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Biographical entry Soltau, Alfred Bertram (1876 - 1930)

CMG 1916; CBE 1919; MRCS 10 May 1900; FRCS 12 June 1902; LRCP 1900; MRCP 1919; FRCP 1925; MB London 1900; MD 1902; TD 1921.

21 March 1876
26 July 1930


The eldest son of George Soltau, a nonconformist minister of Plymouth, and of his wife Grace Elizabeth Tapson, he was born at Myddleton Square, London, WC, on 21 March 1876. His father, who had been governor of Dr Barnado's Home in London, took charge of a mission church in Tasmania, and his son was educated at the Launceston High School, Tasmania. He returned to England in 1893 and entered the London Hospital, where he had a brilliant career as a student and served the offices of house surgeon and house physician. He gained first-class honours at the University of London, and acted for a time as assistant demonstrator of anatomy and biology in the London Hospital Medical School. He was also editor of the London Hospital Gazette.

He soon decided to practise in Plymouth, where his family had lived for several generations, and settling in Athenaeum Place was appointed physician to the Devon and Cornwall Ear and Throat Hospital, and later to the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital. He devoted much time and energy to the British Medical Association and was vice-chairman of the Plymouth division, 1912-14. He was also vice-president of the Plymouth area of the St John Ambulance Association. A keen politician, he was president of the Conservative and Unionist Association of the Southern division of Plymouth, and in 1919-25 served as a member of the Plymouth borough council where he was chairman of the public health committee. He was also actively associated with the Boy's Brigade, and with many social and charitable institutions in Devonshire.

Military medicine was for many years one of his special interests. He received a commission in the Devon Volunteer Brigade Bearer Company in 1905, and was the first commanding officer of the 2nd Wessex Field Ambulance, receiving in 1921 the Territorial Decoration. During the war he went to France in 1914 in command of a field ambulance. Two years later he was promoted honorary colonel, AMS, and was appointed consulting physician to the First and Second Armies; in 1918 he was appointed physician to the War Office and to the Ministry of Pensions for cases of gas poisoning. He was mentioned four times in despatches and was decorated CMG in 1916 and CBE in 1919. His foreign decorations included the Croix de Guerre, France, and Commendador d'Ordre d'Aviz, Portugal. During 1922-27 he was assistant director of medical services of the 3rd Wessex Division. In 1925 he was gazetted honorary physician to the King. He married in 1903 Edith Mary, daughter of W E Watts of Plymouth, who survived him with a son and a daughter, Catherine, afterwards the wife of Commander C H Lingard Guthrie, RN. He died in London on 26 July 1930, and was buried at Hendon Park cemetery, Mill Hill.

Contributions to the chapters on Gas warfare in the official History of the Great War, Medical services, Diseases of the war. London, 1923, 2.
On gunshot wounds of the chest, with J B Alexander. Quart J Med 1916-17, 10, 259.
Sick wastage. J Roy Army med Cps 1920, 35, 152.
Massive pulmonary collapse. Brit med J 1925, 1, 544.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1930, 2, 269; Brit med J 1930, 2, 269, with portrait; information given by Mrs Soltau].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England