Barnsley Independent – Saturday 28 June 1919
Darfield Officer’s Interesting Observations
The Welfare of Returned Warriors.
The annual report of the Medical Officer for Darfield (Dr. F. J. Castle) contains as usual, some very interesting observations on health and sanitary matters, reference being made to the value of district nursing, and the conditions and position of returned warriors, whilst the report also shows the mortality returns and the heavy toll which recent epidemics have made upon the district.
Dr. Castle in the report which is submitted to the Urban Council, writes:
You will remember that for tame years I urged to get a district nurse; well, in the course of time the plan materialised and we have had a nurse for several years. You will only have to ask anyone you meet In the pissing to hear what a boon It has been for the place. For the past year or more the nurse has been overworked, and I now urge you to take measures to provide a second one. As you know, the home which Mr. Tailor has provided was constructed with the idea that there would eventually be at least two nurses. It remains for you to see that funds are raised so that she can be properly maintained.
During the end of 1918 the men who had gone from the district on military service began to return: the first batch of them, alas! in a more or disabled condition. Those who came back later were not so badly disabled, but they often do not seem to be able to take up work again as I had expected and had hoped that they would do. When we saw the condition which their early training gave them, and saw how their colour improved and their muscles developed we thought that it was a shame that we had previously stunted their growth and impaired their general health by pit work. Now, we find that there is another side to this. These rosy cheeked lads had to endure great hardships in the trenches, nerve wracking experience which can hardly be imagined those of us who stopped at borne and finally had to pay the penalty for the large amount of animal food which they consumed during training. The result is that most of them return with the keen desire for work blunted, many with their nerve control shaken, so that they have constant tremors of hands and limbs, and a very large percentage suffer from rheumatism partly due to cold and exposure and really due to the overdose of animal food. In addition to this there are a considerable number of men returning from Salonica, India, Palestine and other stricken places, subject to recurrent attacks of malaria, dysentery and other internal complaints.
Well! We must make the best we can of the broken lives, time will do wonders for them and light work. I feel sure that it is a mistake to condemn a young man to idleness becalm he is occasionally quite unit for work. On the other band you cannot expect a debilitated man to start straight away on the same arduous work which he need to do before the war; there must be an intermediate stage of light work. That is the problem before the country, to provide suitable light work for our returning soldiers.
The report states that the total number of deaths for the district (excluding soldier.) was 81 and births 142. giving a natural increase in this population of 61. The population for birthrate (including soldiery) is 5095, and for death rate (excluding soldiers) 5063. Fifteen deaths were of infants under one year of age. The birth-rate per 1,003 of population is 24.9, the death-rate 15.9, and infantile mortality 116.6 per 1,000 registered births.
The birth-rate for England and Wales was 17.7. death-rate 17.6. and infantile mortality 97.
He received notification’ of the following infectious diseases: Measles 83, German measles 18, erysipelas 3. scarlet fever 3, diphtheria 3. Tuberculosis 19, ophthalmia neonatorium 2.
From the statistics he noticed:
- That the diseases which caused the highest mortality were (1) influenza, 24. (2) pneumonia 11. (3) tuberculosis 7.
- That excluding the epidemic of influenza, which was not notifiable at the time. the most prevalent zymotic diseases were (1) measles 83. (2) German measles 18 (3) tuberculosis 17.
Ravages of Influenza
The doctor proceeded. “So far as the mortality was concerned, I think we can attribute the whole of the increase mortality rate (15,9 as against 12.4 last year) to this presence of the influenza, and pneumonia epidemic. As you are aware, it was widespread and involved every part of the district.
Many of the cases were of the most severe type, and it was quite a common occurrence to find a whole household disabled at the same time, and obliged to depend on the assistance of their neighbours for such nursing and cooking as they could manage to provide. I think it speaks well for the good feeling and kindliness of the district that, so far as I know, no lives were lost from absolute want of attention. Of course both doctors and nurses were overworked for months together and it not possible to collect the scientific data which were present in abundance in the epidemic. Everyone was working hard from early morning until midnight to try and save the lives which were in such great danger. Curiously enough, those parts of the district which are generally most free from the epidemic (i.e., the outlying country and the farms) were thorn which were most severely visited, and in these district, the worst type of cases were found.
So far as the epidemic of measles was concerned most of the cases were of a mild character and you will notice that although 83 of measles and 18 cases of German measles were reported (representing a much larger total number of cases), there were only two deaths from measles and none from German measles. With regard to the prevalence and mortality from tubercular diseases, last year 20 cases were notified, remitting in 9 deaths; this year 19 cases were notified, resulting in 9 deaths.”
With reward to the districts affected, Dr. Castle said they would remember that he suspected that Havelock Street was a sort of tubercular nest so that he had prepared a list of the localities where it had been notified, and the ages of the persons affected, so that the question of any of the children’s schools acting as a distribution centre could be considered. “From this.” Dr. Castle proceeded. “I am unable to suggest that any case was attributable to school attendance.
A considerable proportion of the cases (8) occurred in Low Valley, where the population is comparatively dense, but with this exception, the distribution on the remaining cases is fairly even over the rest of the district, and Havelock Street for this period is no worse than any other part of the district.
During the epidemic of influenza the schools and cinema palaces were closed;’ perhaps one advantage of the incidence of epidemics of this kind is that it lays stress on the necessity for efficient ventilation and cleansing of halls of entertainment, places of worship and public buildings of all kinds.
As a whole the diseases which one may attribute to the poor Quality of the food eaten, are gradually disappearing, and cases of indigestion, nettle rash, recurrent boils. etc., are not, as common as they were during the past year.
On the whole the supply of milk has held out better than I expected it would do, and though food is very expensive, it is possible to get all that it required.
The sanitary work of the district has gone on smoothly, and I have had very few complaints; possibly the public are considerate and do not expect quite the same high standard as before the war. When making my regular inspections of the district, I often find conditions, that are far from ideal, but one hesitates to throw extra burdens on men who have great, difficulty in getting the most necessary repairs carried out.
Some years ego the question of providing a mortuary was discussed, but nothing effective was ever done, Recent events lead me to again call your notice to this as one of the needs of the district.
Like other places, Darfield has its housing scheme in hand, and we hope that soon building will commence again; this alone should provide employment for a considerable number of men. Of course it is not all easy work in building, neither is it all hard, and some of our disabled men should be able to help in building new ones for themselves and also for their mates.
I hope, gentlemen, in making these remarks, I have not encroached on the provinces of other departments, but it is a matter which has been much brought under personal notice, and I know something of it from the men’s point of view, as I have long been a victim to the sequelac of tropical malaria, so that on some days I feel quite well, and others am quite a cripple.”