Many photographs of stretcher bearers taken during the Second World War show them wearing a lanyard around their neck, connected to a pair of scissors that are usually tucked into the breast pocket of their battledress for ease of access. The stretcher bearer’s scissors were a heavy duty pair of utility scissors that were used for a variety of tasks, most typically cutting through a patient’s clothing to access their wounds and to cut bandages to the required length. The scissors themselves are the size of a large pair of kitchen scissors with angled tips to the blades:
The lanyard used to secure these would be attached around the larger of the two handles so that the scissors could not be lost but still used easily. The scissors are marked at the hinge point on both sides. The maker’s name of W Beal of Sheffield and a /|\ mark are stamped into one side:
W Beal was set up in 1870 and by the Second World War was one of Sheffield’s leading scissor makers with a factory at Hillsborough Works on Langsett Road in Sheffield. The company used a beaver trade mark as seen in this 1951 advert:
A stores code, a date of 1944 and another /|\ mark is on the opposite side of the scissors:
Scissors were an essential item of equipment for a stretcher bearer, along with his bag of dressings and basic first aid. He was often the first treatment a wounded man would receive and his quick actions could be the matter of life and death. A stretcher bearer administered first aid and then helped evacuate a man back down the line to field dressing stations and then on to hospitals further away. Compared to doctors and military nurses a stretcher bearer had only basic equipment and training, however in many cases speed was just as important as the treatment given and the stretcher bearer could stabilise a man long enough to get him to where he could receive the life saving care he needed.