Neville Blond was born in 1901. He grew up assuming that, once he finished education, his future would be set in the family textile business. This all changed with the advent of the First World War. He served for four years with the Royal Horse Guards, having a distinguished career, ending as Major, with the Croix de Guerre, Legion d'Honneur and a post as Liaison Officer with the Ministry of War in Paris.
He served again in the Second World War, this time in the RAF, and later with the Ministry of Production. His knowledge of economics and trade led to his appointment to the Central Economic Planning Staff in a specially created post of United Kingdom Trade Advisor in the United States, to seek new markets for British goods. In 1945, he received the OBE and the CMG in 1950.
His interest in surgery developed after his marriage to Elaine Blond in 1944. Elaine was born in 1902, the youngest daughter of Michael Marks, the Russian Polish immigrant who founded the Marks and Spencer empire. One of her most important achievements was the tireless and vital work she did for the Refugee Children’s Movement in the 1930s and 40s, rescuing Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Europe. A strong-minded women who loathed inactivity, she would become an important patron of the sciences and the arts.
While living near East Grinstead, they became close friends of Sir Archibald McIndoe and took a great interest in the welfare of the airmen treated at the Queen Victoria Hospital. They opened up their house to these ‘Guinea Pigs’ and many of them would stay there while they went through rehabilitation.
In 1959, they donated a block of research laboratories to be built within the Queen Victoria Hospital grounds. In order to administer the new project, a board of trustees was formed, with Neville as chairman. Though Sir Archibald died before building commenced, the plan was carried through, and within two years the laboratory size was doubled through a further donation from Elaine and Neville.
In 1964, the need arose for a modern Burns Centre at the Queen Victoria Hospital, in which the fruits of research could be brought to severely burned patients. The apparently impossible attainment of this expensive proposal was made possible when Neville and Elaine and their family donated the entire building to the hospital. This led to the formation of one of the foremost transplantation research units in the world and a unique centre for the treatment of the severely burned.
After Neville’s death, Elaine carried on their work in maintaining the momentum of research work at East Grinstead. She stood as chairman of the Foundation between 1970 and 1985.
The Blond family connection is still maintained today by Neville’s son Peter who is a patron. He is keen to continue the legacy made by his father and stepmother.