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War and medicine

Military medicine is a unique field. From ensuring the health of troops to dealing with violent injuries, medical teams work to keep soldiers fighting fit.

One of the aims of military medicine is to keep soldiers ready for action. It starts with the health of new recruits, but keeping troops fighting fit also means preventing and controlling diseases that can devastate an army as effectively as any weapon.

Once the fighting begins, the medical service aims to treat and return troops to active service as quickly as possible. The military has had to develop fast, efficient systems for both treating the injured at the front line and transporting the seriously wounded to hospitals away from the fighting.

As medicine has improved, more soldiers survive their injuries, but those left with life-changing damage, might need a lifetime of treatment and support. In the aftermath of war, medicine has a role to play in the rehabilitating the wounded and providing continuing care for those left with chronic physical and mental conditions. 

Military medicine draws on the latest developments in medicine and science, but it's not all one way. Techniques and equipment proven to be effective in war have made valuable contributions to medicine in peacetime. 

four stories about war and medicine

Medicine in the war zone

Four soldiers carrying a wounded ban away from the frontline on a stretcher

 

Military medicine has come a long way since the days when injured soldiers were left on the battlefield, waiting for help that came only once the fighting had stopped. 

Read more about medicine in the war zone

treating the wounded in wartime

Wounded men, some with facial bandages on a hospital ship in WW1

 

For centuries, military medicine has had to use the latest advances in medicine and science to treat injuries inflicted by ever more destructive weapons.

Read more about treating the wounded in wartime

Sickness in the ranks

Soldiers having typhoid vaccines in WW1

 

Sickness killed more troops than the enemy in most wars until the 20th century. And each theatre of war brought its own challenges.

Read about how medics treated sickness in wartime

medicine in the aftermath of war

Two men in a workshop making artificial legs

 

Long after the fighting has stopped, the impact of war continues to affect the health of the injured. But there are also benefits from wartime medical innovations after the fighting is over.

Read more about postwar medicine