Prince Harry continued his lifelong pledge to support the military community on Monday with a poignant television appearance alongside veterans and survivors of the Second World War.
The Duke of Sussex helped highlight stories from military support groups for BBC’s The One Show as part of their coverage for VE Day, which celebrated 75 years since the German Army surrendered to the Allied Forces of World War II. Harry was asked to take part in the special, filmed via Zoom last Tuesday, May 5, alongside the widow of former "Guinea Pig Club" member Sandy Saunders, who the prince had previously met.
The Guinea Pig Club (GPC) was formed in 1941 by a group of aircrew and military personnel whose burn injuries were so severe they allowed themselves to be subjected to experimental cosmetic surgeries by New Zealander surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe. Maggie Wilson was married to the late Second Lieutenant Sandy Saunders, who received experimental treatment to his face, hands and legs from the pioneering surgeon, and told Harry about the life-changing procedures.
Harry was asked by @BBCTheOneShow to join a special film (via Zoom) commemorating the bravery of veterans. The Guinea Pig Club was a group of allied pilots who allowed themselves to be subjected to experimental surgeries after severe burns injuries. #VEDaypic.twitter.com/9XpPPEvzjc— Omid Scobie (@scobie) May 11, 2020
“He was an amazing man,” she said of her husband’s surgeries. “He was sent down to meet McIndoe down in East Grinstead and when he met him that evening, McIndoe said ‘Hmm, you need new upper eyelids, new lower eyelids, you need a proper nose and I’ll give you a new mouth so you can kiss the girls.” Harry smiled, “So when you met him, can I ask, did he have a proper nose and good lips for kissing?” To which Wilson laughed, “Oh definitely good lips for kissing!”
Today there are modern day counterparts to the GPC social club, including the CASEVAC Club (pronounced cazzy-vack, which is military jargon for "casualty evacuation"), which was also represented on the pre-recorded video chat by founding veterans Dave Henson and Dave Wiseman, who are both friends of the duke and involved in a number of his projects, including the Invictus Games.
Their military program—which was established in 2017, the same year Lieutenant Saunders passed away—was set up to bring together veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who had shared experiences of combat, wounding, and unique recovery that benefited both the membership, which meets twice a year, and society. To this day, they remain committed to supporting the wider veteran community through charity activities and contributions to the advancement of medical science by offering themselves as subjects.
Harry has often highlighted McIndoe's efforts in his work and even provided a foreword to the 2018 book Guinea Pig Club: Archibald McIndoe and the RAF in World War II alongside his grandfather and former president of the GPC, Prince Philip. The story, he wrote, “is one of incredible resilience, courage, innovation and companionship. The members of the club and supporting medical staff became pioneers for science and rehabilitation. They helped change modern medicine and recovery for the military and beyond, saving and protecting the lives of countless men and women."
Today’s appearance, Harry hopes, will help bring the story to an even wider audience. He said, “The One Show got in touch and asked if I could shine a light on a group of veterans that lots of people might not know about.”
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