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Field psychiatry for the medical officer.

Howard, Trevor.

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Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)
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Credit: Field psychiatry for the medical officer. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

About this work


A WWII military-medical training film in the form of a dramatisation of some of the difficulties faced by Army medical officers in dealing with psychiatric problems among their fellow officers and men, featuring the young Trevor Howard.



[UK] : [Services Kinematograph Unit], [1944]

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (43.09 min.) : sound, black and white



Copyright note

Crown copyright 1944

Terms of use

Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales


Segment 1 Opening credits. Intertitle starting with Anxiety is a common experience to all of us. Two men are seen smoking and are clearly anxious. They are waiting for an oral interview (viva), they are students of medicine at university. (One is the actor Trevor Howard ). Other interviewees are shown reacting to the situation. Some of the physiological signs of anxiety are dramatised such as one candidate wiping his sweaty palms. Intertitle explaining the war-time situation for civilians who can also display symptoms of serious anxiety, particularly in air-raided areas. A brief scenario illustrating this is seen; the sirens stop and a woman checks that the black-out blinds are secure. An old man, covered in dust and clearly stressed after an air-raid is attended to. She offers him a bath and tea. Intertitle: In battle there are no baths or tea. A scene between a private and a medical officer is dramatised. The private is anxious about a lymphoma - he received a letter from his wife but has heard nothing in 6 weeks. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:05:02:00 Length: 00:05:02:00
Segment 2 Intertitle setting the scene after a few weeks of battle. Then with gunfire in the background we see a dugout with infantrymen holding their position under constant mortar fire. A private, Wragge, is clearly suffering from lack of sleep. The image flickers rapidly to illustrate this. Under more fire, Wragge starts to remember some of the worst battles in WWI and he hears voices in his mind. A fellow private has already been killed and his body left nearby. The voices tell him to be brave. Time start: 00:05:02:00 Time end: 00:10:22:10 Length: 00:05:20:10
Segment 3 Intertitle explaining how these conditions can persist over many days and nights. A night-time scene is then dramatised. The soldiers are digging and then come under more mortar fire. Intertitle: day six. The corporal attends to Wragge who has become immobilised by stress and is then sent down the line to see the doctor. When he reaches the doctor, he discusses Wragge with the sergeant and they decide to send him further down the line along with a soldier with an arm injury. They describe him as having gone happy . Reaching the MO (medical officer), the two men receive treatment. The private is offered a cigarette, he is shaking visibly and reacts with fear when he hears a mortar close by. The man is offered some soup and given tea to wash down two barbiturates to calm him down. The MO checks the man over, he is OK. Time start: 00:10:22:10 Time end: 00:19:31:19 Length: 00:09:09:09
Segment 4 The MO discusses Wragge with the sergeant; it is a typical case of anxiety neuroses. He will be sent to the core exhaustion centre for a few weeks. They discuss the difficulties of diagnosis. Sleep deprivation is identified as a key factor. The MO remembers a case he experienced in North Africa. The patient is clearly exhausted and barely audible (he too has been under fire for 6 days). The man is given tea and pills. Depression is also another outcome, the MO remembers a typical case of this in Italy. The man has lost his whole section; he is clearly depressed. He too is given tea and pills. Time start: 00:19:31:19 Time end: 00:25:41:10 Length: 00:06:09:15
Segment 5 The conversation between the MO and the sergeant continues in relation to a serviceman who suffered from confusion. He is drinking tea but can t answer any questions posed to him by the MO. He takes a cigarette. The MO offers him pills. He asks his orderly to get a hypodermic syringe with Luminol. Another typical case is shown where the patient has hysterical symptoms as a manifestation of anxiety. The MO discusses disassociation or fugue in response to trauma. Hypnosis is shown and the patient reveals what happened to him. All the cases cited result from anxiety and the MO comments how important it is to listen. time start: 00:25:41:10 Time end: 00:30:00:15 Length: 00:04:19:05
Segment 6 All the cases are dealt with in the same way; hot sweet tea, soup or food, followed by a sedative such as Phenobarbitone. Bottles are shown and dosages mentioned. Morphine and Bromide are also shown. Brandy or whisky are also suggested. Only the most severe cases are referred to the Core Exhaustion Centre. Wragge s field medical card is filled in by the MO and attached like a tag to the patient. The treatment regime at the medical centre is described and shown. Firstly they are treated like babies . For the first 48 hours they have hot food and they are sedated at night. Then for the next 48 hours they are treated like kids and allowed to do some mending and play games. They are also permitted to clean themselves up; a makeshift shower is shown. They also have an interview with the psychiatrist. Wragge describes his experience. Finally the last two days are spent being soldiers. A parade is shown. Wragge draws the attention of the officer and expresses his desire to join up with his company with a clean bill of health. time start: 00:30:00:15 Time end: 00:36:47:15 Length: 00:06:47:05
Segment 7 Scene in the mess hall. A man plays the piano badly. The MO talks to Wragge s sergeant who is uncertain about Wragge s return. The MO defends Wragge fiercely and discovers that Wragge had worries such as not hearing from his wife. The MO wants to see another of his men and his sergeant describes him as a scrimshanker . The MO is asked to meet the colonel in his office. There, the MO (Booth) is congratulated on his endeavours and keeping the numbers of psychiatric cases low. The colonel, who is clearly displaying symptoms of anxiety himself, hands over a pamphlet about the symptoms of anxiety. He exhorts the MO to take 48 hours rest. The End. time start: 00:36:47:15 Time end: 00:43:09:00 Length: 00:06:22:09

Creator/production credits

A War Office Production supervised by a medical officer appointed by the director general of army medical services approves? 1944 B.828 Crown Copyright C.829 Produced for the directorate of army kinematography by Verity Films Ltd.


  • English


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