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Biographical entry Gordon-Watson, Sir Charles Gordon (1874 - 1949)

KBE 1919; CMG 1917; MRCS 4 May 1898; FRCS 12 June 1902; LRCP 1898; Hon FACS 1931.

18 April 1874
19 December 1949
General surgeon


Charles Gordon Watson, he assumed the surname of Gordon-Watson by deed poll in 1920, was born 18 April 1874, the eighth child and fifth son of the Rev Henry George Watson, MA Oxford, Vicar of St Leonard's, Buckinghamshire, and his wife, neé Gillman. Gordon Watson joined the Roman Catholic church early in life.

He was educated at St Mark's, Windsor, and St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, qualifying in 1898, and was house surgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and at St Bartholomew's. From 1899 to 1901 Watson served as a civil surgeon in South Africa during the Boer war, under Anthony Bowlby and Howard H. Tooth, MD (1856-1925), both of St Bartholomew's, and was awarded the campaign medal with three clasps. Before qualifying he had enlisted in the Volunteers, on return to England was commissioned as surgeon to the 3rd Middlesex Royal Garrison Artillery Volunteers, transferring to the Territorial Army as captain, RAMC on its formation in 1908. When war broke out in August 1914, Watson was posted to the Duchess of Westminster's Hospital at Le Touquet.

Later as a colonel, Army Medical Service, he became consulting surgeon to the Second Army in France and afterwards to the British Force in Italy. He was one of the first to recognize the syndrome of trench frost-bite, and was a warm advocate of Bip (bismuth, iodoform, and petrolatum) wound dressing. He was mentioned in despatches, created CMG 1916, and knighted (KBE) 1919. He was made a Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem 1917.

At St Bartholomew's Hospital Watson had been elected assistant surgeon in 1910. He became surgeon after the war, and was elected consulting surgeon and a governor on his retirement in 1934. He was surgeon to the Metropolitan Hospital, where he became president of the Aesculapian Society, to St Mark's Hospital for Diseases of the Rectum, and to St Andrew's Hospital, Dollis Hill. He was a popular lecturer at St Bartholomew's, and an active supporter of student clubs.

Gordon-Watson was at first attracted to orthopaedics and made some useful contributions to the literature of that specialty, including a revision of Howard Marsh's textbook on Diseases of the joints and spine. But he became more interested in proctology, and was a bold and heroic operator in diseases of the rectum. He was perhaps the last adherent of the clamp and cautery method of treating "piles". He extended Whitehead's operation for removal of large villous tumours of the rectum, but in the 1920s became interested in the possibilities of radium treatment for cancer of the rectum, which however he abandoned after 1931. He was chairman of the Investigation Committee of the British Empire Cancer Campaign, and vice-chairman of the advisory committee of the Mount Vernon Hospital. With J P Lockhart-Mummery he founded the Proctological Society, of which he was president after its amalgamation to the Royal Society of Medicine. He was for many years treasurer of the Medical Protection Society.

At the College Gordon-Watson was a member of Council 1924-40, and a vice-president in 1935-37. He gave the Bradshaw lecture on "Cancer of the rectum" in 1937.

Gordon-Watson practised at 82 Harley Street, until his appointment as consulting surgeon to the Army at home in 1939, with the rank of Major-General, led to his settling at York, where he continued to live after relinquishing the appointment in 1942. Gordon-Watson was a man of strong religious principle and somewhat formidable appearance, lightened by a ready smile and a fondness for manly sports. He described himself as "an incorrigible Tory". As a young man he took part more than once in motor-bicycle races from London to Edinburgh and back. He was a good horseman, and in later life a follower of horse-racing, which led to his appointment as consulting surgeon to the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee. He was also a keen golf player. Shooting and fishing led him to spend many holidays in Scotland and Norway. He also played much whist and, later, bridge.

Gordon-Watson married in 1917 Alice Geraldine Mary, daughter of Charles James Teevan; Lady Gordon-Watson died on 21 December 1935. There was one child of the marriage, Lieutenant-Colonel D Michael L Gordon-Watson, OBE, MC, who was in command of the lst Battalion, Irish Guards at the time of his father's death. Sir Charles. Died at York on 19 December 1949 aged 75. He was buried at Dorchester, Oxford, and a requiem was celebrated in London on 11 January 1950. Gordon-Watson left £100 each to St Bartholomew's and St Mark's Hospitals, the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund and the College.


Diseases of the joints and spine, in A C Latham and T C English System of
, 1912.
Diseases of the joints and spine, by Howard Marsh, 3rd edition by C G Watson. 1910.
The surgery of the spleen, in C C Choyce System of surgery, 2nd edition, 1923, v 2, pp 110-134.
Surgery of the rectum and anal canal, in G E Gask and H W Wilson Surgery,
1920, pp 994-1022.
Fistula in ano in relation to perianal intra-muscular glands, with Harold Dodd.
Brit J Surg 1935, 22, 703.
The origin and spread of cancer of the rectum. Bradshaw lecture RCS, 1937.
Lancet, 1938, 1, 239-245.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 21 December 1949, p 7d, 22 December, correction, 24 December, funeral and 12 January 1950, requiem; Lancet, 1949, 2, 1245, with portrait and eulogies by W B Gabriel, FRCS, C N Morgan, FRCS, and J P Lockhart- Mummery, FRCS, and 1950, 1, 50, by D R Cameron, MD; Brit med J 1949, 2, 1531, with portrait and appreciation by R M Vick, FRCS, and 1950, 2, 230, will; information from Lt-Col D M L Gordon-Watson, OBE MC and from Mrs C B Watson; personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England