Sculptor Martin Jennings looks at a maquette for a statue
of Sir John Betjeman. A similar-sized maquette of
Dunedin-born pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald
McIndoe will be unveiled tomorrow.
A maquette of Dunedin-born pioneering plastic surgeon Sir
Archibald McIndoe will be unveiled in England by the sculptor
English sculptor Martin Jennings said he was approached about
designing a statue a year ago.
''They liked the statue of John Betjeman in London and asked
would I like to make one of someone I had probably not heard
of, Sir Archibald McIndoe.''
Mr Jennings said he had heard of the plastic surgeon because
he credited the man with saving his father, Michael, who had
sustained horrific burns during a tank battle during World
''He'd been the man who patched my father up after he'd been
blown up in a tank battle in Holland in 1944. So I leapt at
the chance and said this was a job I would love to do.''
The maquette of Sir Archibald, a miniature model of the
statue, would be shown to Sir Archibald's daughter and
grandchildren tomorrow, he said.
The maquette would also be a tribute to the Guinea Pig Club,
a group formed for the ''burned pilots'' to build
camaraderie, Mr Jennings said.
His father never talked about the treatment of his burns, he
''But when I was growing up, it was fairly evident that he'd
been injured and had burn wounds and skin grafts on his face.
His hands were injured, as well. We were very proud of him.
He had a Military Cross from the King.''
After the surgery, his father became a teacher and a
headmaster and had 11 children, and was 82 years old when he
died, he said.
''The extraordinary thing was, all of McIndoe's patients were
told that he didn't know how long they would live, because
they had these terrible burns and extensive surgery, so when
my father made the age of 80, he was astonished that he had
got that far.''
To make the maquette, he collected photographs and footage of
Sir Archibald and walked the wards of the hospital and
operating theatre where he worked in East Grinstead, in West
He talked to Sir Archibald's daughter Odonia to ''get a feel
for the personality'' of the surgeon, he said.
''I think he [Sir Archibald] could be quite tough, if not
abrasive. I don't know if that was his particular nature or
more of a New Zealand thing, or British thing, but if his
patients misbehaved and went out and spent too long in the
pub and came home worse for wear, then he was absolutely
furious and he would let them know just how angry he was.''
But the firmness was necessary, with fighter pilots as
patients, Mr Jennings said.
''The character qualities that had made them such daring
pilots also made them terrible patients. So he had to keep
them in check.''
However, he had a ''practical compassion'' and gave hope to
those with little future, he said.
He persuaded patients that they could lead full and useful
lives, whereas similar burn victims from World War 1 were
often found begging on the streets, he said.
Details of the statue would remain secret until the maquette
was unveiled in East Grinstead and fundraising began.
''There's great enthusiasm for McIndoe and people look like
they are ready to start donating to the fund. It's
The statue would be ''larger than life'' and would take about
a year to create, Mr Jennings said.
Sir Archibald was born in Dunedin in 1900 and attended Otago
Boys' High School and studied at Otago Medical School. He
died in 1960.