Meet Harold Gillis, a World War I surgeon who restored the faces of wounded soldiers

Enlargement / In October 1917, British troops moved into trenches east of Ypres. Historian Lindsey Fitzgerald’s new book examines the lives of wounded soldiers and the pioneering surgeon who restored their faces: Harold Gillis.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In August 1917, a British soldier named John Glubb was shot in the face during World War I. He remembered that in the “torrents” blood flowed and he felt something resembling a chicken bone around his left cheek. The blow broke his jaw and cut him in half.

Glubb was not the only unfortunate soldier to be wounded in World War II. Shrapnel-filled shells were designed to cause as much damage as possible, and the need to inspect the parapets of trenches to assess the battlefield or fire indicated the risk of contact with flying metal particles. In contrast to the loss of one limb, when these soldiers returned home from the front, they faced great social and professional stigma for their appearance. They are usually reduced to night shifts and placed in special blue benches when in public places – this warns others to keep their eyes peeled.

Fortunately for these people, New Zealand-born surgeon Harold Gillis dedicated his life to developing innovative methods of facial reconstruction after witnessing the massacre while on the front lines. When he returned home, he set up a special ward for wounded soldiers at the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot, and his superiors finally assured him that a special hospital had been secured. He is often referred to as the “father of plastic surgery” because he pioneered at the Queen’s Hospital (later renamed Queen Mary Hospital) at the Frognal House in Sidkup.

Gillis is the main figure in the new book by author and medical historian Lindsay Fitzharris. The Facemaker: The Art Surgeon’s War to Repair the Wounded Soldiers of the First World War. a science communicator marked with a large Follow Twitter Fitzharris loved to be medically dangerous and published a biography of surgical pioneer Joseph Lister. Butchery ArtIn 2017 – wonderful, occasionally, get angry and read.

His work soon caught the attention of the Smithsonian Channel, which called on Fitzgerald to host a documentary series that would revisit the famous historical cold events in 2020. Strange life and death …. Fitjarris usually has a few book ideas that will simmer on the back at any time. For example, a children’s book illustrated by her husband, cartoonist / cartoonist Adrian Tial, will be published next year, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is working on a third book about Joseph Bell, a 19th-century surgeon inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

The Facemaker was not his next choice Butchery Artbecause he knew little about the First World War. But because his publisher loved the story of Gillis, Fitzgerald had a tough course in the history of the time. “Butchery “To one man, Joseph Lister, he used microbial theory in medical practice,” Fitjarris told Arska. “This book is not about one person, but about many people. It’s about Harold Gillis, the pioneer surgeon who restored the faces of soldiers during the First World War, but also about these corrupt people. I hope their voices really shine in the story.”

Ars spoke to Fitjarris to find out more.

(Note: Pictures and descriptions of some graphic page reconstruction are as follows.)

U.S. Army trainees in trenches on the Western Front during World War I, France, 1918.  The need to look over the parapets has led to a sharp increase in injuries from facial fractures, which are often very debilitating.
Enlargement / U.S. Army trainees in trenches on the Western Front during World War I, France, 1918. The need to look over the parapets has led to a sharp increase in injuries from facial fractures, which are often very debilitating.

Archive Photos / Getty Images

Ars Technica: This is a very big topic. How did you draw so that the focus area was manageable?

Lindsay Fitzharris: That’s right, it was a much more complicated story. I think it took five years to understand and write about the scale of the First World War, the military medicine of that time, these complex achievements. One of the challenges of World War I was that there was so much material: diaries and letters written by soldiers about their experiences. Someone asked me what the difference was between academic history and the commercial history I wrote. Most of what I’m doing now is deleting information. I learn a lot in my research, but I reject it because I don’t want to upset the reader. I want to find the root of the story.

From the beginning, I knew I wanted to take the reader down the trenches. There’s a man named Percy Claire who wrote this wonderful diary, and he allowed me to tell you how I was on the battlefield for a long time before I was wounded and hit in the face and healed. I wanted readers to understand how difficult it was to get out of the battlefield first and then Gillie, because Claire was first sent to the wrong hospital.

In the UK, the difficulties associated with accessing patient files and what you can and cannot say about a patient’s name. When I use a patient name The Facemakerbecause it is public knowledge, or Gillis himself ever published it. If Gillis publishes information about a particular patient, I will not be able to apply that information to that person’s name if I go into the case file and find additional information that he or she does not contain. Butchery Art Since it was built in the 19th century, it was not so complicated. We don’t have to worry about all this because everything is outdated. But there is a lot of material The Facemaker in copyright. I had to contact her family members to get permission to quote from Percy Claire’s diary.

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