Caregiving in Conflict: The Role of Irish Doctors during the Great War

Julie Crowley

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentation


The purpose of this study is to examine the role of Irish doctors during the Great War, drawing on primary and secondary sources related to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and Irish war hospitals. The war affected Irish society, including military doctors and the veterans whom they treated.

For decades, Irish medical graduates often emigrated to find employment within the RAMC due to the scarcity of job opportunities in Ireland. When Britain entered the Great War in August 1914, Sir Alfred Keogh, Director General of the RAMC, sought to increase recruitment among medical graduates. The Irish Medical War Committee (IMWC) was set up in 1915 to oversee the enlistment of Irish doctors: more than 3000 served in wartime, and more than 250 died. The British medical establishment’s recruitment concerns received coverage in the British Medical Journal and the Hospital throughout the war. British medical journals published articles about the alleged disloyalty of Irish people, which elicited a defensive response from the IMWC.

The development of artillery and weaponry during the Great War led to unprecedented casualties, and surgical techniques were developed to repair the damage. Reconstructive surgeries for injured veterans took place in British hospitals during and after the conflict. Ireland’s military hospitals were expanded due to the influx of injured and mentally ill veterans. Shell shock was poorly understood during the war, and experimental medical treatments took place in British and Irish hospitals. Traumatised veterans were sent to war hospitals and asylums for short- or long-term care, depending on their condition. Following the Irish War of Independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State, these institutions continued to provide care for disabled soldiers. Veterans of the Irish War of Independence and Civil War also received treatment for mental trauma.

Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2022
EventEconomic and Social History Society of Ireland Conference - Maynooth University, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland
Duration: 28 Oct 202229 Oct 2022


ConferenceEconomic and Social History Society of Ireland Conference
Abbreviated titleESHSIC
CityMaynooth, Co. Kildare


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