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Biographical entry Wenham, Herbert Victor (1877 - 1914)

MRCS Nov 13th 1902; FRCS June 9th 1904; MB Lond 1902; BS 1903; LRCP Lond Nov 13th 1902.

4 November 1914
Peking, China
General surgeon


The second son of Arthur Wenham, a chartered accountant, by his wife, Frances Tomson. He was educated at Leamington College, and at Tonbridge School from 1891-1894; studied at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he distinguished himself as a student, and served both as House Surgeon and House Physician. Meanwhile he fitted himself for the office of a medical missionary and went out as such to China. He quickly became a fluent Chinese scholar, able to lecture as well as write in Chinese. The Union Medical College in Pekin was just starting; Wenham joined the staff and laboured assiduously until his early death. He gained the love of his students and sought to inspire them with the standard he had learnt at St Bartholomew's. He worked very hard, entirely without pay, for nine years; indeed, on occasions he contributed from his own private means, and to do this practised an almost ascetic way of life.

At the outbreak of an endemic of plague in Northern China a number of his students volunteered as nurses and medical assistants. Of two who died, one, when he fell ill, rushed back to Pekin to Wenham, who nursed him himself until death came. By searching out and isolating contacts, Wenham prevented a great epidemic in Pekin itself.

During the Revolution against the Manchus, Wenham took the field with the students as a Red Cross Hospital Unit and rendered fine service to the sick and wounded around Hankow.

As one of the leading members of the College Faculty he strove to raise the level of medical education. He was a zealous supporter of the anti-opium movement, and in 1913 came to England with General L Chang to plead for the cause.

He died of septic pneumonia on Nov 4th, 1914, in the beautiful hospital at Pekin which he had been so largely instrumental in getting built. His funeral was largely attended, as well by Chinese and his faithful students as by foreigners, his fellow-workers, and by Sir John Jordan, the British Minister.

In Wenham the British medical profession and the Christian missionary world in the Far East lost a most valuable representative. A Chinese writer expressed the feelings of Chinese and foreigners alike: "None who came in contact with him but felt the great charm of his unique personality, his purity of motive, his devotedness, sincerity, and abhorrence of sham or careless work."

He was survived by his wife, Margery Angus, but there were no children.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Steed's Register of Tonbridge School, 1826-1910, p 269. Additional information kindly given by his brother, R A Wenham, MA Cantab].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England