From Canada’s top war historian, a definitive medical history of the Great War, illuminating how the carnage of modern battle gave birth to revolutionary life-saving innovations. It brings to light shocking revelations of the ways the brutality of combat and the necessity of agonizing battlefield decisions led to unimaginable strain for men and women of medicine who fought to save the lives of soldiers.
Medical care in almost all armies, and especially in the Canadian medical services, was sophisticated and constantly evolving, with vastly more wounded soldiers saved than lost. Doctors and surgeons prevented disease from decimating armies, confronted ghastly wounds from chemical weapons, remade shattered bodies, and struggled to ease soldiers’ battle-haunted minds. After the war, the hard lessons learned by doctors and nurses were brought back to Canada. A new Department of Health created guidelines in the aftermath of the 1918-19 flu pandemic, which had killed 55,000 Canadians and millions around the world. In a grim irony, the fight to improve civilian health was furthered by the most destructive war up to that point in human history.
But medical advances were not the only thing brought back from Europe: Lifesavers and Body Snatchers exposes the disturbing story of the harvesting of human body parts in medical units behind the lines. Tim Cook has spent over a decade investigating the history of Canadian medical doctors removing the body parts of slain Canadian soldiers and transporting their brains, lungs, bones, and other organs to the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) in London, England. Almost 800 individual body parts were removed from dead soldiers and sent to London, where they were stored, treated, and some presented in exhibition galleries. After being exhibited there, the body parts were displayed in Canada. This uncovered history is a shockingly revelation never told before and part of the hidden legacy of the medical war.
Based on deep archival research and unpublished letters of soldiers and medical personnel, Lifesavers and Body Snatchers is a powerful narrative, told in Cook’s literary style, which reveals how the medical services supported the soldiers at the front and forged a profound legacy in shaping Canadian public health in the decades that followed.
About the author
TIM COOK is the Great War historian at the Canadian War Museum, as well as an adjunct professor at Carleton University. He is the author of five other books, including Shock Troops, which won the prestigious Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction in 2009. He was also awarded the Ottawa Book Award and the J.W. Dafoe Prize for At the Sharp End. Cook lives in Ottawa with his family.
Other titles by Tim Cook
The Fight for History
75 Years of Forgetting, Remembering, and Remaking Canada's Second World War
A Nation Shaped by War
The Battle and the Legend
Filling the Ranks
Manpower in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918
Fight to the Finish
Canadians in the Second World War, 1944-1945
The Necessary War, Volume 1
Canadians Fighting The Second World War:1939-1943
Borden;mackenzie King And Canada's World Wars
Canadian Historians and the Writing of the World Wars
No Place to Run
The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War
The Madman and the Butcher
The Sensational Wars Of Sam Hughes And General Arthur Currie