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War and medicine

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

One of the aims of military medicine is to keep soldiers fit for action. It starts with the health for 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. Military medicine has developed fast, efficient systems for both treating the wounded at the front line and transporting the seriously wounded to hospital, where ever that may be.

Military doctors have had to be resourceful and innovative in finding ways to treat wounds resulting from ever more destructive weapons. As medicine improves, more soldiers survive their injuries, but those left with life-changing physical and mental damage, might need a lifetime of treatment and support.

Even after the fighting has stopped, war continues to impact on the health of veterans, civilians and the environment. In the aftermath of war, medicine has a role to play in the rehabilitation of the wounded and the treatment of those left with chronic, sometimes terminal illnesses. 

But medicine can benefit from the focus on certain conditions and illnesses that war brings. Innovations in fields such as plastic surgery and emergency medicine have found their way back into 'civilian' medicine, mitigating at least some of the destruction inflicted by war.

Three stories about war and medicine

Medicine in the war zone

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


What happens when a soldier is injured during a battle? In the past, they would have been left where they fell, until the end of the battle. Fortunately military medicine has improved.

Read more about medicine in the war zone

Reconstructing soldiers

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


The purpose of military medicine is to make troops are fit for battle. Medical staff assess the health of new recruits, tackle outbreaks of disease in camp and treat the wounded on the front line.

Read more about reconstructing soldiers

medicine in the aftermath of war


Long after the fighting has stopped, the impact of war on the health of soldiers, civilians and the environment continues. But some of what military medicine learns about the human body in wartime also its way back into everyday medicine.

Read more about postwar medicine