FLIGHT engineer, Jack Perry, was just 19 when his Halifax Bomber crashed shortly after take off in August 1944.

Suffering 80 per cent burns to his hands, face and ears, Mr Perry - who lives in Harwell - became a member of The Guinea Pig Club.

The club was formed after the Second World War by RAF aircrew men who had suffered severe burns, in honour of the experimental treatments of pioneering New Zealand plastic surgeon, Sir Archibald McIndoe.

Now 91, Mr Perry joined his fellow guinea pigs, Mac Mathieson, 94, Sandy Saunders, 93 and John Miles, 88, for the 75th anniversary of the club.

The great-grandfather said: "Being a Guinea Pig to me is something I have always cherished.

"It has been my life for the last 45 years - we are a band of brothers."

Mr Perry left school at 14 and joined the Air Training Corps two years later before volunteering for air crew at 18.

Due to his engineering training Mr Perry retrained and became a flight sergeant in Six Group Bomber Command, Heavy Conversion Unit, serving with the Canadians.

On August 31, 1944 Mr Perry reported an issue with the fuel warning light on the control panel to the pilot and the control tower at RAF Topcliffe in North Yorkshire.

But the engineer officer still instructed the crew to continue their mission and as the Halifax approached 300ft it exploded.

Mr Perry was thrown from the aircraft but went back to the fuselage to rescue the tail gunner, who died.

The severity of his burns meant he had to undergo 18 operations at Rauceby Hospital, Lincolnshire and 12 in East Grinstead.

He said: "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."

"Throughout our treatment, Sir Archibald made us go out in town in our RAF uniforms, to the pub, dance hall and cinema, he reassured me I’d play sport again.

"He knew that to be physically and mentally rehabilitated we had to lead as normal of a life as possible, even early in treatment."

Following the war Mr Perry had a successful career as a draughtsman and has lived with his wife Mary, 89, in the village for the last 65 years.

Today the Guinea Pig Club continues and its founding members served as mentors and examples to new generations of personnel who suffered burns in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Since the club's inception it has been supported by the RAF Benevolent fund who now want the public to join in the celebrations by leaving congratulatory messages for the Guinea Pigs on its website.

The messages will be compiled into a Book of Gratitude which will be presented to the club later this year.

Air Marshal Chris Nickols, RAF Benevolent Fund controller, said: "The Guinea Pigs embody the spirit and camaraderie of the RAF, retaining their fantastic senses of humour in spite of their extreme circumstances.

"It is inspiring to see how they continue to encourage service personnel with injuries from more recent conflicts.

"It really is fantastic to see them celebrate 75 years and a pleasure to wish Jack a very happy 91st birthday."

For more information visit: rafbf.org/GuineaPigClub