From New Zealand to London, Marks and Spencer to plastic surgery and Guinea Pigs to gangsters, the Blond McIndoe Foundation has a colourful and inspiring history, starting with Sir Archibald McIndoe.
Born in New Zealand in 1900, Sir Archibald McIndoe had a great interest in surgery from an early age, but it was after moving to London in his thirties that his career really took off. He worked closely with his cousin and highly regarded plastic surgeon Sir Harold Gillies, buying into his practice, up until the outbreak of the Second World War.
As one of only four experienced plastic surgeons in Britain, McIndoe was posted to the recently rebuilt Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, where he founded a Centre for Plastic and Jaw Surgery, dealing with RAF casualties.
It soon became clear that this was the start of a stark new chapter in medical treatment, as the hospital saw injuries of an unprecedented volume and severity. With the help of Canadian plastic surgeon Ross Tilley, Sir Archibald devised new ways to treat the wounds and evolved previous plastic surgery techniques and ideas around rehabilitation and reintegration of burns survivors back into society.
During this time, he formed The Guinea Pig Club for his recovering patients. His friends Neville and Elaine Blond took a particular interest in the welfare of the airmen and opened up their house to the ‘Guinea Pigs’.
After the war, the three of them began planning a new research institute at the Queen Victoria Hospital to carry on his pioneering work. But sadly, McIndoe died in his sleep on 11 April 1960, at just 59 years old, and didn’t get to see its opening the following year.