The highlight of last year must be the unveiling of the statue in East Grinstead to commemorate the work of Sir Archibald McIndoe. The finished statue and its surround is an important addition to the townscape of East Grinstead. Designed and created by the renowned sculptor Martin Jennings, it has attracted praise from local people and visitors from all over the world. Martin’s father, Michael, was severely burned when his tank was set on fire in 1944 and he received the Military Cross for bravery when he returned to the burning tank to retrieve medical supplies for his injured soldiers. He was treated for his burns by Sir Archibald and forever felt grateful for his skill and attention.
Martin has designed the statue to show McIndoe with an RAF patient who has burns to his hands and face, the former being a reflection of his father’s injuries. McIndoe has both his hands on the patient’s shoulders in a reassuring manner, reflecting the very considerable attention which he gave to his patients emotional and psychological welfare, as well as the surgical care that he took to correct the impact of their injuries. He was of course, an extremely skilled surgeon who pioneered a number of treatments for burns . But, in addition, his care for his patients went far beyond what was needed in surgical terms, and he appreciated, more than many of his contemporaries, the total care that was needed to pull young men through the trauma of the twenty or more operations that were frequently needed to help them recover. Among other issues, he fought battles over their continuing pay and pensions, he banned the degrading blue uniforms which Other Ranks had to wear while in hospital and most importantly he persuaded the town itself to adopt these young men despite their disfiguring injuries. This aspect of his work is shown in the statue by the young airman looking up to McIndoe for reassurance as well as to the sky, in which he can no longer fly.
Martin also designed the crescent of stone seating encircling the statue, to quote his own words,
"so that when the people of the town sit down around it they will be helping symbolically to complete it. It seems to me to be important that this monument should be seen not just as a tribute to a great man but to his heroic patients as well and to the community which did so much to support them”
The town that “did not stare” can now come and look at this memorial for as long as it wants. We are very grateful that Martin was able to accept our commission and it is one of those strange twists of fate that we did not know about his father’s treatment by McIndoe until he had been offered the commission.
The statue was formally unveiled by our Patron HRH The Princess Royal on Monday 9 July 2014.
We must express our sincere thanks to those who have supported the fundraising for this project. In particular, we are grateful for the support of David Brown who was fundamental to seeing it come to fruition.