Walter Yeo, a sailor severely injured at the Battle of Jutland, is assumed to be the first person to receive plastic surgery (flap surgery, in this case) in 1917 at the hands of Harold Gillies.
Sir Harold Delf Gillies (1882-1960) is widely considered to be the father of plastic surgery, pioneering this science in the horrific butchery that was the Great War. He successfully experimented with skin graft surgery, and established Queen’s Hospital (now Queen Mary’s Hospital) specifically for the purpose of treating facial wounds in 1917. One of the more fascinating techniques he invented was the tubed pedicle - using a flap of skin from the chest or the forehead, he would “swing” it in place to the wounded area (in most cases, the face). The flap remained attached to the body part from which it came, but was stitched into a tube. This greatly reduced the risk of infection, which was very difficult to fight at the time due to lack of antibiotics, and kept the patient’s original blood supply intact. While it looked horrific during the process, it was an amazing medical development for its time.
In 1930, Gillies was knighted for his war service.
More photographs and information can be found at the Queen Mary’s Hospital Gillies Archives.
Of note - Gillies and his colleagues also carried out one of the first successful sex reassignment surgeries in 1946 (female to male), and in 1951 he carried out the first modern sex reassignment (male to female) surgery using his flap technique - this became the standard surgery for the next 40 years.
ca. 1865, “Major H. A. Barnum, Recovery after a Penetrating Gunshot Wound of the Abdomen with Perforation of the Left Ilium”, William Bell