Dan Snow's History Hit

The Man Who Rebuilt the Faces of WW1

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Episode notes

The mechanised warfare of the First World War brought unprecedented new levels of firepower and destruction to the battlefield and with it horrific new injuries. Advances in medicine also meant that soldiers were surviving injuries that previously would have been fatal. Many of these men were left with horrific, disfiguring facial injuries which carried with them not just a physical trauma but a social stigma as well. One man made it his mission to help them and in the process developed many of the techniques that formed the basis of plastic surgery as we know it today.

Dr Lindsey Fitzharris joined Dan on stage at the Chalke Valley History Festival to talk about the extraordinary career of the pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gillies. They discuss the realities of combat injuries, how Gillies established the first hospitals dedicated entirely to facial reconstruction and the profound impact he had on the lives of his patients.

Warning: This episode contains discussions of surgery and battlefield injury.

This episode was produced by Mariana Des Forges, the audio editor was Dougal Patmore.

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