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Alan Morgan's story

 

World War Two veteran Alan Morgan was meant to arrive back from a raid over Germany on his 21st birthday to a surprise party that his wife-to-be Ella had arranged. Instead, he ended up in Chichester Hospital and later East Grinstead where he had to have his fingers amputated.

Alan was a flight engineer on board a Lancaster bomber with No. 49 Squadron. During the raid flak caused the main door to fly open, resulting in a drop in temperature and air pressure.

The skipper instructed the wireless operator, Frank, to go and try to close the door however Frank passed out almost immediately and Alan was sent to help and close the door.

Frostbitten fingers

Alan successfully managed to close the door, but he quickly realised that Frank's oxygen bottle was faulty.

Alan recalls: "It was minus 45 degrees outside and I whipped my gloves off to see to Frank, and that was my mistake. Frank did say it was his fault I lost my fingers, but it wasn't really. It was just one of those things. That's all."

The freezing temperature left Alan with severely frostbitten fingers and the aircraft made an emergency landing for Alan to be taken to Chichester Hospital.

Back in England he was treated by the renowned plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe, who managed to save his hands but unfortunately Alan had to have eight fingers amputated. McIndoe created stumps from what was left, which meant Alan was able to maintain some movement.

Becoming a Guinea Pig

From that day onwards Alan became part of The Guinea Pig Club something he has always been proud of as he says in his own words.

"It was a home from home. It wasn't a hospital, it was great. They christened me 'Fingers Morgan' because I had none! I'm proud to be in The Guinea Pig Club."

The term 'Guinea Pig' reflected the experimental nature of the reconstructive work McIndoe carried out on the Club's members and the new equipment designed to treat these injuries.

The Guinea Pig Club was the direct result of McIndoe's efforts to make life in the hospital as easy as possible for the patients who had gone through at least ten surgical procedures, and begin to rebuild them psychologically in preparation for life outside the hospital.

By the end of the war around 80% of the membership, which had then grown to 649, were from bomber crews. Each and every one of these men left a legacy of comradery, bravery and resilience in the face of adversity.

How we've helped Alan

Despite having these qualities in spades many of the Guinea Pigs like Alan Morgan have needed the support of the RAF Benevolent Fund. For instance, as Alan got older he needed a scooter so he could get outside with Ella, his wife of 72 years. Later the Fund turned the couple's bathroom into an easily accessible wet room.

The impact of leaving a legacy

Gifts left in Wills, whether big or small, have an incredible impact on members of the RAF family like Alan who rely on our support, and make up nearly 70% of our voluntary donations.

These generous supporters, along with Alan Morgan and with the rest of Guinea Pig Club will have a legacy that the RAF Benevolent Fund will be proud to share throughout the generations.

Make a difference through a gift in your Will

If you would like more information about how to leave a gift in your Will to the RAF Benevolent Fund, please get in touch with us by filling in our enquiry form.

Return to our leave a legacy page

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