Pioneering surgeon’s work celebrated at Crawley Hospital

Back (from left): Joanna McConville; Adonia Montfort Bebb; Beryl Hobson, QVH Chair of Governors. Front: Andrew Rackley, archivist who began the project; Guinea Pig Club secretary and East Grinstead Museum trustee Bob Marchant; McIndoe's grandson Gordon Bebb; and Baljit Dheansa
Back (from left): Joanna McConville; Adonia Montfort Bebb; Beryl Hobson, QVH Chair of Governors. Front: Andrew Rackley, archivist who began the project; Guinea Pig Club secretary and East Grinstead Museum trustee Bob Marchant; McIndoe's grandson Gordon Bebb; and Baljit Dheansa

Pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe’s work is celebrated by an exhibition at Crawley Hospital.

During the Second World War, McIndoe treated wounded allied aircrew - known as the Guinea Pig Club - carrying out ground breaking plastic and reconstructive surgery at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead.

Hospital records - including McIndoe’s own notes, 14,500 patient case files, and records of Guinea Pig Club members - have been catalogued and digitised to create an archive for medical researchers and historians to use for generations to come.

McIndoe’s daughter Adonia was one of around 100 people who attended the exhibition’s launch event in Chichester. She had the opportunity to learn more about the project, including seeing some of the records her father wrote, thanks to a presentation by Joanna McConville, archivist at the West Sussex Record Office.

Baljit Dheansa, consultant plastic surgeon at Queen Victoria Hospital, who explained how modern day plastic surgery is based on many of the experimental techniques and equipment used by McIndoe and fellow pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gilles.

An event celebrating a unique archive project which included preserving clinical notes from pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe held recently had a special guest – his daughter Adonia Montfort Bebb.

Baljit Dheansa said: “Learning from the past helps our treatment for the future.

“We’re still embracing McIndoe’s pioneering spirit, for example the strides we’re making in telemedicine where our team of experienced clinicians can review photographs of injuries at any time of day or night, regardless of where in the south east the patient is located.”

The Queen Victoria Hospital Archive Project, by the hospital, West Sussex Record Office in Chichester, East Grinstead Museum, and The Guinea Pig Club, has been underway since 2016. It was funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust.

A travelling display explaining the Queen Victoria Hospital archive project will be in Crawley Library until Thursday May 31.