Pioneering WWI Plastic Surgery Was Way Ahead of Its Time

Illustration for article titled Pioneering WWI Plastic Surgery Was Way Ahead of Its Time

What you're looking at isn't three different people. No, it's the progress made by a single patient, Lieutenant William M. Spreckley, who was admitted to Dr Harold Gillies' care in January 1917 with a "gunshot wound nose". Gillies is considered the father of modern plastic surgery—and it's not hard to see why.


In fact these images have been newly released by The Queen's Hospital in Sidcup, UK, and make up part of a collection that documents the 3,000 soldiers treated by Gillies between 1917 and 1925. In total 11,000 operations were performed—and along the way, many lives changed for the better.

The documents, now available to descendants of the patieints via, show how the surgeon's work slowly changed their appearance. Debra Chatfield, family historian at, explains to the Telegraph:

"The medical world owes a great deal to Dr Gillies, as do those who were treated by him in the early twentieth century and anyone who has ever received plastic surgery treatment since then. Without his pioneering developments in this field, plastic surgery might not be as advanced as it is today.

"These records are an important source of information for historians, the medical world and those interested in learning about the reality and aftermath of World War I."

As for Lieutenant Spreckley, he was discharged three and a half years after admission and went on to live a normal life. [Telegraph]

Image by Find My Past



I live about 3 miles from Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, and last week it was bankrupted by a combination of the NHS and the previous Labour government.

Anyway, my point is that a visit to this hospital is now something that people do not take lightly, before the current bankruptcy, it has had problems with being the dirtiest hospital in the NHS with a terrible C'Diff / infection record...

Gratifying indeed to understand that once upon a time, before government got its filthy hands on healthcare, that some really good work was carried on here.