The Latymer School History Magazine - page 36

By the end of the First World
War, 60,500 British soldiers
had been wounded in the
face or eyes after being
exposed to shrapnel and
other flying debris. Harold
Delf Gillies was one of the
surgeons tasked with the
facial reconstruction of these
wounded soldiers, and is
often referred to as the father
of plastic surgery.
Gillies spent most of his
youth in New Zealand, where
he was born in 1882, before
moving to England to study
medicine at Gonville and
Caius College, Cambridge.
Despite his focus on his
studies, Gillies loved to row
(he was a member of the
winning boat in the annual
Oxford/Cambridge Boat
Race in 1904) and was a
keen golfer too, once even
playing for England against
Scotland, a passion which
continued throughout his
time at Queen’s Hospital.
In 1915, Gillies volunteered
at the Red Cross and was
posted to France, where he
worked with French dentist,
Auguste Charles Valadier, on
a special unit for jaw work.
This form of facial surgery
fascinated Gillies, and on his
return to England he
requested a ward to
accommodate casualties
with facial injuries at the
Cambridge Military Hospital
in Aldershot. The head of
army surgery agreed, and
Gillies’ work, which was to
revolutionise the world of
plastic surgery, began.
He arranged a small team of
both medical professionals
and artists, including a
sculptor and a photographer.
This multidisciplinary
approach invited artists to
record the surgery whilst
enabling the different
specialists to work together
and learn from one another.
It was an innovative idea –
many surgeons at the time
were autocrats and usually
preferred to work
individually. Gillies also
requested that patients with
severe facial injuries be
labelled with special tags to
ensure they ended up in his
care, but the War Office
ignored him. Undeterred, he
By Gemma Lindsey- Year 12
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