Alongside the horrors of trench warfare, the First World War led to advancements in medicine and surgery. Did anyone in your family receive groundbreaking treatment?
Private Denis Bailie was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment when he suffered a gunshot wound to the face, seriously injuring his jaw. He was 22 years old.
Denis survived the injury. The record of his Silver War Badge, which was introduced in 1916 and awarded to soldiers who were invalided out of the army, tells us that he was honourably discharged in 1917.
Developing new surgery techniques
The photographs above show Private Bailie after he underwent groundbreaking surgical procedures to restore the use of his jaw and repair the disfigurement.
The record of his Silver War Badge tells us Denis was honourably discharged in 1917.
Denis was a patient of Dr Harold Gillies, who in June 1917 established the Queens Hospital in Sidcup, where he pioneered new plastic surgery treatments for disfigured soldiers.
Using an innovation known as the tubed pedicle, Dr Gillies used tissue from the patient in his reconstructive operations, rather than attempting skin grafts from other people or animals. This reduced the chance of rejection significantly, along with cutting down the risk of later complications.
Revealing the stories of the Sidcup patients
On 1st August 1916, Corporal William J Abbott was shot in the left side of his face while serving with the Northamptonshire Regiment.
Corporal Abbott was a little under twice Private Denis Bailie’s age at 41. Like Private Bailie, he became a patient of Dr Gillies, undergoing reconstructive surgery to repair the wound. The photographs that were taken once healing had begun are below.
Both William Abbott and Denis Gillies survived the war. There are many parts of their stories which, with your help, could be uncovered when Lives of the First World War launches.
- Were they married, or did they go on to marry?
- Did they write any letters to relatives about their injuries?
- Are there any more images of them out there, other than these hospital headshots?