BBC One Spotlight: Walter Yeo

A recent episode of BBC One’s Spotlight saw Paddy Hartley and Marjorie Gehrhardt discussing facially-injured WWI sailor Walter Yeo and his surgeon Harold Gillies. Yeo, from Plymouth, underwent extensive and pioneering facial reconstruction surgery carried out over a number of years by Gillies. Paddy Hartley spoke about the influence of the Gillies archive on his work, and the inspiration he drew from this unique period in social and military history. One of Hartley’s pieces, a uniform sculpture displaying Yeo’s accident and recovery, was shown alongside a discussion of the lasting historical and medical significance of Gillies’s work and its evolution into increasingly complex modern-day surgery techniques. During an interview with presenter Justin Leigh, Gehrhardt considered the social implications of Yeo’s severe disfigurement during his reintegration back into society, including the positive impact of the accepting attitudes of his family and local community.