Out in its New Zealand edition this Tuesday 14 August with a new foreword by HRH Prince Harry, The Guinea Pig Club tells the story of New Zealand surgeon Archibald McIndoe and his amazing work with scarred airmen in the UK during the World War II.
Plastic surgery was in its infancy before World War II. The Allies were tremendously fortunate in having McIndoe operating at a small hospital in East Grinstead in the south of England.
From Dunedin, McIndoe had studied at the University of Otago and relied on the mentorship of that other great pioneer of plastic surgery, fellow Kiwi Harold Gillies, to cope with the extraordinary demands placed by the casualties of the air war.
|Archibald McIndoe (centre) in theatre; his skill with the scalpel was legendary but no less extraordinary was his understanding of the psychological scars faced by disfigured airmen|
McIndoe set up a revolutionary treatment regime for survivors of plane crashes — a group dubbed the Guinea Pig Club — innovating not only in physical treatment of their injuries but also in the psychology of rehabilitation of disfigured airmen back into society.
For the first time, official records have been used to explain fully how and why this remarkable relationship developed between the Guinea Pig Club, the RAF and the Home Front — and how the experience inspires today’s victims of war.
A revised edition of the book The Reconstruction of Warriors, this joint UK-Canada-NZ publication now includes a section on McIndoe’s New Zealand origins.
You can hear author Emily Mayhew interviewed by Wallace Chapman on Radio New Zealand on the morning of Sunday 26 August.
Dr Emily Mayhew is a military medical historian specialising in the study of severe casualty. She is the historian in residence in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London and a research fellow in the Division of Surgery. She is the author of several other books in her field of expertise, including the Wounded trilogy of books.