Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The 2/4th Battalion)

Research and Resources around the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during WWI

Spanish Influenza June 1918

From G. K. Rose, The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

“In the middle of June, during a stay at La Pierriere, the Battalion was ravaged by a mysterious epidemic, which claimed hundreds of victims before it passed. Starting among the signallers, it
first spread through Headquarters, and then attacked all Companies indiscriminately. Among the officers, Cubbage and Shields (the doctor) were the first to go to hospital; soon followed by Clutsom, who was adjutant at this time, and Tobias, the very
doctor who had come to replace Shields. The Colonel and myself were the next victims, and when the time came for the Battalion to go into the line, it was necessary to send for Christie-Miller, of the Gloucesters, to take command and to make Murray from quartermaster into adjutant. This epidemic was not confined to the Battalion, nor to the 61st Division. Isolation camps had hastily to be formed, for the evil threatened to dislocate whole corps and even armies. Among the Germans the same complaint seems to have spread with even greater virulence; indeed, it may well have prevented them from launching a further offensive against Bethune and Hazebrouck. By doctors it was classified under the name of Pyrexia of Unknown Origin (‘P.U.O.’) while in such guarded references as occurred our Press spoke of it as ‘ Spanish Influenza.’ The symptoms of the illness consisted in high temperature, followed by great physical and mental lassitude. Most cases recovered within a week, but some took longer, nor was a second attack following recovery from the first at all uncommon. Such was the only epidemic of the war. Thanks to the care and efficiency of our Regimental M.O.s the dreaded scourges of past wars cholera, dysentery, and enteric in France could together claim few, if any, victims.”

Story of the 2/5th Battalion the Gloucester Regiment 1914-1918
ed by A.F.Barnes
ISBN: 9781843427582
Format: 2003 N&M Press reprint (original pub 1930) 192pp with 39 b/w photos and 12 maps.

Late June 1918
“Two features make Linghem memorable. One was the attack of Spanish influenza which effected the 184th Brigade. It started with the Oxfords and reached the Glosters about June 27th. Its ravages were so severe that within a fortnight 250 men went to hospital. The army called it “P.U.O.”, which stands for “pyrexia of unknown origin.” Soldiers, both high and low, are very fond of denoting persons and things by capital letters. N.B.G., for instance, is a favoured combination of theirs, and indeed, would not under the circumstances have been an unsuitable substitute for P.U.O.”

“In June, the British Army in the U.K., had 31,000 cases, six times the number of the previous month.”

There is a great article on the Spanish influenza break out available from the British Medical Journal. The Influenza Epidemic in the British Armies in France, 1918. By the Influenza Committee of the Advisory Board to the D.G.M.S., France. Nov. 9, 1918. The British Medical Journal.

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