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finished in December with about 200,000 casualties. Fleet
Surgeon George Waters (53) was one of these, drowning
when his ship, the HMS Goliath, was torpedoed off the
After the war, many doctors stayed abroad, settling in the
UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand where there were
many opportunities. For those who returned home, the
landscape had changed entirely, both socially and politically.
Doctors did not suffer the discrimination that many soldiers
had to endure; indeed it was not at all a bad thing to have
acquired experience abroad. For surgeons, in particular,
they had seen many developments during the war, including
modern treatment of fracture femurs, the new specialties of
neurosurgery, maxillofacial surgery and plastics, and, indeed,
participated in these advances. They had also learnt about
the new science of shock as well as about blood transfusion
and the use of vaccines against typhoid and tetanus.
In total, 52 RCSI personnel died during the four-year conflict,
34 doctors and 18 students. Of these, 17 were killed in
action, 10 died from their wounds, eight drowned and 17
died on service. The motto of the RAMC is
In Arduis Fidelis
(In Hardship Faithful). RCSI doctors and students who served
during World War One certainly lived up to that motto and
deserve to be recognised, even a hundred years later.
This article is based on extracts from
Irish Doctors in World
War One by Joseph Duignan, Kevin Cullen, and Patrick
Casey (Irish Academic Press), which will be published in April
How RCSI Presidents contributed to the war effort
William de Courcy Wheeler, later Sir, and later a President
of the College, converted his private nursing home at
33 Upper Fitzwilliam Street into a hospital for officers
recovering from their injuries. Over the course of the war
more than 20,000 wounded soldiers came to Ireland to
convalesce from their injuries and were managed by doctors
from all the main hospitals and the 70 auxiliary hospitals that
sprang up around the country.
The arrival of hospital ships into Dublin Port every
month or so carrying 600-900 wounded stretched the
local hospital resources. In response, President of the
College, Sir Thomas Myles, successfully negotiated
with the government for the use of Dublin Castle as a
Red Cross Hospital in early 1915. RCSI funded a ward
in the Dublin Castle Hospital and members of the
College's OTC acted as official dressers.
In 1916, the then
President of RCSI,
William Taylor,
was asked to staff
a base hospital
in France. In May
1917, the first
group of nine Irish
doctors went to
work in the 83rd
Boulogne (Dublin)
Military Hospital
and rotating
groups from Dublin
hospitals continued
to do so until 1919
when it moved to
the Rhineland.