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Artificial leg made by British prisoner-of-war, Germany, 1940

This artificial leg was reputedly made by a British prisoner of war (POW) in 1940, during the Second World War – he had been injured during the early months of the conflict. The main part of the leg is made from wood, which must have been scavenged from around the POW camp. It is a straight piece of wood without a knee joint so crutches may have been used as well. However, it would have greatly improved his mobility. Unlike artificial arms, which are barely equipped to recreate a fraction of the movements of a live arm, many of the basic functions of a leg – such as standing and walking – can be achieved with even the crudest of constructions. The cradle at the top of the leg is made from a military ‘jack boot’, which reaches above the knee. The maker or owner carved his initials, “A.B”, into the leg near the rubber tip at the bottom.

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Glossary: prostheses

Artificial body parts, or materials inserted into tissue for functional, cosmetic, or therapeutic effect. Prostheses can be functional (artificial arms and legs), or cosmetic (artificial eye).

Glossary: artificial leg

A device, either external or implanted, that substitutes for or supplements a missing or defective part of the body.