Seventy-five years ago a group of young men – mostly RAF aircrew who survived fiery crashes during the Second World War – formed a social club during their long recoveries and called themselves The Guinea Pig Club, in honour of the experimental treatments of pioneering plastic surgeon, Sir Archibald McIndoe. The RAF Benevolent Fund is proud to have supported The Guinea Pig Club since its inception and has provided assistance to many of its members over the years.
Here, we tell the story of the Club, some of its members, and Sir Archibald, and we invite you to leave a message for the Guinea Pigs for a Book of Gratitude we will be giving the Club to thank them for that they did during the war.
At 22-years-old, Robert 'Mac' Mathieson was left blinded when his Lancaster's windscreen suddenly exploded. Due to the nature of Mac's injuries, he was treated by the pioneering plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe, becoming one of his 'guinea pigs.'
Guinea Pig Jan Black was 20-years-old when he arrived in Belfast on a freighter carrying meat, provisions and 180 volunteers from Buenos Aires. His dream was to become an RAF pilot. Two years later, the only survivor of a plane crash, he was left fighting for his life with terrible burns.
When his Halifax bomber exploded Guinea Pig Jack Perry suffered 80 per cent burns to his hands, face, and ears. Jack dedicates a large part of his recovery to Sir Archibald McIndoe and 'the town that didn't stare'.
Watch our interviews with members of The Guinea Pig Club who share their stories of World War Two.