Shell Shock, Gallipoli, and the Generation of Silence

Jay Winter, Charles J. Stille Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University

Co-presented with Beyond 1914 – The University of Sydney and the Great War

18 August, 2015

The incidence of shell shock among all combatant forces during the Great War has been greatly underestimated. We now know that shell shock amongst troops on the Western Front was much higher than officially acknowledged. And we are beginning to see that the conditions of combat at Gallipoli prompted psychological and neurological injury among British, French, Ottoman, Turkish and Anzac troops at a greater level than previously recognized. Why has there been such a silence surrounding the subject in the century since the First World War? Why can we not as a society acknowledge the psychological damage done to a generation of soldiers?

Shell shock was a term first used in 1915 to account for physical and psychological reactions to the trauma of warfare and bombardment. It remained a contested term for many years, a diagnosis often borne in embarrassment by returned soldiers and their families and hidden in official statistics of those who were wounded and died in battle. Yet both shell shock and its silence affected the lives of not just the war generation, but those that followed. The British poet laureate Ted Hughes, for example, was the son of one of the silent generation of men shell-shocked during the Great War, who subsequently sought meaning in this silence.

In this lecture, the internationally-renowned historian of war and memory, Jay Winter, turns his attention on to Gallipoli as a crucible of the generation of silence.


Professor Jay Winter

Jay Winter, Charles J. Stille Professor of History Emeritus at Yale, received his PhD and DLitt degrees from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Fellow of Pembroke College from 1979 to 2001. He won an Emmy award as co-producer of the BBC/PBS eight-hour television series ‘The Great War and the shaping of the twentieth century’ (1996), and is a founder of the Historial de la grande guerre, an international museum of the Great War inaugurated in 1992.

He is the author of Sites of memory, sites of mourning: The Great War in European cultural history, published in 1995, editor of America and the Armenian Genocide (2008), and editor-in-chief of the three-volume Cambridge history of the First World War, published in 2014 in English and French. He is Distinguished Visiting Professor at Monash University, and has been awarded honorary degrees by the University of Graz, the University of Leuven, and the University of Paris-VIII.

About Beyond 1914

Beyond 1914 – The University of Sydney and the Great War, is an interactive biographical database of students, staff and alumni who served in the First World War that uses the extensive archives and personal papers of the University of Sydney and its Colleges.