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Biographical entry Head, Peter Warren (1924 - 2013)

OBE 1967; MB BS London 1948; DLO 1954; FRCS 1968.

4 October 1924
26 November 2013
ENT surgeon and Naval surgeon


Surgeon captain Peter Warren Head was an ENT consultant in the Royal Navy. He was born on 4 October 1924. He trained at Guy's, qualifying MB BS in 1948, and then held house posts at Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, including a six-month appointment in ear, nose and throat surgery.

In 1950 he joined the Royal Navy, and promptly went to Bickleigh barracks near Plymouth to undertake training to join the Royal Marines. He passed, achieving his 'green beret', and became regimental medical officer of 41 Independent Commando on its deployment to Korea alongside the US Marines under General McCarthy, during the advance into what is now North Korea. The unit lost 31 soldiers and 95 were wounded. During this period Peter gained extensive experience of the injuries of war.

On his return from Korea, he renewed his interest in ENT and proceeded to take the diploma in laryngology and otology at the Royal College of Surgeons, in 1954. He was graded a junior specialist and continued his career in the Royal Navy, with postings to the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar, on the tip of the Gosport peninsular, and also at the Royal Naval hospitals at Chatham and Portland as a specialist in ENT, followed by a three-year posting to Malta.

He took a great interest in the introduction of microsurgical techniques in ENT and he pursued this with attachments in both France and at St Thomas' Hospital, London. He then introduced these techniques to the hospital at Haslar.

In 1968, at the venerable age of 44, Peter gained his fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons, at his first attempt, paving his way to senior specialist and consultant status. This was a formidable achievement considering that he had done no actual general surgical training since being a student, although his experience in Korea must have helped.

He continued in the Royal Navy, including a posting as medical officer in charge of the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar, considered for most of its history as the premier military hospital in the Royal Navy. To command it was undoubtedly a sign of singular recognition by the Sea Lords and also demonstrated the respect that was afforded him by the hospital staff. As medical officer in charge he managed to install a striking ship's figurehead by the main gate of the hospital, where it remains today.

He was made an honorary surgeon to The Queen, which entailed him being present and on medical duty at a number of functions at Buckingham Palace.

He wrote numerous publications, all specifically related to ENT problems in the military, including papers on temporary and permanent loss of hearing after exposure to sound.

He retired from the Royal Navy in 1982, but remained very keen to follow his clinical specialty. He went on to take civilian medical practitioner consultant ENT posts at military hospitals in M√ľnster and Berlin.

By all accounts he was meticulous and methodical in his approach to both clinical and administrative problems, almost a perfectionist, and always insisted on developing and maintaining high standards. He was intelligent, had a quick mind, and had a strong sense of duty. He got the best out of his people by setting a strong personal example. Throughout his career he was famed for always being able to clear his desk before finishing for the day.

His wife Betty was a marvellous support during his career. They had one son. Sadly, his wife predeceased him and he missed her enormously. Peter died on 26 November 2013, at the age of 89.

R Peter Craig

Sources used to compile this entry: [Justin Head].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England