Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, June 26, 2021

A Photograph You Will Never Forget


French Nurse Suzanne Raguin and Multiple Amputee
Lieutenant Robert Fletcher

Engaged at the start of the war as a volunteer nurse at the Union des Femmes de France, Suzanne Raguin, wife of the mayor of Saint-Georges-sur-Cher,  was the only French Nurse at the American hospital in Blois in 1918 and 1919. Very early in her service she caught the attention of military doctors by her listening skills, humanity, and common sense in evaluating a priority intervention. Close to the wounded, the medical nurse attracted the sympathy of the Doughboys by her benevolent smile and her gentle gestures to treat a deep wound. The wounded Doughboys started calling her the "Little Mother."

One morning, Lt. Robert Fletcher, seriously injured in his legs, arrived in the emergency room. Suzanne, preforming the triage function, saw the soldier had contracted gangrene and recommended amputation of both legs to the attending surgeon, Dr. Fred Hodgson, who was unfortunately too busy to intervene immediately. Suzanne, however, insisted, "You have to operate doctor, otherwise this boy will die of gangrene!" Now interested, the doctor ended up taking a closer look and proceeded to the immediate amputation. The intervention Suzanne suggested saved Robert Fletcher's life. He would survive until 1949.

In the 1920s, Mrs. Raguin made an American tour to visit some of the men she had cared for such as Lt. Fletcher. The photo above, dated 15 July 1920, was taken on her trip.

Note added 28 June 21:  One of our readers has pointed out that Lt. Fletcher also appears to have lost his left arm.  I've found no information referencing any injuries other than to his legs, but I've changed the references from a "double" amputee to multiple.  MH

Source: Departmental Archives, Loir-et-Cher; the Lanouvellere Republic


  1. Bravo Lt. Fletcher. A surviver and a role model.

  2. A bitter-sweet memoir indeed. I wonder how Lt Fletcher fared for the rest of his life.

  3. Am I missing something too? Looks like a triple amputee to me.

    1. Steve - Thanks for pointing this out. See the revisions I made to the article. MH

  4. Look closer, her right hand rests on his left shoulder. Her arm comes down in front of Lt. Fletcher's left arm, thus blocking it from the photographer. He very well could be supporting himself with that arm just as he is with his visible arm. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. As per the National World War I Museum and Memorial Lt. Fletcher retained both of his arms. The injury solely impacted his legs and therefore he is a double amputee.