How to explain the Guinea Pig Club? Simple, they were World War 2 aircrew shot down in flames, but lucky enough to be recovered by their own side and then commenced the long and gruelling process of recovery. Complicated, because the medical procedures to return them to a natural life didn’t exist. But in the Sussex market town of East Grinstead there was a dedicated hospital with a team led by New Zealand born surgeon Archibald McIndoe, who developed new procedures for returning these burnt warriors back to life and back to their families.
Rebuilding Bodies and Souls is the first time ever that the whole story of these young men, who called themselves the Guinea Pig Club,has been told. Showing the actual medical apparatus used by McIndoe, the East Grinstead Museum has recreated his 1940’s operating theatre. The wealth of objects, photographs and memorabilia have all been brought together for the first time, so that the whole story can be told. In later years McIndoe himself, although honoured and revered, always hoped that someday the story of the Guinea Pig Club could be fully told.
Not only is it a tribute to the memory to those young men who were often the first in the line of battle, but it also tells the story of the small town of East Grinstead who took these scarred young men to their hearts and never saw their injuries, but always saw them as friends and family. East Grinstead became known as The Town that didn’t Stare, and the Guinea Pig Club has always thought that the town was its home.
Now the story really can be told and we invite the world to come and share it with us.