by Tracy Vanity
Plastic surgery dates back to Ancient Egypt where the dead were given enhanced cheekbones and noses, or in the case of King Tut, glorious boners that have lasted through the ages that are still mystifying the people of today. But it wasn’t until WWI & WWII when doctors were working to treat soldiers mangled during battle, that plastic surgery truly took off.
The medical innovations during that time had a great impact on the current surgical technology used today. And of course, the pictures of the soldiers who had their faces reconstructed in the early 1900s are incredible given the severity of their injuries and the medical capabilities of that time period. Even by today’s standards where total facial reconstruction is still being improved upon, the end results of facial reconstructive surgeries back then are remarkable.
“Records of the pioneering plastic surgery performed by Dr Harold Gillies on WWI soldiers William M. Spreckley, a Lieutenant from the Sherwood Foresters Service in the British contingent, 16th battalion. He was Gillies’ 132nd patient and was admitted to the hospital in January 1917 at the age of 33 with a ‘gunshot wound nose’. He was discharged three and a half years later in October 1920”
via The Telegraph
Four photographs documenting the facial reconstruction of a solider who’s cheek was extensively wounded during the Battle of the Somme (July 1916). Taken from ‘Plastic surgery of the face : based on selected cases of war injuries of the face including burns’ (1920) by H D Gillies ; with chapter on the prosthetic problems of plastic surgery by Capt. W Kelsey Fry; and remarks on anaesthesia by Capt. R Wade.
Walter Yeo, a sailor injured at the Battle of Jutland, is assumed to be the first person to receive plastic surgery in 1917. The photograph shows him before (left) and after (right) receiving a flap surgery performed by Gillies.
Extreme reconstructive surgery. Name of patient unknown.
If you’ve watched Boardwalk Empire, you will be familiar with Richard Harrow, a WWI veteran with half his face missing. He wears a facial prosthetic and is a sharpshooting badass.
His character was inspired by real World War I soldiers who had artists recreate missing parts of their face.
The “Tin Nose Shop” in London where realistic masks were created to help wounded soldiers. Smithsonian Magazine has an excellent article about this called “Faces of War.”
There is also footage of this “shop,” the film is originally silent but someone added some music that you might wish to replace or mute depending on your personal taste in such things…