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"They christened me 'Fingers' because I had none!"

Alan 'Fingers' Morgan will never forget his 21st birthday. It was the day that would change his life forever and set him on course to become one of McIndoe's Guinea Pigs.

Alan Morgan was a flight engineer on board a Lancaster bomber with No. 49 Squadron on his 21st birthday, returning from a mission over Stuttgart.

Alan Morgan with wife Ella

After 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.

Frank passed out almost immediately and Alan was sent both to help him and close the door.

He managed to successfully pull the door closed, but soon realised that Frank's oxygen bottle was faulty.

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

Gangrene set in and he was transferred to East Grinstead where all his fingers were amputated. 

Alan recalls his time at East Grinstead: "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."

Alan's wife, Ella, said: "They just adapted to everything. I think it was the camaraderie between the men and McIndoe and the way they were treated."

Alan remembers another patient who also suffered from frostbite: "There was another one that lost all of his toes, a Czech colonel he was.  I said, 'I'll play the piano and you do tap dancing.'"

Thanks to Archibald McIndoe's skilled treatment, Alan was able to return to flying duties in 1945, flying Halifax's until he was demobbed later that year.

The RAF Benevolent Fund bought Alan a scooter a few years ago, to help him get out and about. More recently the Fund turned the couple's bathroom into an easily accessible wet room.

Alan says: "The RAF Benevolent Fund has been brilliant. I got to the stage about three years ago where I couldn't get in and out of the bath and they designed a wet room for me."

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