British Army Bone Saw

During World War One more than 41,000 men had a limb amputated- 69% lost one leg, 28% lost an arm and nearly 3% lost both legs or arms. These limbs were removed by the army’s surgeons who were equipped with surgical equipment in order to complete this as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of shock. Whilst very sharp blades were fine for cutting through flesh, the leg or arm bones were of course rather different and a special saw was used to cut through these. Tonight we are looking at an example of a British army surgical bone saw:

This saw has a very thin blade and is designed to be able to sever the bone in a few strokes. The blade itself is removable for sterilisation. There is a large thumb screw where it meets the handle:

Undoing this allows the saw to be disassembled for cleaning, thus preventing any tiny particulates of potentially infectious material hiding underneath parts between use:

This saw probably dates from the turn of the Twentieth Century and the handle is from before the use of stainless steel was typical in surgical instruments, so it is made of brass and then plated. The plating is wearing off this example and the brass starting to show through. The handle of the saw has the /|\ stamp indicating British military ownership and a maker’s name of ‘Bailey’ of London stamped into the metal:

The design of this saw is very similar to the American ‘Satterlee’ bone saw that was introduced around the time of the American Civil War. This saw introduced the concept of a ‘pistol’ type grip, although at that point the handle was wood. By the late nineteenth century it was realised that all metal instruments were far more hygienic and this has been the standard ever since. The basic design of the Satterlee bone saw has remained the same ever since and although largely replaced with powered tools today, it is still manufactured and used in countries such as India.

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