Photos of a wounded World War I British sailor who was the the first person to undergo plastic surgery have been released in an attempt to trace his family.
In 1917, Walter Yeo, a sailor in the First World War, had his face extensively rebuilt after sustaining terrible injuries, including the loss of upper and lower eyelids. He was injured while manning the guns aboard the battleship HMS Warspite.

He was treated by Sir Harold Gillies, who was the first to use skin grafts from undamaged areas on the body. Gillies is known as the father of plastic surgery; and he opened a specialist ward for the treatment of the facially-wounded at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Kent the same year he treated Yeo.

Yeo is thought to be the first patient to benefit from Gillies’ form of skin grafting called tubed pedical. The young sailor was given new eyelids with a ‘mask’ of skin grafted across his face and eyes. Artist Paddy Hartley has previously used the images in an exhibition and is now attempting to track down Yeo’s family to find out what happened to him.

Yeo last went for treatment at the Royal Naval Hospital in Plymouth (UK) in 1938 but little else is known about him. He was born in 1890 and after marrying was severely injured during the battle of Jutland while manning guns. Records show he was admitted to Gillies’ care on August 8, 1917. After the procedure, Yeo was ‘improved, but still had severe disfigurement’.

Gillies is credited with developing new, untried techniques to treat horrific war injuries by taking grafts from undamaged areas of flesh. Gillies used tubular ‘pedicles’ from the forehead, scalp, chest, neck, or shoulders, but retained a connection to allow blood flow.

Gillies and his colleagues developed many techniques of plastic surgery and carried more than 11,000 operations on over 5,000 wounded men.

[Source: The (UK) Telegraph]