Science and Victory Pamphlet

Nominated by: Vicky Hope-Walker

This small A5 pamphlet “Science and Victory: The Contribution of the Refugees” was produced shortly after the war, and was found in items saved at the National Spinal Injuries Centre in 2019.  This feels very pertinent as we commemorate 75 years since VE day on 8th May 2020.

On page six, the pamphlet discusses the contribution of refugees to medicine.  The pamphlet particularly highlights the contribution of Dr Guttmann, who evolved treatment for paraplegic patients – those paralysed in the legs and lower body, a common injury of WW2 veterans.  The pamphlet states:

“Dr. L. Guttman is another outstanding name.  He came to England from Breslau in 1939, and at the war hospital at Stoke Mandeville discovered a means of treating victims of paraplegia … in such as manner as to ensure in a great majority of cases a return to normal life.”

When Dr Guttman started to work with spinal injury patients in 1944 the life expectancy in England for those paralysed was only two years.  There is no mention of sport or the Paralympics in this pamphlet, as that was all to come, and is perhaps his greatest achievement, all begun here in Buckinghamshire. 

In September 1943 Dr Guttmann was asked if he would like to take charge of the Spinal Injuries Unit at Stoke Mandeville.  The new Spinal Unit was opened at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in February 1944 with Dr Guttmann in charge.  It had 24 beds and one patient.  It was initially very poorly resourced but the medical need was clear; within six months Dr Guttmann had nearly 50 patients.

Dr Guttman wanted to implement his own theories on how best to treat patients who had paraplegia. Rehabilitation through sport was his method and he created competitions amongst the patients.  These competitions grew bigger and bigger into full Paralympic Games, hence Buckinghamshire’s unique position as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement.

See more objects from the National Paralympic Heritage Trust collection here.

The Science and Victory Pamphlet was nominated by Vicky Hope-Walker, Director of the National Paralympic Heritage Trust. Vicky lives and works in Buckinghamshire.