What is Trench Foot?

Posted on: 1 min read
Portrait of Gavin Hughes
Gavin Hughes

Partner, Military Claims Solicitor

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Over 20,000 men in the British Army were treated for Trench Foot in the winter of 1914/15 alone, and there were 74,000 allied troops afflicted by the end of the war.

The causes behind Trench Foot, now generally described as a non freezing cold injury, are now well understood. Non freezing cold injuries are caused by exposure to wet conditions, and temperatures just above freezing leading to tissue and nerve damage and blood flow restriction.

An explanation of Trench Foot

  • "If you have never had Trench Foot described to you, I will explain. Your feet swell to 2-3 times their normal size and go completely dead. You can stick a bayonet into them and not feel a thing. If you are lucky enough not to lose your feet and the swelling starts to go down, it’s then the most indescribable agony begins. I have heard men cry and scream with pain and many have had to have their feet and legs amputated. I was one of the lucky ones, but one more day in the trench and it may have been too late."

    Harry Roberts

    extract from diary, WWI

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Initial symptoms are cold and numbness, progressing to an intense painful burning sensation, and blisters, redness and ultimately, if untreated, to the more severe complications which some of Harry Roberts’ comrades endured.

In the modern era, exposure to cold and wet conditions in training can be controlled, and appropriate cold weather and waterproof clothing provided, to minimise the risk of injury. Nonetheless, with training designed to provide a physical challenge, and exposure to the elements essential in field training, non freezing cold injuries still frequently occur.

Thankfully, in these more enlightened times, few injuries will result in the grave outcomes endured by many thousands in WW1. However, serious, life-long injuries do occur, and victims are advised to get legal advice from a Personal Injury Solicitor that specialises in Military Accident Claims on whether there may have been breaches of duty, giving rise to a potential claim for compensation.

At Simpson Millar we deal with many personal injury claims on a No Win, No Fee basis.

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