They found themselves embroiled in a horrific bloodbath as they fought in the trenches during World War I.
Now new photographs have emerged that reveal the horrific facial injuries sustained during battle by brave soldiers – and their astonishing transformations following plastic surgery.
The incredible black and white images have been released in a new book charting the early development of facial reconstruction.
It highlights the work of young surgeon Harold Gillies, who repaired the faces of those who were injured and shipped back home between 1914 and 1918.
Mr Gillies spent years restoring the dignity of men who had been prepared to sacrifice their lives.
His incredible skill saw him use a rib to reconstruct a jaw. He also spent six years and 19 operations restoring a cheek, upper lip and nose of another soldier.
World War I was one of the bloodiest wars in all of human history and more Britons died in the 1914-18 conflict than any other.
In January 1916, Mr Gillies established a dedicated ward for patients with facial injuries at the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot, Hampshire.
After the Battle of the Somme, a new specialist hospital for facial reconstruction was set up at Sidcup.
The Queen’s Hospital opened in August 1917 and treated more than 5,000 patients up until the mid 1920s.
World War 1 saw over 700,000 British and Commonwealth forces killed and more than 1.6 million wounded.
Of these, around 240,000 suffered total or partial leg or arm amputations as a result.
‘During the Great War, facial injury became a major focus of medical attention for the first time,’ said Andrew Bamji in the book’s introduction.
‘Of all the horrific injuries suffered by soldiers during the conflict, facial wounds were the most obvious and had the capacity to cause the most reaction among those who viewed the wounded.
‘This book is about the men who suffered from facial wounds, and the surgeons who repaired them.
‘This work places emphasis on one man, Harold Gillies, whose drive and innovative approach were fundamental to these developments.’