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Biographical entry Mitchiner, Philip Henry (1888 - 1952)

CB 1944; CBE 1938; MRCS 1 February 1912; FRCS 10 July 1913; LRCP 1912; MB BS London 1912; MS 1914; MD 1922; TD 1926; DL County of London 1939.

17 June 1888
15 October 1952
General surgeon


Born on 17 June 1888 at Croydon the eldest son of Henry Morford Mitchiner, a City corn merchant, and Blanche Smith his wife, he was educated at Reigate Grammar School and entered St Thomas's Hospital medical school in 1907 with a science scholarship. He won, as well as many prizes, the Mead and the Bristowe medals in 1912, the year of his qualification in which he took the diplomas of the Conjoint Board and the degree of the University. In 1918 he was awarded the Beaney scholarship.

Mitchiner kept up the double connection throughout life, becoming Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of London and a Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons.

He was house surgeon and in 1915 surgical registrar at St Thomas's, having taken the Fellowship in 1913 and the Master of Surgery degree in 1914. On the outbreak of war in 1914 as adjutant of London University OTC medical unit he was held at home, but in 1916 he was able to join the RAMC and went to Salonika and Serbia as a surgical specialist. He acquired a deep interest in the country and retained it through all political vicissitudes. When Serbia was overrun he continued to work for the Serbian Army at No 33 Stationary Hospital, Salonika, and was awarded the Order of St Sava of Serbia (fourth class) with a gold medal and later the second class in the Order of St Sava of Yugoslavia, and the Russian Order of St Stanislas.

He came back to St Thomas's as resident assistant surgeon in 1919, but in 1920 went again to Serbia as a surgeon under the Relief Fund organisation. He joined the British Serbian Units branch of the British Legion on its formation in 1924 and was subsequently its President. He was also an active trustee of the "Serbian Minister's Fund" which provides for the higher education of Yugoslav students in Great Britain. He began regular practice in London in 1921, was appointed assistant surgeon at the Royal Northern Hospital 1921-26, and became assistant surgeon at St Thomas's in 1926. He quickly proved himself a popular teacher; his pungent wit and direct speech, sometimes crude but never wounding, were sterling assets in dealing with students. As an examiner he was skilful at getting the best out of a candidate, and was merely amused by stupidity. He was equally frank and fearless in his relations with his colleagues and superiors, and never let convention divert him from his principles or his purpose. The stories of his unconventional sayings and cockney intransigence were innumerable; but he was universally liked, for he was generous and just. He was fairly tall, wore gold-rimmed spectacles, and kept his scalp closely shaved all over.

At St Thomas's Mitchiner was appointed surgeon in 1935, and became consulting surgeon on retirement in 1948. He was an original member of the St Thomas's and Guy's contingent to the medical unit of the London University Officers Training Corps, adjutant until 1916 and for many years officer in command of the unit, which was of all his many interests the one nearest his heart. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration in 1926.

In the war of 1939-45 he returned to active service in the RAMC, and served at first as DDMS at the corps headquarters of the London antiaircraft defences at Stanmore. He wrote a timely and concise handbook on Medical organisation and surgical practice in air raids. He was then DDMS successively to the Vth Corps and the Northern Command, with the regular rank of Major-General, and subsequently Consulting Surgeon to the Middle East Forces.

After resuming civilian practice he took an active part in the business of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of London, and served on the Court of Examiners 1945-48 and the Council of the College 1943-52; he was chairman of the College Finance Committee in 1946-47 and was a Vice-President in 1950. He was one of the two or three members of the Council who, after the opening of the College Residence in 1946, frequently visited the students informally and shared their meals with them. He was for several years honorary secretary of the College Council Club. Mitchiner was an honorary surgeon to the King from 1932, was created CBE in 1938, and CB for his war service in 1944. He was made Knight of the Order of St John not long before his death.

The Textbook of Surgery which he wrote in collaboration with his St Thomas's colleague W H C Romanis was very successful, and was familiarly known as "Romanis and Mitchiner" to several generations of students.

Mitchiner married in 1928 Margaret, daughter of B Philpott MVO, who had been a nurse at St Thomas's and Sister-Tutor at UCH. He died suddenly on 15 October 1952 aged 64. The memorial service in St Margaret's, Westminster on 5 November was attended by the Chancellor of the University, the Earl of Athlone, representatives of the College, and a vast concourse of Mitchiner's friends.

In 1954 Mrs Mitchiner authorised an annual medal to be awarded in his memory by the Council of the College on the advice of the Director-General of the Army Medical Service to a medical officer of the RAMC for an advance in medical science in its application to service in the Army or for an improvement in the health or living conditons of Army personnel. In 1955 Mrs Mitchiner presented two badges of office for the vice-presidents of the College, in memory of her husband.

The Science and practice of surgery, with W H C Romanis. 2 volumes. London, Churchill 1927; 9th edition 1952.
Surgical emergencies in practice, with W H C Romanis. London, Churchill 1931. The modern treatment of burns and scalds. London, Baillière 1935.
Surgery for dental students (in collaboration). London, Baillière 1936.
Medical organization and surgical practice in air raids, with E M Cowell. London, Churchill 1939; 2nd edition 1941.
Nursing in time of war, with E E P MacManus. London, Churchill 1940.
A pocket surgery, with A Hedley Whyte. London, Churchill 1943; 2nd edition 1946.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 17 October 1952 p 8 g, and 27th p 8 d by the Yugoslav Ambassador; 5 November p 10 e British Legion, 6th November p 8 b memorial service; Brit med J 1952, 2, 943 with appreciations by Sir Max Page and Sir Ernest Cowell, p 1049 by Lt-Gen F Harris DGAMS and by WAB, p 1156 by H A Harris on his work for the Sudan and by JCW; Lancet 1952, 2, 833 with portrait and appreciations by R H O B Robinson, RJVP, Sir Max Page, ALC, Sir W H Oglivie, and his last house surgeon, p 941 by F Harris (as in Brit med J) and by ROL; Ann Roy Coll Surg Engl 1952, 11, 327 by George Perkins, with portrait; St Thos Hosp Gaz 1952, 50, 281 with portrait; Brit J Surg 1953, 40, 395 by W H C Romanis, with portrait in uniform; information from Mrs Mitchiner; personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England Library