The Face of Madness

Shell shocked soldier in the trenches 1916

The First World War was a breeding ground for psychological trauma. Standing in what were effectively holes in the ground with artillery barrages raining down around them, even the toughest men could break under the strain.

This haunting image was taken in September 1916 at the Battle of Courcelette. The unidentified soldier has lost all perception of reality having retreated in to his own mind hence the maddened smile. Called “Shell shock” at the time, today it would be labelled as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and while it does gain wider recognition today it is still a major factor affecting forces personnel returning from combat duty.

The man in this image represents a very extreme case although “Shell shock” manifested itself in many ways.

(Image sourced from


17 responses to “The Face of Madness

  1. Pingback: Defence of the Realm – Army | Defence of the Realm

  2. And the upper class officers who were so quick to condemn were ten miles behind the fighting, in luxurious chateaux, refusing to visit the front line because of the smell. And in World War Two the situation wasn’t much better with its treatment of LMF, and the poor souls who had had enough of attacking the Third Reich night after night.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks for highlighting PTSD Tony. I work for the NHS, and have worked with many patients with this debilitating condition, not just from warfare experiences, but from childhood trauma, domestic abuse and workplace abuse, It is insidious in its nature and can form under many different circumstances. Thank you kindly for sharing this information.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That really is a “haunting” look. Yet one more way no one was prepared for modern, industrial warfare. not that there is much one can do to be prepared.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The worst part is the leadership on all side were so convinced of their own superiority that they couldn’t see passed their own noses which is why the conflict was fought so badly


  5. Reblogged this on THE DUTCH RESET and commented:
    The ugly face of war.
    For all those young kids playing wargames on their computer. Tell the politicians to lead their ilk to the trenches and have fun likje this soldier pictured after a gruesome battle…..

    Liked by 1 person

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