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British RoyalsThe Duke of Edinburgh

Prince Philip has flag trouble as he unveils wartime memorial

Prince Philip has unveiled a monument to honour members of the Guinea Pig Club.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who serves as president of the club, unveiled the monument on 2 November.

The club was formed in 1941, made up of severely wounded and burned men who were treated at the Queen Victoria Hospital using experimental techniques. The treatment of burns was in its infancy, and many of those wounded would have died if they had been injured only a few years earlier. They were, as the name suggests, Guinea pigs of new and untested surgical techniques carried out by Sir Archibald McIndoe in an attempt to save their lives.

After WWII there were 649 members of the club, all who had received this life-saving surgery. Today, just 28 of those remain with us around the world today. Ten of those surviving members braved the cold November weather to watch as the Duke, alongside 95-year-old Dr Sandy Saunders, unveiled the monument.

Dr Saunders, who received 28 operations to treat his burns and raised thousands for the monument, said, “I am proud that I made the effort. If it weren’t for me, then no one else would have done it.”

He added that it was only right to remember the “band of seriously injured men” who came together to support one another in what would have been some of the most painful and darkest moments of their lives.

 “A debt of honour is owed to the excellence of surgical expertise, which restored my body to health, and the cheerful spirit of valiant men who taught me to endure my treatment.”

-Sandy Saunders

The monument is inscribed with the words “out of the fire comes inspiration”. One side has the outline of a Spitfire wing. The other side has the image of Sir Archibald McIndoe, trailed by the smoke of a crashing Hurricane.

Much to the amusement of guests and the veterans, Prince Philip had issues removing the Union Jack draped across the monument. Through perseverance, both the 95-year-old Duke and 95-year-old  Sandy Saunders managed to pull the flag off to a round of applause.

Prince Philip talked to staff in the arboretum in which the monument has been erected. The members of the Guinea Pig Club lined up alongside the monument which will now recognise the experience and pain of the early experimental surgery, as well as the kinship and bond between members of the club that remains strong to this day, 75 years after the events took place.

Prince Philip became president of the club following the death of pioneering surgeon Alexander McIndoe.