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Biographical entry Wagstaffe, William Warwick junior (1886 - 1928)

OBE; MRCS May 11th 1911; FRCS June 11th 1914; MB BCh Oxon 1911.

6 January 1886
27 December 1928
General surgeon


The only child of William Warwick Wagstaffe, senr (qv), one-time Surgeon to St Thomas's Hospital, London, was born on Jan 6th, 1886. 'Billy' Wagstaffe was not long in showing his mettle. Starting his school life at The Beacon, Sevenoaks, he won the junior and senior scholarships at Charterhouse. He matriculated at Oxford in 1904 as a biological scholar of New College and graduated BA with 1st Class Honours in physiology in the Natural Science School in 1908. While at Oxford he came under the influence of Sir William Osler, with whom he was associated in the study of the writings of Vesalius and other early anatomists. He then entered St Thomas's Hospital, where he soon proved that his abilities were in no way those of a mere examinee.

After taking his medical degree in 1911 he became House Surgeon to Sir George Makins and Sir Cuthbert Wallace, and afterwards served as Casualty Officer. In 1913 he made a rapid rush to the Balkan War as a Red Cross surgeon, but had the misfortune to arrive too late for active service. The outbreak of the European War in 1914 found him prepared, and, as an officer of the RAMC. Special Reserve, he was characteristically one of the first and most eager to respond to the call. His service in France, in which he rose to the rank of Major, was marked throughout the war by a cheerful devotion to duty and an unostentatious efficiency, for which he was deservedly enrolled in the Order of the British Empire.

At the termination of the war Wagstaffe was appointed Assistant to the Surgical Unit at St Thomas's Hospital, where he gained experience of modern civil surgery, more especially in connection with head injuries, in the treatment of which he had always shown especial interest, and thence settled in Oxford in 1921, becoming a part-time Demonstrator of Anthropotomy, a post he retained for six years. In 1924 he was appointed Assistant Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary, and he was elected full Surgeon on the retirement of Arthur Percy Dodds-Parker in 1927.

He was a keen member of the British Medical Association, and served on the executive committee of the Oxford Division in 1927-1928.

He died in the Acland Nursing Home, Oxford, after a short illness, on Dec 27th, 1928. He married in 1916 Margaret Cuthbertson, of Broughty Ferry, who had served as a nurse in a war hospital with the British Expeditionary Force. She survived him with two children, aged 9 and 7.

Wagstaffe was always master of himself, content with his lot, and full of love for his fellow-men. A capable athlete at half a dozen games, a lover of good books and good company, courageous and single-minded in all his dealings - while laying no claim to sainthood or genius - he was one of those thoroughly trustworthy and lovable personalities who enrich the lives of all with whom they come in contact. He was Secretary, Treasurer, and Manager of a small travelling surgical club, whose annual visits abroad kept him in touch with his surgical contemporaries and with the progress of surgery in foreign countries.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1929, I, 54].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England