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Med Confl Surviv. 2014 Oct-Dec;30(4):252-75. doi: 10.1080/13623699.2014.963970. Epub 2014 Dec 2.

Shell Shock and the Kloppe: war neuroses amongst British and Belgian troops during and after the First World War.

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a Humanities and Social Sciences , University of South Wales , Pontypridd , UK.


During the First World War combatants of all armies were prey to nervous disorders or psychological breakdown. These war neuroses were a response to the highly-industrialised nature of the warfare as well as to the fatigue engendered over four years of intense conflict. Yet while fear and mental breakdown were universal, national responses varied. A comparison of British and Belgian shell shock indicates that men suffered in very similar ways but that symptoms met with rather different responses: in Britain treatment and diagnostic regimes stressed the importance of class difference and shell shock was often linked to cowardice. These issues were not of overriding importance in the Belgian army. In the longer term shell shock became, and remained, a topic of political and social concern in Britain whereas in Belgium men suffering from kloppe (extreme fear) tended to be forgotten and the topic has not excited much popular interest or scholarly attention. Yet despite these differences one overarching theme remains clear, namely that despite the extensive experience of war neuroses during and after the First World War, there still remains a fierce stigma about the mental wounds of war.


Kloppe; psychiatry; psychology; shell shock; war neuroses

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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