NCRA NewsMail

1 August 2017

The Queen's Hospital

Thanks to Sidcup Community Group for sending us the following message :

One of the MA History students, Ellie Grigsby, at Goldsmiths is trying to crowdfund/raise £5,000 to build a memorial dedicated to facially disfigured servicemen from WW1 in the grounds of Queen Mary's Hospital at Sidcup. The aim is for the memorial to be unveiled on 11 November 2018.

Story: The facially disfigured from WW1 are a largely neglected chapter of WW1 history of both psychological and aesthetic socio-cultural history. At least 12% of all wounded men from the Great War suffered from facial wounds.

The horrifically disfigured were designated blue benches to sit on, as a social warning that those seated on such should be avoided, a way of not affronting locals as patients or discharged men getting on with their lives ‘took some air.’ Mirrors were banned in many hospital wards to stop patients from seeing their faces because it was often too upsetting. Many chose to live for periods of time in convalescent homes to remove themselves from the glares, looks of pity and name calling.

Arguably, facially mutilated men felt overwhelming pressure from the rest of society to wear facial prosthetics; to shield society from the reality of what war can do to a face. Despite the undeniable, virtuous intentions of designing and manufacturing an artificial face it had with it unshakable pitfalls and servicemen, thousands of whom could not even obtain a mask, fell victim to suicide, alcoholism and depression because of the face war gave them.

Many operations undertaken at Queen's were revolutionary and results were quite spectacular, but, for thousands, they just couldn't be 'fixed.' It is estimated around 11,000 operations to give men back their faces took place in what is now known as Queen Mary's Sidcup: opened specifically for the facially maimed and this year is it's centenary.

This chasm in historiography and collective memory must be remedied. This memorial will be dedicated to the men who returned home to sweet-hearts who couldn't bear to look at them, the children who trembled under tables as their father's face was too frightening and the thousands of servicemen who shivered when they saw their reflection in a mirror. Today we will remember.

Local schools are involved in the project, and Mr. Simon Weston CBE will unveil the memorial 11/11/2018.

If you would like to make a contribution, please select the following      LINK