Senior Fellow, China Australia Writing Centre
School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry
In World War II, at a small RAF hospital in the south of England, plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe carried out groundbreaking surgery on servicemen who had suffered chronically disfiguring facial burns. Neither the RAF or McIndoe were prepared for the number of airmen who would arrive at the hospital nor the severity of their injuries. McIndoe, faced the monumental task of restoring not only skin but flesh, and bone structures and, rebuilding his patient’s self-esteem and will to live. In a groundbreaking approach to rehabilitation he set out to create a therapeutic community in the hospital, and the town of East Grinstead. And convinced that the attention and affection of women were essential to the men’s recovery he deliberately recruited nurses who were both beautiful and had a sense of humour. The men named themselves McIndoe’s (surgical) ‘guinea pigs’ and formed the now world famous Guinea Pig Club.
As a small child growing up in the town I was terrified by the appearance of the Guinea Pigs in the town; their faces haunted my dreams. Decades later I returned to East Grinstead to learn more about McIndoe’s patients, his nurses and their life in the town where I lived as a child. In Love and War: Nursing Heroes is the story of that journey and of the people I met along the way.
Liz Byrski is the author of ten best selling novels including The Woman Next Door, Family Secrets, and Gang of Four, and more than a dozen non-fiction books including In Love and War: Nursing Heroes, Remember Me, and Getting On: Some Thoughts and Women and Ageing. Her books have been published in the UK, France, Germany and China. Her articles and essays have been published in international newspapers, magazines and journals.
Liz has a PhD from Curtin University where she is an Associate Professor in the in the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, where she is also the Senior Fellow of the China Australia Writing Centre.
Liz has worked as a journalist, an ABC broadcaster and was a Senior Policy Advisor to a Minister in the Western Australian Government. She is a former President of the WA Women’s Advisory Council to the Premier.