Saturday, 30 January 2016

Historical Heroes

Sir Harold Gillies copyright Dr Andrew Bamjii
One of my favourite parts of writing a book is the research and this was especially fascinating for Broken Faces. I was intrigued by pioneering work of the brilliant plastic surgeon, New Zealander, Sir Harold Gillies. This month is the centenary of the plastic surgery he carried out after relocating to Aldershot back in January 1916 to work on the facial injuries suffered in the battles of the Great War. Here's an article telling you more about him and his incredible work.

I was shocked on discovering the photographs of his patients, some taken over several years and showing the painstaking surgeries they endured. These young soldiers who in a split-second lost part of their face to hot scrapnel, or a bullet, had so much to thank him and his expertise for as he slowly gave them back some semblance of normality that they must have yearned for. Looking at photos of some of these men when they were much older, it was difficult to imagine that they'd lost a nose, or chin years before as the reconstructive surgery had been done so well.

Sir Harold Gillies was the cousin of Sir Archibald McIndoe the pioneering surgeon in World War 2 who is probably best known for his achievements with his patients who he referred to as his 'guinea pigs. They went on to set up a social club called, The Guinea Pig Club in 1941. I researched his work for the sequel to Broken Faces, Splintered Lives, which I'm hoping to be published next year. 

It's hard to imagine how much these two cousins achieved in these two wars and how many lives they helped to rebuild. Both true historical heroes.


Rosemary Gemmell said...

What a fascinating slice of history, Debs - I'm sure few people will have heard of this work (including me).

Deborah Carr said...

Thanks Rosemary, I found him and the work he carried out endlessly fascinating.