Madeline Frings’s Grandfather
My grandfather, Thomas had a wooden leg. The family story is that Thomas contracted gas gangrene and eventually had his leg amputated at the thigh.
I say eventually, because the story is that the war pension for men invalided out of the army was related to the amount of their leg or arm they had lost. My father used to say that in an attempt to reduce costs doctors were under strict instructions not to amputate too much limb initially. As a result of this policy, it was said that poor old Thomas was subjected to four or five amputations until eventually, when he was transferred to Roehampton hospital, what remained of his leg was amputated at the thigh.
The family story is also that grandfather was gassed and developed gas gangrene as a result. I have since found out that gas gangrene is an infection which is mostly the result of contamination of the muscles following injury or an operation. The soil in France and Flanders was highly cultivated and contained a large amount of horse manure, which contains bacillus bacteria. Because the trenches were filled with mud, soldiers’ clothing became saturated with the bacteria. When these men were wounded, it would be likely that pieces of their bacteria saturated uniforms would lodge into the wound, causing an infection. So it is more likely that grandfather developed gangrene following an injury, of course now I will never know the true story.
I didn’t know Thomas but by all accounts he was a colourful character and after the war acquired a barrel-organ and a monkey. He must have been a street performer as my father used to complain that he would be left in charge of the organ and the monkey, as Thomas went from hostelry to hostelry spending his takings!
We have a piece of trench art, a German shell case engraved Ypres 1914 – 1918 and although it is not a family piece, I think it came from a house clearance, I have included a picture of it here because someone’s ancestor went to the trouble making it.
|The original exhibition display: Thomas Hanney|