Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, February 10, 2024

A World War One Sailor Was the First Beneficiary of Plastic Surgery

HMS Warspite, 6-inch Gun Mount Damaged at Jutland

Petty Officer Walter Ernest O'Neil Yeo (1890–1960) of the Royal Navy was the first person to have plastic surgery according to the Guiness Book of World Records. In 1917, skin grafts were transferred by Surgeon Sir Harold Gillies from his chest and shoulder to his face in order to replace facial scar tissue and both upper and lower eyelids that he had lost whilst manning the guns aboard the Dreadnought HMS Warspite in 1916 during the Battle of Jutland.

Original Injury

The process required several procedures and was complicated by post-operative infections. At one point the grafts were reported to be "floating in a sea of pus." Yet, Yeo was eventually declared "Fit for Service" in July 1919 and returned to the ranks. He required a further operation in August 1921, however,  after which he was medically discharged from the Royal Navy.

Early Stage—Note Scar Tissue Around Eyes

Intermediate Stage with Damaged Eye Lids

Later Stage—Work Around Eyes Progressing

Walter Yeo was the son of a sailor who died at sea, who became a career navy man, himself.  He was married with a daughter before his injuries, and after the war he and his wife had another daughter. In his later life he became a publican in Plymouth, England.

[Note: The photos here seem show the progression of the process, but I'm not sure of the exact stage is depicted or their dates. Also, I've not been able to find a definitive post-surgery photo.]

Sources: DevonLive,  Yeo Society, Wikipedia

No comments:

Post a Comment