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War Surgery and Medicine

New Zealand Specialists in United Kingdom

New Zealand Specialists in United Kingdom

The development of plastic surgery during the First World War owed much to a New Zealander, Sir Harold Gillies, who was in charge of the special hospital established at Sidcup to deal with the more difficult maxillo-facial injuries. All cases of this type were sent to Sidcup from the New Zealand military hospitals in England, and New Zealand medical and dental officers were appointed to the staff and later carried out the work in New Zealand.

At the beginning of the Second World War Sir Harold Gillies offered to train New Zealand surgeons and dentists in England so that efficient treatment might be available to men of the New Zealand Military Forces, and the offer was accepted. It so happened that New Zealanders had become leaders in plastic surgery in Britain, and our officers were trained under Sir Archibald McIndoe and Mr R. Mowlem, as well as under Sir Harold Gillies himself. Altogether four surgeons and as many dentists were trained, and this enabled us to set up a sub-unit at the base hospital at Helwan in 1942, and also to attach surgeons and dentists to each of the other two hospitals, as well as to staff adequately the main unit at Burwood Hospital in New Zealand.