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Surgical instrument set, Germany, 1939

This extensive steel surgical instrument set contains a wide range of the equipment an army surgeon may have needed at a German field hospital. Some of the instruments, such as the amputation knives and saw, are for specific tasks. Other instruments, such as the forceps for clamping bones, arteries, and intestines, have a more general use. The kit is labelled with the German word Hauptbesteck and the date. Hauptbesteck translates as “main cutlery”, “cutlery” being another word for surgical instruments. The use of steel for the case as well as the instruments ensured that this equipment could be sterilised easily.

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    Glossary: bone forceps

    forceps used to seize or remove fragments of bone

    Glossary: surgical instrument set

    Set of instruments to be used for surgery. A physician would often build up their own collection of favoured tools in order to feel as comfortable as possible when carrying out surgery.

    Glossary: artery forceps

    forceps are a two-bladed instrument with a handle for compressing or grasping tissues in surgical operations, and for handling sterile dressings, etc. Artery forceps are for specifically grasping and compressing an artery.

    Glossary: suture

    The closing of a wound or incision with thread to help the healing process.

    Glossary: amputation

    Removal of part of, or a whole limb by surgery. Used to control pain or the spread of disease in the affected limb.

    Glossary: field hospital

    A temporary hospital set up near a combat zone to provide emergency care for the wounded.