Sir Archibald “Archie” McIndoe

Sir Archibald, or Archie as his friends called him, was born on the May 4, 1900. He studied medicine at Otago University and qualified as a surgeon in 1924. In late 1920s Archie was awarded a John William White scholarship for foreign study and in 1929 was appointed first assistant in surgery at the Mayo Clinic. Whilst in America he met Lord Moynihan, who was so impressed with his surgical skills that he recommended a permanent career in England. Archie later earned his reputation as one of the world’s leading surgeons during World War Two in what was then the fledgling discipline of reconstructive surgery. As Chief Surgeon for the British Royal Air Force, he had performed 4,500 operations on heroic young pilots whose faces and hands had been incinerated when their fuel tanks exploded during aerial battles against the Germans. After the war, Archie bought a farm in Tanzania. Two of the promising young men who trained under him were Michael Wood, an Englishman, and the American Tom Rees.


Sadly, Archibald McIndoe died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1960. It was the same year as the AMRF (African Medical Research Foundation) Flying Doctor Service air fleet tripled in size thanks to the American radio and TV personality Arthur Godfrey, who donated a Piper Aztec and a Piper Cherokee. AMREF had only three permanent staff members but soon they were joined by dedicated Kenyans such as Mzee Godfrey Gathirwa, David Mutava, Daniel Mwangi, and John Sironga, who worked with the organization in various capacities for more than three decades. Tom, Sue and friends continued to raise money, but expenditure that year was only 11,500 pounds.