This is the only surviving artificial leg made in Glasgow for a limbless First World War soldier

By Culture24 Reporter Published: 22 September 2016

In 1916, Sir William Macewan, the Regius Professor of Surgery at the University of Glasgow, used a speech at Glasgow City Chambers to warn that “a generation will pass” before “all the work connected with the maimed and limbless” reached a conclusion

A photo of an early example of an artificial right leg, made for Erskine House between 1914 and 1918
© Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Macewan was instrumental in the First World War foundation of the first Eskine Hospital, where he wanted the limbless to be treated with “sympathetic care and encouragement” as part of a lifetime of support.

Then known as the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers, the Erskine Hospital had wards, reception areas and an operating theatre when it opened in October 1916. Limb workshops were added in 1917. Before then, they’d been made in the shipyards on the Clyde.

This is the only known surviving Erskine leg. It’s a right leg made for Erskine House at some point between 1916 and 1918.

The new exhibition at the Hunterian Museum recounts the experiences of the hospital’s first patient, Corporal James Ritson of the 1/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers. Ritson had his left hand amputated after sustaining injuries at Gallipoli.

A lethal fragment from a six-inch shell at Flanders and an amputation saw, made in Glasgow between 1880 and 1920, will also be displayed.

  • In War and Peace: The Erskine Story is at the Hunterian Museum from September 23 2016 – January 8 2017.

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