Death from head injuries has been a feature of conflicts throughout the world for centuries. The burden of mortality has been variously affected by the evolution in weaponry from war-hammers to explosive ordnance, the influence of armour on survivability and the changing likelihood of infection as a complicating factor. Surgery evolved from haphazard trephination to valiant, yet disjointed, neurosurgery by a variety of great historical surgeons until the Crimean War of 1853-1856. However, it was events initiated by the Great War of 1914-1918 that not only marked the development of modern neurosurgical techniques, but our approach to military surgery as a whole. Here the author describes how 100 years of conflict and the input and intertwining relationships between the 20th century's great neurosurgeons established neurosurgery in the United Kingdom and beyond.