Meet Harold Gillies, the WWI surgeon who rebuilt the faces of injured troopers

British troops moving to the trenches east of Ypres in October 1917. A new book by historian Lindsey Fitzharris explores the stories of those soldiers who suffered severe facial injuries, and the pioneering surgeon who rebuilt their faces: Harold Gillies.

Enlarge / British troops shifting to the trenches east of Ypres in October 1917. A brand new e book by historian Lindsey Fitzharris explores the tales of these troopers who suffered extreme facial accidents, and the pioneering surgeon who rebuilt their faces: Harold Gillies. (credit score: Hulton Archive/Getty Photographs)

In August 1917, a World Warfare I British soldier named John Glubb was hit within the face by a shell. He recalled blood pouring out in “torrents” and feeling one thing akin to a hen bone shifting round his left cheek. It turned out to be half of his jaw, damaged off by the affect.

Glubb wasn’t the one unlucky WWI soldier to endure a disfiguring facial damage. Shells crammed with shrapnel have been designed to inflict as a lot injury as attainable, and the necessity to peer over the parapets of trenches to evaluate the battlefield or hearth a shot meant a better threat of getting hit within the face by bits of flying steel. Not like shedding a limb, these troopers confronted nice social {and professional} stigmas after they returned residence from the entrance due to their disfigurement. They have been often decreased to taking night time shifts and relegated to particular blue benches when out in public—a warning to others to avert their eyes.

Happily for these males, a New Zealand-born surgeon named Harold Gillies devoted his life to growing modern strategies for reconstructing faces after witnessing the carnage firsthand throughout his service on the entrance. As soon as residence, he arrange a particular ward for troopers with facial wounds on the Cambridge Navy Hospital in Aldershot, ultimately convincing his superiors {that a} devoted hospital was warranted. He is also known as the “father of cosmetic surgery” due to his pioneering work at The Queen’s Hospital (later renamed Queen Mary’s Hospital) at Frognal Home in Sidcup.

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