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Biographical entry Travers, Eric Horsley (1910 - 2006)

MRCS 1939; FRCS 1941; MB ChB Edin 1936; LRCP 1939.

7 June 1910
Birmingham, UK
2 September 2006
General surgeon


Eric Travers was a consultant surgeon to Sedgefield and Stockton and Thornaby hospitals. He was born on 7 June 1910 in Brantingham, Yorkshire, where his father John (‘Jack’) Francis Travers was a solicitor. His mother was Beatrice Mary Horsley. The eldest of three, he and his two younger sisters (Mary and Rachael) grew up to enjoy riding and shooting. He was educated at Repton, where he was found to be a talented mathematician and woodworker, enjoying carpentry for the rest of his life. On leaving school he spent a few months in his father’s office, but found the work uncongenial. He told his father: ‘I never want to look at another damned deed again’. So he went to Edinburgh to study medicine, and qualified in 1936. He was house surgeon at Derby Royal Infirmary. He had joined the Territorial Army as a gunner, but found his medical work interfered with his training sessions and transferred to the RAMC.

In 1939 he married Beryl Newby, and was about to take up the position of demonstrator in anatomy in Cambridge when the war broke out and he was posted to France, from which he was safely evacuated. He took the opportunity to sit and pass the FRCS. He was then posted to Singapore when news came of its surrender, and his ship was re-routed to the Middle East. There he found himself in a field hospital in Basra, where he practised his small arms skills by going wild fowling, and in the evenings became a fine bridge player. He ended the war as commanding officer of his field hospital. While at this posting a single dose of penicillin was received and he was asked which patient should be given it. He answered, the patient most in need. His staff remonstrated – this patient was an Italian prisoner of war. Travers repeated his orders.

He was demobilised in 1945 and then worked as a registrar at the Westminster Hospital under Sir Stanford Cade until 1948, when he was appointed consultant surgeon to Sedgefield, and Stockton and Thornaby hospitals, their first non-GP specialist, retaining this appointment when the National Health Service was set up. He was particularly interested in abdominal surgery. From time to time he acted as medical officer to Sedgefield and Stockton racecourses.

Outwardly shy, mild and well-mannered, in hospital he demanded the highest standards for his patients. Outside medicine, he learned to sail dinghies with his eldest daughter Jane and son John, and helped his other daughter, Mary, with her pony. He also bought a small farm. He retired at the age of 60 to a neglected Elizabethan cottage in Surrey, where he and Beryl transformed the interior and recreated the garden. He died after a prolonged illness on 2 September 2006.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from the Travers family].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England