Guinea Pig Club

We are pleased to make this unique collection of films of the Guinea Pig Club’s annual reunions for wartime patients of the Queen Victoria Hospital available to view online.

In 1939 the plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe set up the Burns Unit at the East Grinstead Cottage Hospital. It was one of four units established on the outskirts of London in anticipation of high aerial warfare casualty rates. Survival rates for pre-Second World War burns victims were low, but men such as McIndoe and his Canadian associate Dr Ross Tilley introduced pioneering techniques which led the way in modern reconstructive surgery.

The Unit grew quickly, servicing the needs of fighter pilots and bomber crews – nearly 650 men were treated during the War. McIndoe recognised that in additional to physical disabilities, emotional scars could have a debilitating effect on the injured men. He therefore encouraged group camaraderie and interaction with the local community. The Guinea Pig Club developed out of this holistic approach. It was formed in 1941 and was named by the injured airmen who acknowledged with humour that they were guinea pigs in experimental plastic surgeries.

Click to view the films Guinea Pig Club Reunion films

Films deposited with SASE by East Grinstead Museum for long-term preservation.