Grant to preserve unique hospital archive

Last updated:
6 February 2018

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West Sussex Record Office and the Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have been awarded a grant from the Wellcome Trust of £72,952 to preserve a major hospital archive of national and international importance.

Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead was one of four national centres during the Second World War for plastic and reconstructive surgery and the sole centre for the treatment of the Allied Air Forces.

Pioneering work was carried out there by the renowned plastic surgeon, Sir Archibald McIndoe, who developed new techniques and procedures and so transformed the lives of the airmen. These patients went on to form the Guinea Pig Club, which still survives today and whose members are supporting this project.  

Working in partnership with the Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, East Grinstead Museum and the Guinea Pig Club, this funding will enable the Record Office to catalogue and conserve the archive and to digitise the patient case-files of the Guinea Pig Club so that these records can be made accessible for medical research and for future generations.

The Queen Victoria, founded in 1863 as a small cottage hospital, is now a leading specialist NHS Hospital, providing life-changing reconstructive surgery, burns care and rehabilitation.

There are over 15,000 patient case files dating from the 1940s to the 1980s and a further 600 Guinea Pig Club patient case files together with McIndoe’s own working papers.

The project will also include the medical drawings of Mollie Lentaigne, held at East Grinstead Museum. Mollie Lentaigne was a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse, who worked at the hospital and depicted surgical procedures in the theatre as operations were carried out.

Wendy Walker, County Archivist, West Sussex Record Office said: “This funding will enable us to take in and preserve a unique archive that will provide a fascinating insight into the pioneering treatment developed at East Grinstead and the lives of those involved. We are very grateful to the Wellcome Trust for helping to make this happen”.

David Barling, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Resident Services said: “This is such an important archive and it is very good news that this funding will enable us to preserve it for generations to come.”


Richard Tyler, Chief Executive of the Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “On behalf of the hospital I am delighted with this award. QVH pioneered an innovative and holistic approach to reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation. So it’s important to us that the collection is preserved and shared in perpetuity.”

Jessica Hadfield the Collection Curator at East Grinstead Museum said: “ We are delighted to hear that West Sussex Record Office have been awarded the grant and are looking forward to working with them to broaden access to the Queen Victoria Hospital collection including the Mollie Lentaigne drawings held at East Grinstead Museum.”




For further information contact:

Wendy Walker, County Archivist, West Sussex Record Office

Tel: 022 033 25388        Mobile: 07815 772848



  1. Archibald McIndoe and Harry Jacobson entertain nurses and Guinea Pigs with a sing song – the scrubs suggest he's not long left surgery. The image is believed to have been taken in 1943.

This image should include an acknowledgement to East Grinstead Museum if they are reproduced.

See also film footage on YouTube:

RAF Guinea Pig Club, East Grinstead, 1947. Includes footage of a large group of RAF (Royal Air Force) officers shaking hands with Sir Archibald McIndoe.


About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.

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