Shell Shock in Canada During the First World War


Shell Shock in Canada During the First World War


Research Question

Did an official diagnosis of shell shock affect a soldier’s ability to thrive in Canadian society during and after the First World War? How did the Canadian experience with shell shock differ from the British experience? How did social class and status affect how Canadian soldiers with shell shock were treated?


CGS International Internship/Fieldwork Grant


Shell shock and similar disorders associated with combat trauma have had important impacts on the course of modern psychiatry and veterans benefits. The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in the First World War had a significant portion of troops afflicted with shell shock (roughly 10,000 recorded cases). Nevertheless, very little research has been done on the experience of these troops in comparison to other combatant nations. This research furthers the understanding of how mentally ill men were treated in the ranks and demonstrates the importance of proper mental health treatment for soldiers suffering from combat related mental trauma.

Methods Used

Archival research including primary sources such as letters, journals, and service records, newspaper articles, battle field hospital memos, doctors’ notes, and post-war pension documents. These documents establish how the government and society at large reacted to and treated shell-shocked men, as well as establish the personal experience of soldiers who were diagnosed with shell shock.


This research on the Canadian experience in the First World War argues that soldiers experienced inequality in care based on their social class, status groups, and ability to adhere to masculine standards leading to poor care for the mentally traumatized soldiers.

Publication Date



Ottawa and Montréal




Canadian History | History

Shell Shock in Canada During the First World War


Book Location