A few weeks ago our newpaper had an article about a maquette of plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe unveiled in England (it oddly didn’t say where or exactly when but I see a Guardian item saying it is in East Grinstead, Sussex where he worked). Sir Archibald was a Dunedin plastic surgeon who with the support of his cousin Sir Harold Gillies set up a burns unit for airmen in WWII who were called the Guinea Pig Club. Archie McIndoe not only provided surgical treatment but psychological help for the damaged men, encouraging the nurses to go out on dates with them and ensuring they behaved themselves.
I am a little dubious about the story that goes with this. It sounds too good to be true. Surely they knew his background. The sculpter Martin Jennings was approached to design a statue for someone "you’ve probably never heard of". But he had because his father Michael had suffered horrific burns in a tank attack and had been patched up by McIndoe. He said Sir Archibald could be quite tough and abrasive, which he didn’t know whether to put down to his own nature, or ‘if it was more of a New Zealand thing, or British thing.’ He said he had a practical compassion and persuaded patients that they could lead full and useful lives, "wheras similar burn victims from WWI were often found beggining on the streets." The marquette will then lead to a statue which requires fund-raising apparently. I might have thought the New Zealand and British Armed Forces might have been able to gift this to East Grinstead.
McIndoe didn’t always have long-term success with his patients, one of whom was Richard Hillary who died recklessly in 1943 having returned to air duties when far from fit for them. I suppose others may not have lived their full lives either.