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Combat Stress is a UK charity offering residential treatment to ex-servicemen and women suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)[1] and other mental health issues.

The Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society was formed in the United Kingdom in 1919 just after the First World War when the effects of Shell Shock were becoming known.[2] During the 1980s it became known as Combat Stress for public relations purposes although legally is still known by its original name. It is a registered UK Charity.[3][4]

Before 1919Edit

World War IEdit

The soldiers returning home from World War I suffered greatly from the horrors they had witnessed. Many returning veterans suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, called shell shock at the time.

In 1915 The British Army in France was instructed that:

Shell-shock and shell concussion cases should have the letter 'W' prefixed to the report of the casualty, if it were due to the enemy; in that case the patient would be entitled to rank as 'wounded' and to wear on his arm a 'wound stripe'. If, however, the man’s breakdown did not follow a shell explosion, it was not thought to be ‘due to the enemy’, and he was to [be] labelled 'Shell-shock' or 'S' (for sickness) and was not entitled to a wound stripe or a pension.[5]

In August 1916 Charles Myers was made Consulting Psychologist to the Army. He hammered home the notion that it was necessary to create special centres near the line using treatment based on:

  • Promptness of action.
  • Suitable environment.
  • Psychotherapeutic measures.

He also used hypnosis with limited success.

In December 1916 Gordon Holmes was put in charge of the northern, and more important, part of the western front. He had much more of the tough attitudes of the Army and suited the prevailing military mindset and so his view prevailed. By June 1917 all British cases of “Shell-shock” were evacuated to a nearby neurological centre and were labelled as NYDN–Not Yet Diagnosed Nervous”. "But, because of the Adjutant-General’s distrust of doctors, no patient could receive that specialist attention until Form AF 3436 had been sent off to the man’s unit and filled in by his commanding officer."[5] This created significant delays but demonstrated that between 4-10% of Shell-shock W cases were "commotional" (due to physical causes) and the rest were "emotional". This killed off shell-shock as a valid disease and it was abolished in September 1918.

During the war, 306 British soldiers were executed for cowardice, many of them victims of shell shock.[6] On 7 November 2006 the government of the United Kingdom gave them all a posthumous conditional pardon.[7]

The work todayEdit

The Charity was formed at a time when there was little known about mental health problems affecting ex serviceman who had returned home after serving in conflict zones.

Currently the organisation is helping over 4,400 people who are ex British Armed Forces[8] but demand is expected to rise due to British Forces being deployed on operations in Afganistan and Iraq.[9]

Support is currently being given to those who suffer from:[10]


The services provided:[11]

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

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