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Three trephines with Horsley's handle, London, England, 1939-1945

A trephine is used to drill holes in the skull to access the brain to perform complex surgery. Horsley’s handle is named after Sir Victor Horsley (1857-1916), the pioneer of neurosurgery. Made by Down Bros Limited, the khaki colour of the roll and the simplicity of the design suggest that these instruments were to be carried by medical teams during war time.

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    Glossary: trephine

    An instrument for trepanning, being an historical advancement on the trepan. It is a circular or cylindrical saw, with a handle like that of a gimlet, and a little sharp perforator called the center pin.

    Glossary: trephination

    The removal of a circular piece of the top of the head. This is done using a sharp implement or circular saw, and was common in Neolithic times. It is thought that the aim was to release evil demons or spirits from the body in the hope this would cure the person of their illness.

    Glossary: neurosurgery

    A surgical speciality that treats diseases and disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system.