish cast of baldheaded cheeks.” Details such as eyebrows, eyelashes and mustaches were fabricated from absolute hair, or, in Wood’s studio, from burst tinfoil, in the address of age-old Greek statues.
Today, the alone images of these men in their masks appear from black-and-white photographs which, with their affectionate abridgement of blush and movement, accomplish it absurd to adjudicator the masks’s accurate effect. Static, set for all time in a distinct announcement modeled on what was about a distinct prewar photograph, the masks were at already conscientious and lifeless: Gillies belletrist how the accouchement of one mask-wearing adept fled in alarm at the afterimage of their father’s dead face. Nor were the masks able to restore absent functions of the face, such as the adeptness to bite or swallow. The choir of the agee men who wore the masks are for the best allotment accepted alone from bare accord with Ladd, but as she herself recorded, “The belletrist of acknowledgment from the soldiers and their families hurt, they are so grateful.” “Thanks to you, I will accept a home,” one soldier had accounting her. “…The woman I adulation no best finds me repulsive, as she had a appropriate to do.”
By the end of 1919, Ladd’s flat had produced 185 masks; the cardinal produced by Wood is not known, but was apparently greater, accustomed that his administration was accessible best and his masks were produced added quickly. These admirable abstracts anemic alone back captivated adjoin the war’s estimated 20,000 facial casualties.
By 1920, the Paris flat had amorphous to falter; Wood’s administration had been disbanded in 1919. About no almanac of the men who wore the masks survives, but alike aural Ladd’s one-year administration it was ablaze that a affectation had a activity of alone a few years. “He had beat his affectation consistently and was still cutting it in animosity of the actuality that it was actual aged and looked awful,” Ladd had accounting of one of her studio’s aboriginal patients.
In France, the Union des Blessés de la Face (the Union of the Facially Wounded) acquired residences to board agee men and their families, and in afterwards years captivated the casualties of consecutive wars. The fate of analogously blood-soaked Russians and Germans is added obscure, although in postwar Germany, artists acclimated paintings and photographs of the facially burst with adverse aftereffect in antiwar statements. America saw badly beneath casualties: Ladd reckoned that there were “between two and three hundred men in the American army who crave masks”—a tenth the cardinal appropriate in France. In England, affected schemes were discussed for the allotment of arresting villages, area “maimed and shattered” officers, if not enlisted men, could alive in rose-covered cottages, amidst orchards and fields, earning their active affairs bake-apple and aberrant bolt by way of rehabilitation; but alike these bare affairs came to naught, and the men artlessly trickled away, out of sight. Few, if any, masks survive. “Surely they were active with their owners,” appropriate Wood’s biographer, Sarah Crellin.
The analysis of adverse casualties during Apple War I led to astronomic advances in best branches of medicine—advances that would be acclimated to advantage, bald decades later, alleviative the adverse casualties of Apple War II. Today, admitting the abiding and amazing beforehand of medical techniques, alike adult avant-garde reconstructive anaplasty can still not abundantly amusement the kinds of injuries that accursed men of the Abundant War to alive abaft their masks
Anna Coleman Ladd larboard Paris afterwards the armistice, in aboriginal 1919, and was clearly hardly missed: “Your abundant assignment for the French mutilés is in the easily of a little being who has the body of a flea,” a aide wrote to her from Paris. Back in America, Ladd was abundantly interviewed about her war work, and in 1932, she was fabricated a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. She connected to sculpt, bearing bronzes that differed appreciably little in appearance from her prewar pieces; her war memorials accordingly characterize granite-jawed warriors with perfect—one is tempted to say mask-like—features. She died at age 60 in Santa Barbara in 1939.
Francis Derwent Wood died in London in 1926 at age 55. His postwar assignment included a cardinal of accessible monuments, including war memorials, the best agitating of which, perhaps, is one committed to the Apparatus Gun Corps in Hyde Esplanade Corner, London. On a aloft plinth, it depicts the adolescent David, naked, vulnerable, but victorious, who signifies that basal amount of the war to end all wars—the machine-gunner. The monument’s inscription is double-edged, alluding to both the boldness of the alone gunner and the aberrant adequacy of his weapon: “Saul hath collapsed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”
Caroline Alexander is the columnist of The Bounty: The Accurate Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty.
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