'Caring for the war wounded' is an evocative collection of photographs and paintings that portray the exceptional care that was provided to soldiers who were injured in the First and Second World wars and the Korean War. The images display the actions taken by fellow soldiers, medical officers, orderlies and nurses, often in highly challenging circumstances, to ensure the survival of the war wounded and their later recovery and rehabilitation. The trail features the work of some of the best known Australian war photographers and war artists.
The trail provides a compelling record of the commitment and compassion displayed by those who tended to the injured in war. The carers, especially drivers and stretcher bearers, faced grave danger and some are depicted in the thick of the action at the front. The Red Cross symbol did provide protection, but was not always respected. The images show the high levels of teamwork, determination and courage required of all involved in caring for the wounded.
Wounded soldiers were cared for in a well-planned evacuation chain from the front. Field ambulances played a critical role, as they received men soon after they had been wounded. The trail includes images of soldiers receiving medical attention at dressing stations and casualty clearing stations (often housed in tents) and a London hospital. Other images show the last stages of care at rehabilitation centres and hostels for the totally and permanently incapacitated.
Australian medical teams often operated close to enemy lines, in remote areas, in bad weather and with inadequate supplies. There are images of medical officers in the First World War, without masks or gowns, treating patients on rough stretchers. Casualties often received attention in the open air and in makeshift structures. Conditions improved in the Second World War, indicated by an image of an underground operating theatre.
The picture trail identifies the important role of women both at the front and at home. Nurses from the Australian Army Nursing Service and the Australian Army Medical Women's Service are depicted treating injuries and providing comfort and support to the wounded in casualty clearing stations and hospitals. They are also shown supporting soldiers' rehabilitation and providing ongoing care to them in repatriation hostels.
Continuing care was provided to the sick and wounded. There are images of injured soldiers recuperating in hospitals and undertaking physiotherapy and recreation away from the front. A photograph of a tricycle wheelchair used by Charlie Stevens, cofounder of the Limbless Soldiers' Association of Victoria, is included. In the Second World War advances in medical research, such as the treatment of tropical diseases, helped to improve preventative care.
Artists and photographers are commissioned to record wartime experiences. The trail includes images by the official war artists George Lambert, H Septimus Power, George Coates, Frank Crozier, Stella Bowen and Nora Heysen and the official war photographers Frank Hurley, Damien Parer and George Silk. The images are striking in their capacity to document and interpret the experience of war and are highly valued by museums, galleries and collectors.
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