Leicester

Sandy Saunders: WW2 'Guinea Pig' pilot dies from cancer

Sandy Saunders
Image caption Dr Sandy Saunders had 28 operations to treat his 40% burns to his face, hands and legs in 1945

One of the last surviving members of a group of World War Two pilots who underwent pioneering plastic surgery has died from cancer.

Dr Sandy Saunders, who was badly burnt in a RAF crash in 1945, died on Sunday.

The 94-year-old, from Leicestershire, along with other wounded veterans were given experimental skin grafts - they were dubbed the Guinea Pig Club.

In September, he flew for the final time in a Tiger Moth plane - the same type of aircraft in which he crashed.

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Media captionDying WW2 veteran in 'last flight'

The veteran, who was one of 17 surviving members of the Guinea Pig Club, organised tribute to the 649 members.

The Duke of Edinburgh unveiled a memorial last November.

Dr Saunders had described the monument at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, as a "fantastic" achievement.

Image caption Some of the 17 surviving members of the club were able to attend the ceremony in November

The young pilot, who was 22 years old at the time of the crash, had 28 operations to treat his 40% burns to his face, hands and legs.

Pioneering surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe carried out the experimental plastic surgery techniques - some of which are still in use today.

Dr Saunders was inspired to become a GP by Sir Archibald and worked as a doctor in Nottingham for 40 years.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Archibald McIndoe was forced to perform treatments on the "guinea pigs" as he had no books or guides to refer to

Director and actor Simon Callow, who is directing a play about the Guinea Pig Club, said he had the "extraordinary pleasure" of meeting the "inspiring" man in 2015.

"Sandy himself was nothing but elegant, precise, and funny," he said.

"As he spoke I was overcome with a profound, upsetting sense of humility.

"Such courage, so lightly borne, is both chastening and inspiring, and though Sandy, brisk and down to earth, I would never have expected that sort of response to what he had lived through."

He added that the play will be "dedicated to Sandy, with the deepest respect and admiration".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Simon Callow said Dr Saunders was one of the longest-lived of the 'guinea pigs'

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