Douglas C. (Douglas Crawford) McMurtrie.

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disabled soldiers. The Ecole nationale beige des mutiles de la guerre

1 Material for this chapter prepared by Gladys Gladding Whiteside.

2 De Paeuw, Leon : La reeducation professionelle des soldats mutiles et estropies.
Paris, 1917, p. 13.

"Ibid., p. 15.

57710—18 6 65


at Port-Villez was organized by the minister of war and is entirely
supported by him. The Depot des Invalides at Sainte-Adresse is a
private institution founded by M. Schollaert, the president of the
Belgian House of Eepresentatives. In addition to these two large
schools, shops for readapting men to work have been organized in
connection with the military hospital of Bonsecours at Kouen.*


The school at Port-Villez was built by the minister of war on land
presented to the Government for the purpose by a Belgian gentleman.
It is situated on a plateau overlooking the Seine, about halfway be-
tween Paris and Kouen, in the midst of a beautiful and fertile
country. The nearest town is Vernon, in the Department of the

On July 12, 1915, a detachment of auxiliary engineers of the Bel-
gian Army began to clear the ground of stumps and copses in prep-
aration for the erection of buildings. On August 21, when only
about a tenth of the construction had been completed, the first group
of pupils arrived from the hospitals. In a year from that time 1,200
men were being reeducated there. 5

The school has the appearance of a vast camp with its 92 wooden
barracks arranged in three rows, each barrack being of the type of
the portable field hospital huts, with double walls and cement founda-
tions. At one end of the row of barracks is the large meeting hall
and beyond that the officers' quarters and the infirmary. At the
other end are a steam sawmill and joinery which were already on
the place and a shed which has been transformed into a shop for
hand carpentry. Beyond are the garage and repair shops for trucks
and automobiles, and farther still the stables and the poultry yard.
In front of the barracks is a large garden. Buildings have been put
up as there was a demand for them, and greater additions are being
planned for the future. It is hoped that the shops can soon be trans-
ferred to large new halls so that the existing barracks can all be used
for dormitories.


The work of the school is divided among three departments — the
medical service, the academic department, and the department of
technical training. When the school was first organized, the chief
physician of the medical service was made the administrative head,
but now the three departments have been placed on an equal footing
and an army colonel has been made the general superintendent.

1 De Paeuw, Leon : La reeducation professionelle des soldats mutiles et estroplgs.
Paris, 1917, p. 25.
* Ibid., p. 63.

The Medical Service.

The chief duty of the medical service is to provide functional
reeducation for those that need it. This service is also charged with
keeping a file showing the vocational capacity of each man and with
watching over his vocational training. In addition it superintends
the manufacture of orthopedic appliances. Men sent to Port-Villez
from the base hospitals at Rouen have been provided with artificial
limbs, but special appliances which make it easier for crippled men
to work at certain trades are manufactured and supplied at the

Functional reeducation is carried on by means of (1) mecano-
therapy with apparatus ; (2) electrotherapy, employing the Leclanche
galvanic battery; (3) hot air baths; (4) medical gymnastics and
massage; and (5) fencing, games, and sports. The treatment appro-
priate to each man's condition is given to him at certain hours of
the day during the course of his apprenticeship at a trade.

In the experience of the school the improvement effected through
physiotherapy and regular gymnastics is greatly augmented by the
beneficial exercise which the pupil gets in the workshop. It has even
happened that a man's condition has been greatly improved through
work after another institution had declared that nothing more could
be done for him by physiotherapy.

Pupils in the commercial courses who get no exercise in their work
take special gymnastics and exercises."

The Academic Department.

The academic department provides general schooling for men
learning trades, theoretical instruction in the trades, and special
courses for men who wish to fit themselves to be clerks with business
concerns or with the Government.

Men in the trades are divided into three groups — the illiterate, the
men who have had only the rudiments of a schooling, and those who
have gone through a grammar school. These groups are again di-
vided into classes, which receive two hours of instruction a day in
school subjects. Each class is made up of men speaking the same
language, and the instruction is given, naturally, in that language.
Out of 28 classes, 11 were conducted in French and 17 in Flemish.
Men in the higher classes have passed excellent examinations in writ-
ing the two languages and in solving arithmetical problems of real
difficulty. A special course for men who have passed through the
higher class is given one hour a day. It includes bookkeeping
adapted to the needs of artisans and simplified contemporary history.

• De Paeuw, Lfion : La reeducation professionelle des soldats mutUfe et estropiis,
Paris, 1917, pp. 70-80,


The plan of the theoretical instruction is the same for all the trades.
It includes the study of tools and machinery, of raw materials, their
physical and chemical properties, their source, conditions of pur-
chase, etc., the processes of the trade, how to determine the sale price
of the articles made, and how to place them on sale. The director of
this department has aided the shop foremen by suggesting to them
good teaching methods and by sketching lesson plans. Once a week
he and the technical director hold a meeting of all the shop foremen
and instructors to discuss methods and technical questions. Every-
thing is done which can help to make the theoretical instruction a real
aid to the practical work. Wood and metal workers attend special
classes in drafting, not to become draftsmen but so that they may
with facility read and make working drawings. 7

The commercial courses are for men who on account of their pre-
vious education and circumstances wish rather to obtain an office
position than to learn a trade. They were originally organized by the
Belgian Government in a special school at Mortain (Manche), but
before the school had been running a year, through some conflict of
interests or some misunderstanding, the old abbey which housed it
was ordered transformed into a hospital. Arrangements were then
made to transfer the school to Port-Villez and to incorporate it in
that institution. It is known now as the " school of clerks of com-
merce, industry, and administration " (Ecole des auxiliares du com-
merce, de l'industrie, et de l'administration).

The school has four main groups of subjects or departments — a
primary department, a department preparing for civil-service posi-
tions, a commercial department, and a normal department for the
training of teachers. Pupils in the primary department are taught
French, Flemish, arithmetic, geometrical forms, elementary princi-
ples of business, history, geography, and elements of social eco-
nomics. Many of these men are former railroad employees, whom
the railroads, being Government concerns, are in honor bound to
take back into service. Since they are unable, owing to their wounds,
to resume their old work as engineers, brakemen, or porters, they are
being trained for ticket sellers, station agents, and office employees.
A few are learning telegraphy. Other men in this department are
being trained for clerks, cashiers, and shop salesmen with private
concerns. Altogether 170 men were enrolled in this department
at the end of 1917. The courses are divided into two terms of six
months each.

The courses of the department preparing for civil-service posi-
tions include the two national languages, a third language, writing,
history, geography, business, constitutional law, arithmetic, elements
of algebra, plane and solid geometry, elements of physics, social

7 De Paeuw, Leon : La replication professionelle dee soldats routlles et estropies
Paris, 1917, pp. 85-93.


economics, stenography, and typewriting. , Fifty pupils were in
this department at the end of 1916. The work is divided into three
terms of four months each.

The commercial or bookkeeping department is divided into two
terms of six months each. During the first term all pupils study the
elements of bookkeeping, commercial arithmetic, four languages,
commercial geography, and stenography and typewriting. During
the second term they specialize as expert bookkeepers, commercial
correspondents, or wireless operators. There were 35 men in this

The 15 men in the normal department at the end of 1916 were
mostly noncommissioned officers obliged because of their reduced
physical powers to give up the careers they had planned for them-
selves. They receive their training as teachers during two terms of
six months each. For practice teaching they conduct a class for the
children of officers and married teachers whose families have estab-
lished themselves in the vicinity of the school.

The teachers in the four departments of the " school of clerks "
have been borrowed from the stretcher-bearers' corps and other aux-
iliary branches of the service. Before the war they were school and
college teachers, expert accountants in the large banks, and men
holding important administrative posts. 8

The Department of Technical Training.

Over 40 trades are taught in the shops managed by the depart-
ment of technical training. The length of time necessary for learn-
ing a trade is not definitely fixed, so greatly does it depend on a
man's native aptitude and his handiness in overcoming his disability,
but the management of the school has found that good teaching
methods can greatly reduce the time supposedly required for an ap-
prenticeship in a given trade. By beginning with simple operations
and following them with more difficult ones in well-ordered grada-
tion, by avoiding the repetition of processes that have been per-
fectly mastered, and by constantly stimulating the pupil's interest,
the shop foremen have obtained excellent results in a comparatively
short time. In the experience of the management, lessons in school
subjects and theoretical instruction also quicken the progress of an

The shops are operated for production as well as for teaching, but
good teaching is never sacrificed for the sake of increasing produc-
tion. Most of the product of the shop fills orders from the Belgian
Government, but when these orders do not provide the variety neces-
sary for a thorough apprenticeship, the school takes orders from
private firms.

8 De Paeuw, Lfion : La rWducatlon professionelle des soldats mutilgs et estropigs.
Paris, 1917, pp. 164-176.


What might be an obstacle to good apprenticeship, the continual
arrival of new men, is overcome by grouping the newcomers together
and starting them at work under the careful supervision of a moni-
tor. Later new groupings are made in accordance with the men's
ability and progress. All work is carefully supervised by monitors,
foremen, and doctors, and a man is never allowed to become dis-
couraged. In some trades there is a monitor for every four men. 9

The following brief account of the different shops describes the
work they were doing in the latter part of 1916. 10

Machine work in carpentry — the use of circular saws, band saws,
power planes, turning machines, rotary molding cutters, etc. — was
being taught to five apprentices, all former carpenters prevented by
injuries to their arms from taking up their old work.

Hand carpentry and cabinetmaking were being taught to 18
apprentices from all sorts of former occupations. Among them'
were boatmen, truckmen, butchers, and agricultural workers, the
majority of whom had an injured leg. They were making doors,
windows, desks, boxes, cupboards, and other interior fittings. Two
men unable to mount ladders were learning to make carpenters'

In the section for makers of patterns for casters were three men
who had been molders in a foundry and who were no longer able to
lift the heavy frames. Two had an ankylosis of the elbow and
shoulder, respectively ; the third a crippled foot.

In the section for toys and knick-knacks were 10 men who had
been cartmen, farm hands, bricklayers, miners, and weavers.

In the wood-carving section a wood carver by trade was over-
coming the handicap of three paralyzed fingers; a cabinetmaker
with a badly crippled foot was learning the trade.

A miner, a farm worker, and a factory hand, all injured in the
leg, were learning to make wooden shoes.

Wood polishing is considered a good trade for men who have
completely lost the use of one arm or who have had an arm ampu-
tated. Apprenticeship is rapid and easy, and the only secret of
the trade is in the mixture of ingredients. Twenty-four men with
arm injuries or amputations were in this section. It is expected
that after the war they can t^placed in furniture factories, piano
factories, and factories for automobile bodies. Pyrography and
brass and leather repousse work are taught with polishing.

The section for mechanics is extremely popular with the mutiles.
Among 45 apprentices thefe were former molders, laborers, plas-
terers, chauffeurs, founders, forge workers, glass blowers, and
weavers. Their injuries were partial paralysis of a hand, paralysis

• De Paeuw, Lion : La reeducation professionelle <Jes soldats mutiles et estropies.
Paris, 1917, pp. 124-134.
» Ibid., pp. 94-124.


of the radial nerve, ankylosis of an elbow, and various leg injuries.
Forty men had finished their apprenticeship and secured positions
outside in which they were earning from 5 to 8 francs a day.

Oxy-acetylene welding is considered within the powers of men who
have had a leg amputated and even of men with a badly crippled
arm if they have some use of the hand. Former ironworkers with a
sufficiently developed intelligence to be able to acquire the knowledge
of physics and chemistry necessary in the trade are advised to take
up this apprenticeship.,

Fifty pupils were taking the course for chauffeurs and automobile
mechanics. They were of all trades and had various lesser injuries
of the arms and legs.

The section for plumbers and zinc workers contained 4 pupils who
were working on the installation of a water system for the school
and learning to manufacture kitchen utensils of all sorts.

The section for clockmakers contained 4 pupils.

The electricians had 16 pupils and was growing rapidly. Appren-
tices were required to have agility for climbing ladders and stringing
wires, and a certain amount of intellectual training. Men with no
use of a forearm, with an ankylosed elbow or shoulder, and with
paralysis of a hand were taking up the work. A former electrician
who had had his left arm disarticulated at the shoulder was studying
electrical theory and hoped to obtain a position as a foreman.

The shoemaking class here, as in French schools, was the < largest
of all the manual trades. It contained 114 pupils. There were men
of practically all occupations and with all kind of leg injuries, even
amputations. One man had had both legs amputated. The course
is divided into repair work and the making of new shoes. Some men
who Intend to set up a shop in the city specialize in repair work,
bui the majority wish to be able to make shoes and boots to measure.
Apprentices entirely new to the trade have learned to assemble and
finish a pair of army shoes in five and a half months. Orthopedic
shoes for pupils in the school are made in this shop ; other appliances
are made by the saddlers and mechanics.

In the saddlers' shop were 30 apprentices, the majority with in-
jured legs but some with ankylosis of the shoulder or elbow or partial
loss of use of one hand. A six months' apprenticeship enables a
man to earn a living in it. As a side line all saddlers are taught to
make fly nets f i _■ horses.

Tailoring attracts many men with leg injuries and some with in-
juries to their arms which prevent them from doing heavy work.
The thumb and index finger of the injured arm must be able to hold
the cloth. Men with a leg amputated use a small electric motor to
run the sewing machine. Fiftyrtwo pupils were in this section.


Tho furriers were fewer in number, partly because of a lack of raw
materials and partly because few men have a taste for the trade.
Among the 5 apprentices were a miner, two carpenters, and an ag-
ricultural laborer. The same disabilities are compatible with this
trade as with tailoring.

The upholstery class was only in its infancy. A few apprentices
were at work repairing the school mattresses and were in hopes of
obtaining some pieces of furniture which they could upholster.

In the basketry class 46 apprentices were learning to make coarse
and fine baskets and willow furniture. In addition to the regular
apprentices men in the horticultural class were learning basketry on
rainy days. The majority of those who expected to make a living
from basketry had leg injuries. Men with certain functional inju-
ries of the hands had their condition greatly improved by the work.
The average length of apprenticeship is from six to seven months.

Typesetting by hand and by means of the linotype, and presswork
were being taught in the printing shop to 21 men, variously afflicted
with paralysis of the hand, inability to open the fingers, and anky-
losis of the elbow and knee. Six of the linotypists after less than a
year's work were fitted for positions in large printing establishments.
They were capable of deciphering manuscripts and setting them cor-
rectly. Their knowledge of grammar and spelling was entirely ade-
quate for good work, although their previous education had been of
the most rudimentary sort. They had, moreover, a perfect under-
standing of the linotype machine and could take it apart and set it
up as well as any mechanic. Pupils became competent pressmen
after an apprenticeship of six months.

The engraving and lithography section had 7 pupils. Their for-
mer occupations ranged from bookbinding to truck gardening.

The bookbindery contained 7 men, each with a badly crippled
hand. One-armed men have been directed to this trade, but they
have become discouraged and turned to wood polishing and the
painting which imitates grained wood and marbles. Four months is
long enough to learn ordinary binding, but a much longer time is
necessary for artistic binding.

Photogravure has been taken up successfully by one-armed men
and by men with no use of one hand. The usefulness of the shop is,
however, limited by lack of orders.

In the photography studio were 8 pupils who had partially lost
the use of one hand. They were at work on retouching after having
learned how to prepare and develop plates. Since photography
hardly affords a living to a man in a small village, the school intends
to combine this trade with some other, such as sign painting.

Five men were learning to operate moving-picture machines.


Among the 12 pupils of the hairdressing class were former hair-
dressers learning to make wigs and hair pieces, and men learning to
be barbers. Men with leg amputations, with three fingers of one
hand amputated, and with ankylosed elbows were in this class.

Brush making, except the manufacture of the wooden parts of
brushes, is reserved for blind men.

There are several classes of industrial design or drafting. One
prepares men to be simple draftsmen and estimators; a second
teaches applied design to former cabinetmakers and forge workers
with a talent for creative work; a third teaches drafting for ma-
chinery, not only to former machinists but also to telegraphers, stone-
cutters, boatmen, and even agriculturists. Almost all the drafts-
men had lost part of a hand or had an ankylosed shoulder or elbow.

Men in the building trades— carpenters, roofers, and masons—
who have no longer the strength for their old work are directed
toward a class which takes up the study of mathematics, topography,
the elements of physics and mechanics, building materials, building
laws, and hygiene ; in brief, of all subjects which prepare men to- be
foremen or superintendents of building construction. A higher
class, which includes surveying and drafting, prepares men for the
examination for the position of building inspector in the department
of public works.

In the sculpture and modeling class the 10 pupils were former
plasterers, marble cutters, or stone carvers. Since they were en-
gaged in a connected trade, they were making rapid progress.

Different branches of painting are taught in a number of classes,
in many cases to one-armed men. One class learns to imitate grained
wood and marbles, another takes up sign painting, and a third paint-
ing on china and porcelain. Pupils are required to pass through
these three classes in order to be armed against the slack season.
Decorative painting and painting on glass are also taught.

In the great bakery built to supply bread to the institution 6
pupils, among whom three had lost a leg, were learning to be bakers,
although this is in the main a standing trade. In the connection
with the supply of meat, men were learning to be butchers and
sausage makers.

Former agriculturists whose injuries have incapacitated them for
the heavy work of a farm are taught a trade at Port-Villez if they
express their desire to learn one. If not, they receive training in
raising animals or poultry, in dairying, truck gardening, fruit and
tree culture, or flower raising. Fields adjoining the school property
and two small farms in the vicinity have been rented for the purpose
of providing this instruction. Experienced farmers, no longer fit for
active service in the army, have charge of the work. Among 90 men
in the sections for poultry raising, tree and fruit culture, and truck


gardening, 9 had lost an arm, 1 a leg, 4 had a crippled leg, 1 a serious
abdominal wound, 1 had been trepanned, and 20 had a stiffened or
paralyzed arm. 11

How a Trade is Chosen.

When men arrive' at Port-Villez they undergo a thorough medical
examination, which determines what kind of physiotherapeutic treat-'
ment will benefit them. They are next examined as to their previous
general schooling and their mental qualifications. This is done not
only for the purpose of grouping them in classes for further in-
struction, but also to help in directing them toward a suitable trade.
Certain occupations are barred to men without a fairly good general
education or a quick intelligence. A third examination is con-
ducted by the technical director, Capt. Haccour, an educator of
unusual understanding and sympathy, with a gift for drawing out
a man's real self and with a contagious enthusiasm. Capt. Haccour
accompanies the new men on an informal tour of the workshops, lets
them talk with the men at work in the various trades, and tries to
discover their latent aptitudes and tastes.

Each man is then brought separately before a committee consisting
of the examining physician, the academic director, and the technical
director. The members of the committee compare their individual
notes as to the man's capacities, consult with him as to his inclina-
tions, and finally decide that he shall make a trial of apprenticeship
in a certain trade. If after a week it appears that a man has been
misplaced, his case is reconsidered and he is directed toward another
kind of work. 12


The entire cost of the school is borne by the Belgian Government.
Every effort has been made to reduce the charges of construction
and equipment and to manage the school in the most economical way.
The portable barracks, which are used as dormitories and shops,
will be used afterwards in the devastated regions. The permanent

Online LibraryDouglas C. (Douglas Crawford) McMurtrieThe evolution of national systems of vocational reeducation for disabled soldiers and sailors → online text (page 8 of 38)