A member of a unique club formed by badly burned airmen in the Second World War who underwent pioneering plastic surgery for their horrific injuries has launched a fundraising campaign for a permanent memorial to them.
Sandy Saunders (93), of Burton Lazars, is one of just 18 surviving UK members of the ‘Guinea Pig Club’ – a unique group whose badly injured members were treated by the pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe, at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, West Sussex.
Sandy suffered 40 per cent burns when his Tiger Moth plane crashed on a training exercise in 1945, towards the end of the Second World War.
He had 14 operations at Birmingham, where he was the only burns patient, which was very difficult for him. He was then sent back on duty as second in command of a prisoner of war camp near Derby, but when his eyelid replacements shrank and he could not close his eyes he was sent to East Grinstead for treatment by Sir Archibald, where he had a further 14 operations.
On July 20 this year it will be the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Guinea Pig Club. By the end of the war it had 649 members.
Initially, the club was intended to be a drinking club, which would disband at the end of the war. But it grew in strength each year and has continued to provide support throughout members’ lives, helping them to go on to lead normal, useful lives.
The members continued to keep in touch several times a year, but as the years have passed fewer are alive and many who are can’t travel.
Now Sandy wants to help fund a fitting £20,000 memorial to the Guinea Pig Club to be unveiled in the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, in November.
He said: “It will be a lasting tribute to the brave airmen and the operations they underwent which lasted over several years.
“The camaraderie of the Guinea Pig Club was vital to the men’s recovery. It’s a wonderful organisation which offered medical and welfare assistance.
“A site is earmarked for the memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum where it can be seen by the hundreds of thousands of people who visit it each year.”
To donate visit Sandy’s Crowdfunding page at https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/sandyandmaggie- saunders