The Thomas Splint: Untold stories of the First World War through an examination of our objects

Glenside Hospital Museum


Rhyming Couplet Thomas Splint copyTNLHLF_Colour_Logo_English_RGB_0_0The National Lottery Heritage Fund have supported us to produce an activity learning package for schools and other organisations to hire, using our handling collection which includes Thomas’ Splint.

The Thomas Splint at Glenside Hospital Museum is a favourite. Like many of the objects in our collection it is fairly basic, an extraordinary shape but life-saving. This object reduced the death rate during the First World War from 80% to 8% for soldiers with compound fractures, and all because Thomas’ nephew got the job of organising the First World War orthopaedic hospitals.

Thomas splint slide 2

The first description of the Thomas Splint was published by a Welsh bonesetter, Hugh Owen Thomas in 1875. He used it to immobilised patients when treating diseases of the knee like tuberculosis. Thomas’s nephew, bonesetter Robert Jones, expanded its use to treat fractures. His organisation of trauma care and the treatment of fractures were way ahead of their time.  As a result of his success he was appointed consultant orthopaedic surgeon to the British army during the First World War. He insisted that all the hospitals used his uncle’s splint. Here in Bristol, Beaufort War Hospital was designated as an orthopaedic hospital and Stanley Spencer, as an orderly at the hospital would have seen the soldiers come in on stretchers and helped move them into surgery.

The chances of breaking bones was high due to the mud, flying missiles and explosions. The cure previously would have been to cut the limb off. During the First World War two hundred and forty thousand soldiers in the British army had their limbs severed. This figure would have been a lot higher without the Thomas splint.

Thomas’ Splint is still sometimes used today.

Glenside Hospital Museum is commemorating the closure of Beaufort War Hospital in 1919, #GHMtakingpart.