Latest News Civic Pride nominee – John Grocott

Civic Pride nominee – John Grocott

11 June 2024

Civic Pride nominee – John Grocott

His name may be largely unrecognised in his home city but pioneering plastic surgeon John Grocott transformed the lives of thousands of people, including servicemen left disfigured by the ravages of war.

Born in Fenton and a schoolboy at Orme Boys in Newcastle-under-Lyme then Longton High School, John was just 17 years old when he won the Guy’s Hospital Medical School War Memorial Scholarship.

He returned to Stoke-on-Trent in 1933 as a House Surgeon at the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary. John was just 23 years old.

The hospital opened a plastic surgery unit in1934, making the then 24-year-old John Grocott the first in-house plastic surgeon north of London.

In those early years industrial accidents in coal mines, pottery factories and steel works made up most of the cases.

When World War II broke out in 1939, and after receiving around 60 weekends of instruction, John, at the age of just 29, was left to run the NSRI Plastic Surgery Unit singlehanded. As well as continuing to look after local patients he treated servicemen from all over the country.

Between D-Day in June 1944 and the end of February1945 almost 3,000 servicemen were brought to Stoke-on-Trent for treatment. John averaged around 350 plastic surgery operations a year – rebuilding jaws, mouths and cheeks; creating eyelids, noses and ears; and changing lives for the better as well as continuing his general surgery.

In 1940 he was recruited into the Emergency Medical Service and spent time at other hospitals around the country.

John himself eventually retired from the NSRI in 1975 after 42 years of service to the people of Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, without fuss or fanfare, disappearing into the shadows and out of the minds of most before passing away in 1992. Apart, that is, of his former patients.

John’s genius in helping to rebuild the lives of many seriously injured servicemen is now, at long last, being acknowledged.

A permanent display about John will be unveiled at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery later this year at around the time of Remembrance Day.

John Grocott has been nominated for a posthumous Civic Pride Award in the Your Heroes Awards by author Ros Unwin, who has been researching John’s career supported closely by one of his former patients, Jane Pugh.

Ros said: “In 1947 John was part of a delegation of five plastic surgeons invited to accompany Sir Harold Gillies on a lecture tour of the USA. When he returned to England John’s star was in the ascendant. Sir Harold, who described him as ‘an excellent surgeon’, would have sponsored him for any post he wanted, either in this country or abroad.

“But that wasn’t John; he was a Stoke man and never considered moving. He would go on to serve the people of Stoke and North Staffordshire for the rest of his career. In fact, he was the only plastic surgeon serving the whole of North Staffordshire up to his retirement in 1975.”