By Jennifer Mason, Assistant County Archivist (Collections Management)
‘The entrance fee is something most men would not care to pay and the conditions of membership are arduous in the extreme’
These words from renowned plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe describe the famous Guinea Pig Club, a group of badly burned Allied Air Force personnel who underwent pioneering plastic surgery procedures at Queen Victoria Hospital under the care of McIndoe during the Second World War.
Queen Victoria Hospital was established as a small ‘cottage hospital’ in 1863 with just seven beds but during the Second World War became one of four national centres for plastic and reconstructive surgery, and the sole centre for the treatment of members of the Allied Air Forces.
Plastic surgeon, Archibald McIndoe (one of only four fully trained plastic surgeons working in the country at the time), was appointed in 1939 to lead the work at the hospital where he and his team established new techniques, such as saline bath immersion, and further developed existing skin grafting procedures which transformed the life expectancy and outcomes of his patients. McIndoe also promoted the importance of psychological health and reintegration into normal life for badly injured air force personnel and his legacy is partly founded on this holistic approach to treatment.
The Queen Victoria Hospital Archive tells the story of these life-changing medical developments, both during the Second World War and beyond, through a remarkable series of patient case files, including those of members of the Guinea Pig Club. McIndoe’s own files reflect the development of his revolutionary surgical and psychosocial techniques.
You can explore the history of Queen Victoria Hospital, the pioneering plastic surgery work which took place there, and uncover the story of the Guinea Pig Club by joining our online talk ‘Stories from the Surgeon’s Table: the Queen Victoria Hospital Archive’ on Tuesday 28th September at 7pm. For further information and to book, please visit the Eventbrite website by following this link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stories-from-the-surgeons-table-the-queen-victoria-hospital-archive-tickets-164517752025
Please be aware that this talk contains medical images which attendees may find distressing.