Memory of Second World War airman will live on at Sussex hospital

Pictured left to right are: Michael Barrett, Peter Morgan, Paul Andrews, lead operating department practitioner for anaesthetic support in theatres, Joe Barrett and Beryl Hobson, chairperson of Queen Victoria Hospital.
Pictured left to right are: Michael Barrett, Peter Morgan, Paul Andrews, lead operating department practitioner for anaesthetic support in theatres, Joe Barrett and Beryl Hobson, chairperson of Queen Victoria Hospital.

The son of a Second World War airman who was a member of the Guinea Pig Club made a poignant return to Queen Victoria Hospital.

Peter Morgan visited the hospital in East Grinstead 75 years after his late father Alan was first treated there.

The Guinea Pig Club was established in 1941. It was the name given to the group of British and allied aircrew injured during the Second World War who received experimental reconstructive plastic surgery, including facial reconstruction, at the hospital by pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe.

Peter’s father, Alan Morgan, was involved in a flying incident in 1944 while returning from a mission with the 49 Squadron to Stuttgart on his 21st birthday. The flight engineer was left with severely frostbitten fingers after the main door of his Lancaster bomber flew open. He took his gloves off to close the door but passed out and his hands were stuck to the frozen fuselage.

Alan was admitted to the QVH three days later where he had five operations, including having his fingers amputated, carried out by Sir Archibald McIndoe. Alan, affectionately known to fellow members of the Guinea Pig Club as “Fingers Morgan”, sadly passed away last year.

Peter, along with his father’s lifelong friend Joe Barrett, and Joe’s son Michael, visited the hospital to donate an IV drip stand with built in electrical input sockets to make a lasting impact in its operating theatres, an area Alan knew well.

Despite his injuries, Alan continued as an engineer after the war and met Joe who trained as his apprentice. It was a legacy he later passed on to Peter who became Joe’s apprentice. The IV drip stand, carrying a plaque with Alan’s name, was specially made for the hospital by Joe’s medical equipment company SafetyMed Ltd.

Peter, who lives in Stockport, Greater Manchester, said: “Joe and Dad were lifelong friends and he supported him tremendously. When Joe suggested donating some equipment to Queen Victoria Hospital we wanted something that would be a fitting and lasting tribute to Dad and we think this is it.”

Beryl Hobson, chairperson of Queen Victoria Hospital, said: “Alan was the first member of the Guinea Pig Club that I met and I was delighted to meet Peter and reminisce with him about his father. We would like to thank Peter, Joe and Michael for this kind donation which will make a real difference in our operating theatres. It will enable our theatre staff to plug in pumps and multiple pieces of medical equipment safely without the worry of trailing cables.”