Guest features explore engineering-related themes, other features appear at the bottom.

Facial Reconstruction in the First World War

The outbreak of war in 1914 saw both staff and Council members of The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) join the war effort, in the capacity of providing military and medical service at home and abroad. As well as investing £100,000 in the War Loan, it lent the expertise of its staff and associates to the cause. Council members played key roles in the coordination of military surgery and the College itself was called on to advise the Government on how to deal with the medical demands of the conflict.1

Patient Records

The RCS archives include collections relating to the First World War which cover the medical and social history of the War. One of its most significant collections is the Gillies Patient Record files of British and New Zealand servicemen.2 Gillies Patient Record files detail the injuries of the patients, which ranged from gunshot wounds and shell or shrapnel wounds to burns, mainly of the face. The files are arranged alphabetically by patient's surname and each patient has been assigned a unique ID or case number; they list rank, regimental number, regiment, age, and date of wounding so that the battle in which they were wounded can often be identified. There are clinical operation and progress notes, and some of these records are accompanied by photographs or diagrams relating to their injuries and operations. Some of the diagrams were hand-drawn by Henry Tonks (Fellow RCS 1888), an artist and surgeon, and annotated by the surgeons. In some cases, there are prints of x-rays.

There are also watercolour portraits to accompany some of the files for patients from New Zealand, which show their injuries on admission to the centre. Many of the watercolours are unsigned, but identified artists include Daryl Lindsay and Herbert R. Cole, a book illustrator and portraitist. 

Sir Harold Gillies (1882-1960)

Having worked in otolaryngology, it was not until the First World War that Sir Harold Gillies (Fellow RCS 1901) began to develop maxillo-facial surgery and has since been considered by some to be the father of plastic surgery.

Gillies developed and devised independently the potential and varied applications of a new medical technique, the tubed pedicle and the twin tubed pedicle. This used grafted flaps of skin and also tissue from other parts of the body. He was distinguished for his thorough pre-operative planning clinics, which contributed to his precisely planned procedures.

Following the outbreak of the War, Gillies joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He witnessed first-hand the horrific effects of war and the disfigurement of men caused by battle. He also worked alongside renowned dentist Charles Auguste Valadier. Gillies was inspired by Valadier’s efforts to repair jaw wounds using new skin graft techniques. He also went on to observe renowned surgeon Hippolyte Morestin, a pioneer in maxillo-facial surgery, to learn more about skin grafting. Their advances underpinned much of the work that he later did and led him to recognise the need and importance of starting special treatment in this field. He managed to persuade the War Office to allow him to set up a dedicated unit at Aldershot, Hampshire. Following the Battle of the Somme, Aldershot proved to be inadequately equipped to cope with the demand of the massive influx of casualties. Gillies pressed for a larger, purpose-built facility, devoted exclusively to plastic surgery, to replace the unit. With the help of Sir William Arbuthnot Lane, Chief Army Surgeon of the RAMC, a hospital was built at Sidcup, Kent. The Queen's Hospital opened in June 1917. It became the largest centre of its kind in the world and was developed as the War's major centre for pioneering maxillo-facial and plastic surgery. Between 1917-1921, the hospital and its associated convalescent units admitted over 5000 servicemen and completed more than 11,000 operations.

Gillies often called on the talents of artists to help him. The sculptor F. Derwent Wood collaborated with Gillies in cases when the manipulation of living tissues needed to be supplemented with modelling in an artificial substance, such as wax. In 1915 the ex-surgeon turned artist Henry Tonks, volunteered to paint portraits of men with facial injuries and helped to design their repair.

The Team

The War led surgeons to attempt ground-breaking procedures, through trial, practice and experiment. In Gillies’ case, he had the foresight to use a multidisciplinary approach, working closely with a range of medical staff such as dental surgeons and other surgeons, who formed his team of experts (also consisting of physicians, anaesthetists, nurses, and artists) and this enabled him to carry out such pioneering work. The meticulous detail of the injuries recorded in the drawings and paintings helped record his procedures. These also act as a record of the extent of the horrific injuries sustained by the soldiers during the war. Gillies’ notes highlight the importance of record-keeping, and the way in which it served to influence future generations.

Gillies and his team made a significant contribution to the First World War through his innovative treatment and the advancement of reconstructive surgery.

After the War

Gillies saw that his new specialty was still necessary in peacetime. He set up in private practice, was elected to the staff at St Bartholomew’s and was appointed consultant in plastic surgery to the Royal Navy, The Royal Air Force, the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital and, St Andrew’s Hospital, Dollis Hill, St James’s Hospital (Balham), the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary, the London County Council Hospital, and the Ministries of Health and of Pensions.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, he organised plastic surgical units in different parts of the country and personally supervised the largest unit at Park Prewett Hospital, Basingstoke. Shortly after the war Gillies formed the British Association of Plastic Surgeons of which he was the first president. He was also honorary president of the International Society of Plastic Surgeons. He continued to train and teach people from all over the world, as well as, operating and advising. In 1920 his book ‘Plastic Surgery of the Face’ was published, setting down the principles of modern plastic surgery and becoming the leading textbook in its field.

After his death, the British Association of Plastic Surgeons created a fund in his memory to promote education and research in plastic surgery.

RCS Archive

Back to top

Corporal W McRae (artist unknown)
Watercolour portrait of Corporal W McRae, the follwoing images are from his case file.
Gillies British Patient File of Corporal W McRae

Gillies British Patient File of Corporal W McRae

by Karyn French | 03 Nov, 2016


Leave a comment
  1. Slame Wood | Nov 13, 2018

    This article is very interested, Thank you for sharing it is very useful.

  2. jess | Nov 13, 2018
    Garmin.Com/express - The corporation manufactures several gadgets like GPS, GPS receivers, and plenty of other applications to manage the statistics like Garmin Express. Garmin Express application lets in you to manipulate, replace and sync your statistics with the Garmin Connect. This application may be hooked up on Windows as well as on Mac computers from the hyperlink garmin.Com/express online. You can use this software on your device to register, deploy, and replace all the Garmin device you have got like Maps and many others. Let us talk the process to check in, install and replace the opposite Garmin device the usage of Garmin explicit. Before updating, putting in or registering your Garmin devices, you need to ensure which you have Garmin Express established on your gadget. You just need to attach your device to your machine and you may be able to manage your gadgets and data from a unmarried area. First of all, right here we will be discussing the process to download and installation Garmin
  3. Reva Rain | Nov 13, 2018
    Use solutions that do not contain alkaline or ammonia which can dull wooden surfaces. Avoid oil-based soaps and sprays like the ones you use for furniture. Oil absorbed by the wood can make it difficult to re-coat the floor with varnish later. Oil can also make the floor slippery and dangerous. Use cleaning solutions that will not leave residue or any kind of film on the surface. Best Mop For Home
  4. | Nov 12, 2018

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss and share this with us, I for one feel strongly about it and really enjoyed learning more about this topic. I can see that you possess a degree of expertise on this subject, I would very a lot like to hear much more from you on this subject matter – I have bookmarked this page and will return soon to hear additional about it.There are certainly impressive stories. Passion for sharing your website with us.You’re doing a great job Man,Keep it up.

  5. digitinc | Nov 12, 2018
    Very informative post. Thank you for sharing. ขายดี
  6. rebeccahickshq | Nov 12, 2018

    Everything's gonna be alright. Everything's gonna be OK

    It's gonna be a good, good life for me: bloons tower defense 5

  7. Rolam Lohan | Nov 12, 2018
    I as of late went over your website and have been perusing along. I thought I would leave my first remark. I don’t comprehend what to say with the exception of that I have appreciated perusing. Pleasant online journal. I will continue going to this web journal regularly. How To Use Microfiber Clothe
  8. Aaron Bohrer | Nov 12, 2018
    When acquiring as a blessing, you need to ensure that you buy the best beard trimmer for stubble accessible for the man will's identity on the less than the desirable end. Best beard trimmer for stubble
  9. bily | Nov 12, 2018

    Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style, Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. Visit the give link and get the complete Microsoft office setup and Antivirus Protection.

  10. digitinc | Nov 12, 2018
    Your article is very useful and has good knowledge. I appreciate your useful information. Thank you for sharing. Primary Board Result
  11. David Beard | Nov 11, 2018
    On the off chance that you are one of those men who remain in bed until the last conceivable minute or find there are fewer minutes toward the beginning of the day than there ought to be ..... Best body groomer for balls
  12. Aaron Bohrer | Nov 10, 2018
    Before you start to shave, use another disposable cutter or guarantee your razor is spotless from any past use.

    Best electric shaver for balls

  13. roadrunner sign in | Nov 09, 2018
    When you have lost your webmail account password and getting failed in recovery then make contact with our executives through roadrunner login support number to know about the steps of recovery.We have experts technicians appointed here to assist users of webmail account who are facing technical mishaps. Anyone can dial toll free rr login support number for finding online assistance. Our helpline services are open and accessible 24x7.
  14. Nicholas | Nov 09, 2018
    Yeezy Adidas NMD Pandora Charms Mens Nike Shoes Skechers Sneakers Bottega Veneta Longchamp Outlet KD 11 Yeezy Boost 500 Asics Shoes Nike Air Max 270 Flyknit Asics Running Shoes Ferragamo Fjallraven Kanken Asics Outlet Store Online Yeezy Shoes Nike Cortez Jordan Retro 11 Fitflops Sale Clearance Pandora Jewelry Asics Gel Nimbus 17 Christian Louboutin Nike Air Max 270 Louboutin shoes Adidas NMDS Pandora Bracelets Puma Christian Louboutin Shoes Pandora Jewelry Official Site Pandora Earrings Timberland Shoes Yeezy Shoes Nike Cortez Goyard Handbags Yeezy Shoes Nike Sneakers Valentino Shoes Asics Gel Kayano Nike Air Max 270 Men Red Bottom Shoes Nike Air Max 95 Nike Air Max 97 Ultra Balenciaga Sneakers Adidas Original Pandora Bracelet Charms Valentino Sneakers NMD R1 Timberland Shoes Nike KD Shoes Nike Running Shoes For Men Yeezy Boost 350 Timberland Store Pandora Charm Bracelet Hermes Belt Nike Outlet Store Moncler Outlet Nike Outlet Store Online Adidas Superstar Pandora Outlet Lebron Shoes Adidas Superstar Shoes Ferragamo Timberland Outlet Yeezy Boost 750 Fila Sneakers Goyard Kanken Backpack Nike Shoes Nike Outlet Adidas Store Puma Shoes Outlet Fjallraven Timberland Work Boots Adidas Sneakers For Men Christian Louboutin Outlet Yeezy 500 Utility Black Fila Disruptor 2 Nike Air Max 98 Vans Outlet Adidas Shoes For Women Fila Shoes Ferragamo Pandora Charms Asics Gel Kayano 25 Christian Louboutin Shoes Timberland Shoes Balenciaga Shoes Valentino Shoes Pandora Necklaces For Women Hermes Handbags Nike Air Max 95 Essential Christian Louboutin Shoes Pandora Jewelry Official Site Lebron 16 Shoes Adidas NMD Nike Clearance Pandora Charms Asics Shoes Christian Louboutin Shoes Air Max 98 Pandora Charms Sale Clearance Yeezy Boost 350 Pandora Rings Air Max 270 Women Yeezy Adidas Yeezy
  15. shopbullz | Nov 09, 2018
    Get amazing offers like chance to win IPhone XS MAX and many more. Do online shopping at
  16. shopamazon | Nov 09, 2018
     Get amazing offers like chance to win IPhone XS MAX and many more. Do online shopping at
  17. Anna Shetty | Nov 09, 2018

    I am grateful to have opened this discussion. This question is quite interesting to me. Finally the answer was found

    run 3

  18. ATT LOGIN | Nov 09, 2018
    ATT Login - AT&T is an American Multinational Company that provides a wide range of products and services and have many subsidiaries. And to manage all their services and product, you need an ATT account. Once you use this account and login ATT, you will be able to add your AT&T services and manage them remotely.ATT LOGIN
  19. Cox Webmail | Nov 09, 2018
    Cox Webmail – Cox is a private American Company that provides digital cable television, telecommunications, and Home Automation services in the United States. They also provide a very reliable support service to their users. You can register yourself with the Cox mail and get started with their services now. They also provide very efficient Cox support service to their users. You can read the below-given headlines to register to Cox Webmail. Also, troubleshoot any issue with the Cox emailing services anytime.Cox Webmail
  20. Acer Computer Support Number | Nov 09, 2018
    Acer Computer Support Number – Acer is a leading brand in the market for desktops and laptops. They have some of the highly praised computers as stated by the users. Now many of the users have also reported some technical glitches when using Acer Computers. Such issue can be really frustrating.Acer Computer Support Number
  21. | Nov 09, 2018 – Designed and Developed by Google, this device allows the user to live stream video content directly on their Television. The Google Chromecast is designed as a small dongle that enables the user to use the internet to stream audio-visual content in high-definition. Google’s Chromecast is a cute little circular dongle (or a thick thumb drive, if you have an earlier model) that takes video and audio from a smartphone, tablet, laptop, Mac or PC, and stream a
  22. digitinc | Nov 09, 2018
    This is an informative post. thanks for sharing this with us, keep it up!   mattress reviewers
  23. sasd | Nov 09, 2018
  24. sas | Nov 09, 2018
     I was curious if you ever considered changing the page layout of your blog? Its very well written.     
    <a href=''>cute life quotes tamil</a>
  25. apple id locked | Nov 08, 2018

    If you have an issue related to forgot apple id password then you can call us our customer helpline number our well qualified and well-experienced technicians team will provide the best support for your any technical problem.

    Our service is available 24*7 by expert technician’s team. They also available on chat for your help on apple id reset and related problem.  

  26. apple id reset | Nov 08, 2018

    If you have an issue related to forgot apple id password then you can call us our customer helpline number our well qualified and well-experienced technicians team will provide the best support for your any technical problem.

  27. hotmail sign in | Nov 08, 2018
    Being a user of hotmail account if your all hotmail sign in attempts are failed then must think in different way that your account might be affected by spamming activities or having some other major technical issues. All such hurdles can be resolved with our support. User can get instant online assistance from our technical executives by simply calling our outlook sign in helpline number. Our support services are also accessible through other mediums like chat and emails also.
  28. aol login | Nov 08, 2018
    Call us when you are seeking online assistance of experts about all those hurdles which have stopped your from aol login and other email functioning. Our support team will assist you in all possible manners and for all technical hurdles. Your search for best supportive agency ends here as we are one stop destination for all users who are looking for assistance regarding multiple emailing services. Call us at aol sign in support number and get quality help services anytime.
  29. digitinc | Nov 08, 2018
    This content is written very well. Thanks for sharing. Gear for new dads
  30. BURRI60 | Nov 07, 2018
    All the blog writings are demonstration of what we call, Brilliant. how to force quit mac
  31. Farhan | Nov 07, 2018
    Thank you so much Love your blog.. paper writing
  32. digitinc | Nov 07, 2018
    This is an informative article. Thanks for posting. pmo
  33. Anthony Devis | Nov 05, 2018
    Hi, The post which you have provided is fantastic, I really enjoyed reading your post, and hope to read more. Thank you so much for sharing this post, I appreciate your work.
  34. BURRI60 | Nov 05, 2018
    The blog resembles a sea, I wish to suffocate in.Boxwood hedge panel
  35. Muhammad Arfeen | Nov 05, 2018
    I appreciate you sharing this blog post. Really looking forward to read more. Great.voyante marocaine tres forte
  36. BURRI60 | Nov 05, 2018
    The author has so wonderfully enthralled the consideration of group of onlookers by this radiant blog. Hedge panel
  37. cuttersjim | Nov 05, 2018
    Still not able to figure out how to activate avg antivirus. Don't need to worry just visit <a href=""></a> and put your 25 digit avg product keys and the space given for it and click yes. Congratulation Now your avg antivirus is activated. 
  38. Philip Melo | Nov 05, 2018
    When settling on using an electric head shaver, you should initially make sense of how close you want to shave your head. An electric head shaver is for the most part not going to give you as close a shave as a customary razor. 

    Best bald head shaver

  39. Smeet | Nov 03, 2018
  40. David Roods | Nov 03, 2018

    I read your article, it's one of the best post, interesting and very useful. Thank you For sharing this post, I really appreciate your work.

  41. Lucia Mandela | Nov 03, 2018
    Thanks for sharing this marvelous post. I m very pleased to read this article .I enjoy this site - its so usefull and helpfull. | | | 
  42. Daniel Wilson | Nov 03, 2018

    This is a amazing post, the information is very useful. Thank you for sharing this amazing post, I really appreciate your work.

  43. Mathew Anderson | Nov 03, 2018

    It is very interesting post, the information is very useful. Thank you for sharing such a amazing post.

  44. | Nov 03, 2018
    I am thankful for the article post.Really looking forward to read more.
  45. BURRI60 | Nov 03, 2018
    Been searching for such an astonishing web diary like this for a long time. comedy video download
  46. Mukesh | Nov 02, 2018
    My Essay Writer is the go-to source for the completion of academic assignments. If you are screaming out “Write my essay for me,” you’ve come to the most elite essay writing service.write my essay
  47. Lucas Logan | Nov 02, 2018
    It is amazing post, i am really impressed of your post, its realy useful. Thank you for sharing This
  48. Johnny Steel | Nov 02, 2018
    Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last part I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this certain info for a long time. I would be more happy to know about the most exciting motorcycle track NYST Track from you. Thank you and good luck.
  49. write my essay | Nov 02, 2018
    My Essay Writer is the go-to source for the completion of academic assignments. If you are screaming out “Write my essay for me,” you’ve come to the most elite essay writing service  write my essay for me. write my essay
  50. smith | Nov 02, 2018
    Now you will be able to manage your version of the product and the devices on which the product is installed already. In case of any issue, you may contact Office Support or visit us at for the further troubleshooting guide

    Leave a comment

    Other Features

    Archive reference: RCS-COM/5/1
    Archive reference: MS0513.This collection consists of 52 boxes and contains patient records for over 2,000 servicemen who underwent plastic surgery at the unit set up by Sir Harold Gillies at Queen's Hospital, Sidcup. The files serve as a record of how treatment was facilitated, and also help to document the development of plastic surgery at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

    (except watercolour) Gillies British Patient File of Corporal W McRae, Archive reference: MS0513/1/1/ID 1363, The Archives of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

    Watercolour portrait of Corporal W McRae (artist unknown), Archive reference: MS0513/2/2/ ID 164, The Archives of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.