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Biographical entry Wardill, William Edward Mandall (1894 - 1960)

MRCS 13 November 1919; FRCS 10 June 1920; LRCP 1919; MB BS Durham 1918.

24 December 1960
Newcastle on Tyne
General surgeon


Born in 1894 in Gateshead where his father was Mayor on several occasions, he was educated at Mill Hill School and then spent two years in training for a career in commerce before persuading his parents to allow him to study medicine which he commenced to do in 1913 at the old Newcastle medical school. In 1914, despite the inevitable disruption of his medical studies, he succeeded in serving first as a surgeon probationer RNVR, returning to qualify in 1918, serving again as a temporary surgeon RN, and after demobilisation being admitted to the Fellowship in 1920, a noteworthy achievement. On his return to Newcastle he was appointed surgical registrar at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and later to the consultant staff and assistant curator of the Medical School museum of which he made the first modern catalogue. In the Medical School he became associated with James Whillis, the ear nose and throat surgeon and a lecturer in anatomy, and together they worked on the pharyngeal musculature, which led to Wardill describing his operation of pharyngoplasty, his interest in the subject having been aroused while he was Grey Turner's house surgeon.

In a Hunterian lecture in 1927 he showed that in patients with cleft palate the pharynx was abnormally wide and that the problem was how to narrow it. In his Hunterian lecture in 1932 he described further developments in his technique and suggested a classification of speech defects still used today. Much of this work was done at Tynemouth Infirmary and Newcastle Babies Hospital. In spite of his involvement in plastic surgery, he remained a general surgeon, and, following a visit to the Mayo Clinic in 1937 with T J Lane of Dublin, he started a department of urology, largely devoted to the Mayo Clinic technique of punch prostatectomy, at the Newcastle General Hospital, at that time a municipal hospital.

In 1939 on the outbreak of war he started an EMS plastic and jaw unit at Shotley Bridge Hospital, but in 1948 he decided to have no part in the National Health Service and emigrated to South Africa, where he farmed in Cape Province for two years. However he never found in South Africa a satisfactory outlet for his energies and skills, and in 1952 shortly after returning to England he was appointed to the chair of surgery in Baghdad. Here he spent six happy years concentrating on teaching and relegating most of the operating to his colleagues, returning each summer to England to collect further teaching material and attempting to popularise A B Wallace's methods of the open treatment of burns.

An excellent teacher, clinician and surgeon, he was continually on the lookout for new ideas and his range was widespread. He was a typical northerner, independent, blunt and resolute, but a little ahead of his time in his attitudes to the place of specialisation in surgery so that his talents were unhappily never given full scope and opportunity. He had, however, the saving grace of humour and a charm of manner which made him a delightful companion.

In his leisure he was a keen field naturalist, a competent musician, an accomplished metal worker, and later an archaeologist. He retired from Baghdad in 1958 and, returning to England, died at his home in Newcastle on Tyne on 24 December 1960 aged 66.

He was twice married: first to Mary Russell Campbell MB, who died in 1942 and by whom he had three sons and three daughters, and secondly to Wilhelmina who survived him.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 28 December 1960 p 12 d; Lancet 1961, 1, 58 with appreciations by J P and JAC, and p 119 by WHH; Brit med J 1961, 1, 135; Brit J Plast Surg 1961, 13, 373 by JP].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England