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Biographical entry Poate, Sir Hugh Raymond Guy (1884 - 1961)

Kt 1952; MVO 1947; MRCS 20 July 1908; FRCS 10 June 1909; FRACS foundation 1927; LRCP 1908; MB ChM Sydney 1907.

18 January 1884
27 January 1961
Sydney, Australia
General surgeon and Military surgeon


Born on 18 January 1884 he was educated at Sydney Grammar School, matriculating in 1901. Early in his medical course he showed his interest in practical work and shared the Haswell Prize for practical biology, winning the John Harris scholarship in his third year. He was top in the fourth and fifth years and graduated with honours in 1907. During his vacations he worked in the physiological laboratory investigating the function of the thyroid and pituitary gland but he was also a keen baseball player, an original member of the University Scouts and secretary of the University Medical Society, editing its journal and becoming its President in 1907.

After qualifying he commenced duty as resident medical officer at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital but continued his research work at the same time and in addition carried out all the routine pathology of his wards.

In 1908 he came to England and, in 1909, became the first graduate of Sydney University to be admitted as a Fellow of the English College. On his return he was appointed a demonstrator of anatomy and remained associated with that department for many years. He was appointed to the surgical staff of the Royal Prince Alfred in 1911 and remained there until 1938.

Having joined the Australian Army Medical Corps in 1909, when war broke out in 1914 he helped recruit the first field ambulance which embarked with the original convoy bound for Gallipoli, where he gained early commendation for his handling of the many casualties whom he conveyed back to Alexandria, making many trips and operating continuously. In 1915 he set up a dressing station on Anzac beach where he remained until the night of the final evacuation of the Dardanelles. Returning to Egypt as a Major, he was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel attached to the 3rd Australian General Hospital which in 1916 was transferred to England and later to France. Poate went to a British Casualty Clearing Station near Ypres until the end of 1917, when he was invalided back to Australia and put in charge of the military beds in the Prince Alfred Hospital.

After the war he was appointed consulting surgeon to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1929, and in the war of 1939-45 served as a Group-Captain. When after the war the Duke of Gloucester was Governor-General, Poate was selected to operate on the Duchess; for this service he was made a Member of the Victorian Order in 1947.

He was a foundation fellow of the Australasian College in 1927 and its President from 1945-47, having been a member of Council for many years. He found time for many other activities. He joined the Order of St John as a divisional surgeon in 1913 and by 1926 was Assistant Commissioner. In 1929 he became Commissioner, and in 1935 was created a Knight of the Order of St John, ultimately becoming Sub-Prior in Australia; receiving from the Queen the Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order he became therefore Chancellor of the Priory in Australia.

As a surgeon it was probably in the field of thyroid surgery that he was particularly expert, but in all fields he excelled. A methodical, rapid and tireless worker always ready to accept new ideas and new methods, he was honest sometimes to the point of bluntness but essentially kind and full of common sense.

A good horticulturist he grew magnificent orchids at his country home, Semiramis. His later years were clouded by illness and unfortunately he lost the support of his wife Aida, a Greek lady who died in 1951. His first wife had died many years earlier. He was survived by three sons and a daughter; one son is James Poate FRCS. He died on 27 January 1961 aged 77 in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1961,1, 422 with appreciation by Lambert Rogers; Med J Aust 1961, 1, 232, and 2, 32-34 memoir by Norman Wyndham and S L Spencer, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England