Witley, May 16, 1917

Wednesday      Last night my teeth ached so violently that I did not fall to sleep until the dawn began to break I did not intend to suffer any more so I had them pulled this AM  We finished [stripping] the gun this A.M. & reassembled it this afternoon

Toothache Der Hohle Zahn.jpgPerhaps the only thing worse than toothache was the prospect of toothache while on active service. The pulling of teeth features in the wartime memoirs of both Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden. The latter wrote: “Long tramps day and night ruined my feet, but I had to walk to Poperinghe in great misery to have a tooth put to rest or die in the attempt.” His experience (which was far easier than the extraction Graves describes) left him in a state of “illogical happiness” as he retraced his path along a road “which could be seen between its trees from the German and from our front line.” (1)

Having the offending teeth pulled — by the local unregistered dentist, probably — did not keep Percy from his evening entertainment. Again, he thought it merited a special description, and  whole page in the back of his little diary:

This evening we intended to go to Guildford – a whist drive[.] we got a special pass untill [sic] 12 pm but unfortunately they were no good for trains so we caught 6:30 bus from tin town & changed at Godalming catching the 7:15  getting into Guildford about 8:5 [sic] not knowing where the drive was held, we were too late when we found it. We decided to catch the 9 o’c bus back & take supper at Godalming & again we were out of luck the engine broke down so after waiting 40 minutes we caught the 9:50 train[.] luck was against us all evening The drive turned out to be a swell one every body who was anybody was there — for us twas expensive

(1) Qtd. in M.E. Richardson. “Toothache Tales: Part 1,” British Dental Journal. 192 (2002) 651-655. The 1868 illustration of a sufferer (from Der Hohle Zahn [The Rotten Tooth] by Wilhelm Busch) is one of several reprinted in this article.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”





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