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Biographical entry Gauntlett, Eric Gerald (1885 - 1972)

DSO 1918; CBE 1919; MRCS 1908; FRCS 1911; MB BS London 1910; LRCP 1908.

1 November 1885
26 November 1972
General practitioner, General surgeon and Medical Officer


Born on 1 November 1885, the son of T L Gauntlett of Putney, he was educated at King's College School, Wimbledon Common and entered King's College Hospital Medical School with the Warneford Scholarship in 1902. The hospital was then still in Portugal Street, just south of the Royal College of Surgeons. He won several prizes and scholarships during his student years, and qualified with the Conjoint Diploma in 1908. He graduated through London University, with honours in medicine, surgery and forensic medicine, and was awarded a University gold medal, in 1920; he took the Fellowship in 1911. At King's he was house surgeon to Watson Cheyne, Sambrooke Surgical Registrar and tutor in succession to Arthur Edmunds.

He served through the first world war in the RAMC, becoming a Lieutenant-Colonel, and was a consulting surgeon, Army Medical Service, at Salonika. While there he met and married Hilda Mary Gerrard, who was serving as a VAD nurse. He was awarded the DSO and the CBE for his war service and Mrs Gauntlett, who nursed again during the second world war, was then awarded the Royal Red Cross.

When he returned to civil practice he was appointed assistant surgeon to Paddington Green Children's Hospital, but soon accepted the post of chief medical officer to the Shanghai-Nanking Railway in China. He worked at Shanghai for nearly twenty years, constructing a large surgical practice among the British and other European residents the British Embassy staff, and wealthy Chinese. He had a hospital available and was on the staff. He was also senior medical officer to the Shanghai Volunteers. Gauntlett was an enthusiastic Freemason, and at one time District Senior Grand Warden of the North China Lodges. His three sons were educated at Uppingham.

When the Japanese invaded China in 1939 he, his wife and their two elder sons were interned. During internment one son contracted typhoid and died, largely as a result of deprivation of medical facilities. After about a year an exchange of Embassy staffs released him, his wife, and their surviving son from internment. Mrs Gauntlett brought with her 20 children of other internees. They sailed under Red Cross protection to Lourcenio in Portuguese East Africa. Their son, aged only 17, joined the South African Air Force and fought in it for the rest of the war.

Eric Gauntlett joined the South Africa Medical Corps and worked as a surgeon in the rank of Major in South Africa. By this means he released a younger man for active service abroad. Mrs Gauntlett nursed in military hospitals in South Africa throughout the war.

As a result of the disaster at Shanghai, Gauntlett lost nearly all his property, his investments, his pensions rights, and the value of his partnership. He had no income except his salary in the South African Army while serving from 1942 to 1946.

When hostilities ceased he returned to England. He owned a small property, which had been used by Mrs Gauntlett on long leave from Shanghai, to be near her sons when they were young. They sold this property and some silver which provided a small block of capital, with which, at the age of 63, he entered general practice in the Doctors Panter and Mayo partnership at Braintree, Essex. He worked in this practice for seventeen years, and was on the staffs of several neighbouring hospitals.

He was active in the British Medical Association, serving as chairman on the Mid-Essex Division 1951-53 and Branch 1958-60. He maintained his interest in Freemasonry, and became Senior Member of King's College Hospital Lodge.

He retired at the age of 80 to Colchester where he died on 26 November 1972 after fracturing his hip in a fall, aged 87. His son, who survived the war-service with the South African Air Force, transferred to the Royal Air Force and in the rank of Wing-Commander was officer in charge of instruction at Hong Kong, where he was killed in a flying accident.

Gauntlett was survived by his wife and their youngest son, Major Alister E G Gauntlett, 16th/5th The Queen's Royal Lancers.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 30 November 1972 and Brit med J 1972, 4, 677 both by Laurence Dulake FRCS, who kindly contributed this memoir also].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England