Selected by Frances Pattman, Archivist

Colonel Stevenson Lyle Cummins was a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps and by 1915 was Deputy Assistant Director General, Medical Services, British Expeditionary Force in France.  His papers show that during this period he was looking into meningitis, the treatment and prevention of trench foot and anti gas precautions.

I have chosen three documents all issued by GHQ.  The first, from around April 1915, describes how to use a handkerchief as protection against a gas attack.  It seems an extraordinary suggestion but as masks had not been routinely issued at this point perhaps it was better than nothing!  By the time the next document was issued in June 1915, more frequent and prolonged attacks were being felt and there was a realisation that better protection was needed.

The last document is another unlikely idea – waterproof paper stockings!  How successful they were at preventing trench foot, or how widely used they were, is not apparent.  The use of whale oil was certainly prevalent not only as a protective barrier but also to help healing.

Ref:  Cummins

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