Wednesday, 16 August 2017

My Tribute To Guinea Pig Club Member Jack Perry

I'm very sad to share the news that RAF veteran and member of the infamous Guinea Pig Club, Jack Perry passed away on August 7th, aged 92.

He was an amazing man, a friend to so many, a husband, father and grandfather. His outlook on life, given his own horrific injuries sustained during WW2, was simply incredible. He was helped so much by the plastic surgeon, Sir Archibald McIndoe and the men in the Guinea Pig Club whom he referred to as a 'band of brothers'. In return, Jack has given so much back, helping others similar to himself, suffering with life-changing injuries as a result of burns. Just as he was shown the pathway back to the living, he too has always tried to help others follow that path.

Jack left school at the young age of fourteen and joined the Air Training Corps at sixteen. At eighteen he volunteered as air crew but was chosen for pilot training initially, before training as a flight engineer. Jack was then seconded to 6 Bomber Group and flew with a Canadian crew.

On 31 August 1944, Jack reported an issue with the fuel warning light on the control panel to the pilot and the control tower. However, they were instructed to continue with their mission. As the Halifax took off and climbed to 300 feet it exploded over RAF Topcliffe, North Yorkshire. Jack was thrown clear and when he came too, he returned to the burning wreckage to try and save the tailgunner, but his actions were in vain.
Halifax Bomber Image via Wikimedia Commons

He later discovered that the cause of the accident was a nut which had not been properly sealed on a fuel outlet pump.

Of the eight crew members, the tail gunner was killed and several others, including 19-year-old Jack Perry were terribly injured. His hands were badly burned along with his face and ears and he would go on to have 31 operations and skin grafts over the years.

Of his early treatment and recovery period, Jack once recalled how people reacted to him outside. "People coming towards you saw your face and they couldn't stand it. They would either weep and cry or walk on the other side of the road." But of McIndoe, he said, "McIndoe was a wonderful man and a brilliant surgeon. He was very protective over us."
Sir Archibald McIndoe with the 'Guinea Pigs'

Jack and his fellow guinea pigs offered their support to modern-day servicemen injured in the wars in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. His club tie became quite shortened and frayed over the years because when ever he heard that somebody he knew had been in a bad accident, he would snip off a piece and post it to them.

In a previous interview Jack said, "I am very proud to be a guinea pig and I try to help anybody I can. It means everything to me. I’m proud to be associated with such a fine body of men and wonderful surgeons and nurses. I would do everything again."

"Being a Guinea Pig to me is something I've always cherished. It's been my life for the last 45 years. We are a band of brothers!"

Jack Perry married after the war and went on to have a successful career as a draughtsman. He and his wife Mary were married for over 66 years and had three children, two grandchildren and a great grandchild.
He worked tirelessly for the Guinea Pig Club and was the Social Secretary, organising many things including social functions.
Jack Perry

Thank you for your service. Blue Skies, Sir.

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