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War Surgery and Medicine

Standards of Vision

Standards of Vision

It was found that men with old abnormalities had such a tendency to hysteria or minor psychoneurosis that, even if the vision should be Grade I, they should not be sent abroad. The following are examples of such abnormalities compatible with Grade I vision:




Old perforating injury.


Congenital nystagmus.

Conditions in the Middle East were admittedly unfavourable for men with ocular defects of this type.

Men with high degrees of refractive error or with amblyopia were found to be unsuitable in the infantry, and this raised the question of what might be called unit grading. It was undesirable to have more Grade II men than Base could profitably use, and, in an effort to avoid grading down borderline cases in the infantry, some attempts were made in 1941 to have them transferred to other units. These attempts did not meet with any substantial success as it was ruled, quite correctly, that if a man is not Grade I for one unit he cannot be Grade I for any other unit. Yet an infantryman requires better vision than a man in the Field Ambulances or the Engineers.

Another type of differential grading which received some consideration overseas was known as category classification. Immediately after the campaign in Greece, and as a result of the reported reluctance of the Germans to engage at night, some unit commanders were asked if they thought anything would be gained by selecting men with exceptional night vision. It was pointed out that normal men vary considerably in this respect, but that it might not be prudent to make them conscious of the fact. The unit commanders replied that they must be able to use any of their men for any purpose at any time.

This question of dividing up Grade I men for special tasks within units was later discussed in New Zealand, though not in connection with night vision. It was evident that, while differential grading between units might have some value, category classification was undesirable.

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