Medial Breakthroughs: Gillies Plastic Surgery Archives Reveal Soldiers' lives after WWI

This unique military records collection indexes the groundbreaking medical work performed by Dr. Harold Gillies on disfigured soldiers before and after World War I. Dr. Gillies developed plastic surgery techniques that completed some of the first successful skin grafts.

Photo: Documents plastic surgery performed by Dr. Harold Gillies on WWI soldier, William M. Spreckley, a Lieutenant from the Sherwood Foresters Service in the British contingent, 16th battalion.

Spreckley, at the age of 33, acted as Gillies’ 132nd patient and was admitted to the hospital on January 1917 due to a ‘gunshot wound nose.’ He was discharged three and a half years later in October of 1920.

Marvels in modern medicine: Gillies' Plastic Surgery innovations

Harold Gillies' work allowed wounded soldiers to leave the war and live normal lives that otherwise may have left a physical reminder to be carried forever.

Perhaps his most groundbreaking feat, Dr. Harold Gillies introduced the tubed pedicle, which used the patients’ own tissue to be used to patch unsightly wounds with reconstructive surgery. By using tissue from the patient, instead of another person or animal, reduces the chance of rejection and late complications.

These Gillies plastic surgery records document medical procedures that molded the field of modern medicine in the 20th century. After World War I, he received a knighthood for his work in 1930.

The Gillies Plastic Surgery Archives

The Plastic Surgery archives lists 110,000 operations performed from 1917 to 1925. The Gillies Archives offer personal details that will further aid family historians to find specific persons, information such as rank, tour dates, injuries, and admission and release from the hospital.

Details may include:
*Injuries sustained
*Date admitted to hospital
*Date Discharged from hospital

Plastic Surgery of the Face, and Gillies surgery photos

Harold Gillies’ book, Plastic Surgery of the Face, is available as a free download from the Gillies internet archive, and if you do download it and browse through the pages. Due to often graphic nature and poor quality for the photos, findmypast decided against hosting the photos online.

The personal medical records and individual photographs of soldiers will not all be available online due to their sensitive nature.