Ellie Grigsby - The men with broken faces

12 December 2018 19:00

Ellie Grigsby
Subject: The men with broken faces: The spectacle of the loneliest Tommy in the First World War

Subject: The men with broken faces: The spectacle of the loneliest Tommy in the First World War

The facially disfigured soldiers of the First World War have been described as the loneliest of all the Tommies. After extensive research, placing these soldiers under the lens for her MA Degree, Ellie Grigsby produced a thesis paper looking at how facial disfigurement, as a taboo injury of the entire war, meant these men were seen as a spectacle.

According to government figures, 60,500 British soldiers came home with facial injuries. This is a conservative estimation, as figures for the French and German facial maiming equate to around 300,000 and 500,000. Evidently there are flaws in how the facially disfigured servicemen were recorded, and indeed as she has acutely discovered, remembered.

The soldiers, known as the men with 'broken' faces, who were so horrifically disfigured, had to live with the fact their lives had changed forever. It was not uncommon for the children of these service men to hid from their fathers, cowering in fear under tables and furniture when their fathers' returned home from war, in fear of the new face they saw before them. Bearing their war experience forever on their faces, these soldiers lost their identities. The complexities of this Great War narrative are extraordinary and is what she will be exploring on the evening of her lecture.

There is no standing memorial in the UK dedicated to the survivors of the war who suffered facial maiming as a result of their service. Grigsby has fund-raised over £11,000 in just over half a year to fund the memorial she has designed herself. The memorial will stand at over 6ft tall, created by combining the ultra modern technique 3D printing, and traditional stone masonry. Facially disfigured soldiers did not get the same hero status as amputees or physically healthy survivors, they were lost. Through her memorial campaign, fund raising, speaking to local history societies, organisations, leaf-letting, and securing grants from large organisations, and her crowd funding page, Grigsby is trying to find them again. The memorial is now held in storage awaiting the unveil in 2019 which will be done by a 'collective unveil' as the descendants of those WWI soldiers who suffered facial wounds reveal it to the world, together.