Belgravia War Hospital Supply Depot newspaper, September 1918
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2 MONTHLY RECORD September, 1918
ISSUES FOR AUGUST We forwarded during the month 57,212 articles of all kinds at a value of £1,027 10s. 0 1/2 d. to 27 Hospitals, all of which 14 were British and 13 B.E.F. Total Issues to September 1st, 3,966,863. NOTE.--Owing to the fact that several of our Departments and Country Branches, on account of work on the Land have been closed during August, the output for this month is below the average. All cheques and communications for the "Monthly Record" should be addressed to The Editor, 4, Grosvenor Crescent, S.W. 1. Subscription 3s. yearly.
THE RE-EDUCATION OF THE DISABLED SOLDIER WITH LEG AMPUTATIONS. By Major Robert Mitchell, C.B.E. Director of Training under the Ministry of Pensions. It must ever be remembered that the nation's responsibility to the disabled does not end with the payment of pensions and gratuities, which by no stretch of the imagination can be called rewards for the priceless services which have so willingly be rendered. Quite apart from pensions, we owe it to the disabled to provide them with employment, when they are capable of being employed, at proper wages. We owe it to them that they shall be put in a position to supplement their pensions. We owe it to them that on the one hand they shall not be exploited by unscrupulous employers, and that on the other hand they shall not be compelled for lack of opportunity to finish their lives in idleness and misery. It is, therefore, the express wish of the Minister of Pensions to see every disabled man so qualified that in the event of a shortage of work after the war, he will be the last man the employer will want to get rid of instead of the first. This was one of the chief purposes which the State had in view in establishing an organisation for the re-education of the disabled.
One of the most difficult tasks of the Minister of Pensions has been the adaptation of training to the particular forms and degrees of disablement. In the case of certain of the wounded the State's responsibility ceases when they are medically cured. For the great majority, however, it is just at that moment when the social task really begins. They are in a state of inferiority; many have become as little children for whom a happy life is possible, although it is necessary to initiate them into that new life. These man have been of other help than that of the doctor, and of other support than that of consolation and comfort. They have need of a moral assistance, and of the appropriate weapons of combat for the new life upon which they propose to enter.
A superficial observation has led some to think that the severely disabled should be provided for entirely by the State, but a careful analysis of the psychological condition of these cases leads one indubitably to the conclusion that the provision of useful employment is the best tonic for dispelling the tendency to morbidity which often prevails among such men. Moreover, when a man's pension has become fixed by reason of his disability, no deduction is made on account of his earnings. Consequently, a large number of the disabled who have been re-trained have felt such compensation from the fact of their largely-increased earning capacity as compared with that of pre-war days. Quite recently a man who had lost his leg, having completed his full course of training, secured an appointment at twice his former salary. He was heard to remark, "The Kaiser may have my leg, but I feel better off than ever I was before." It is desirable that such a spirit such animate all our disabled heroes, and to this end the Minister of Pensions has organised such a far-reaching system of training. It is imperative, for instance, that the man suffering form leg amputation should have the choice of such occupations as will enable him to effect the highest possible return for his efforts. Such work, however, must naturally be more or less of a sedentary character, and offer scope for development. Such trades as tailoring, watch and clock repairing, the making of jewellery, diamond cutting and polishing have proved highly suitable for men with leg amputations.
In the case of diamond cutting, about ninety-eight per cent, of the world's supply of rough stones are produced in the British possessions, and, prior to the war, scarcely two per cent, of those were cut in England. Thanks to the enterprise of Mr. Bernard Oppenheimer, the largest diamond cutting factory in the world is being erected at Brighton, which, when completed, will engage about three thousand men. Diamond cutting has proved a most suitable occupation for the limbless man. Already nearly two hundred man have passed through the course of training, and not more than two per cent, have been thought fit to withdraw. Those who have been under training for a period of twelve months are earning on an average more than £3 per week, and at the end of two years will have the possibility of earning at least £5 to £6 per week. In pre-war days most of these men were unskilled workers, so that they are immeasurably better off from a financial point of view.
Tailoring has also proved to be a most suitable trade for legless men. At the outbreak of war some 30,000 foreigners who were earning good wages at this trade, had to leave this country, and therefor an opening was created whereby permanent employment could be provided for the disabled. Those who have already taken the training are doing exceedingly well, since the earning capacity of a good tailor is usually very high. Training in this subject is given in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Brighton, Cambridge, Wales, Surrey,Bristol and a number of other centres in different parts of the country. Another excellent craft is that of the watch and clock repairer. Even in pre-war days there was a dearth of workers; since the withdrawal of alien enemies from the country and the casualties due to the war few trades have offered better prospects to the disabled man. In this work good eyesight and nimble fingers are essential, and the skills repairer is capable of earning above the ordinary rate of wages. In this subject training courses are being conducted in various parts of the country.
These examples are but a few of the occupations from which the legless man may take his choice without being handicapped, to any extent, in competing with his more fortunate fellow-worker. Hence, every opportunity should be taken by the disabled to avail themselves of the varied facilities for training which are offered by the Pensions Ministry. During the period of training a maintenance allowance of 27/6 per week is allowed to the private soldier, with an increased rate according to rank. For the sum of 17/6 per week board and lodging is provided during the period of training, so that each man has at least a surplus of 10/- per week to meet incidental expenses. Further, at the termination of the course of training he is given a bonus of 5/- for every week has attended, which, in the case of a twelve months' course, would amount to £13 10s. In trades where a kit of tools is necessary a grant not exceeding £10 is made for the same. It will be seen that every inducement is placed before the disabled to take up training. The chief aim of the Ministry of Pensions is to form good workers and useful citizens by the system of moral, intellectual and vocational training, which will ensure the dignity of the disabled and allow him to establish a family. The results of the working of the scheme are ample testimony of its efficacy and success.