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Biographical entry Molesworth, Hickman Walter Lancelot (1892 - 1969)

MRCS 1916; FRCS 1919.

Melbourne, Australia
9 April 1969
General surgeon


H W L Molesworth, a very human and kindly man, was known to his friends as "Moley" or "the Old Mole". He was the son of Mr Justice Molesworth, Puisne Justice of Victoria and was born in Melbourne in 1892. He was educated at Melbourne Grammar School and subsequently at Tonbridge School and the London Hospital where he won the Price Scholar-ship.

Early in the first world war he became a Surgeon Probationer in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and saw active service at sea in destroyers based at Harwich. In later life he never missed the Harwich Forces annual reunion. In 1916 he was persuaded, rather against his will, to return to the London Hospital to qualify, which he did with the Conjoint Diploma and proceeded to the FRCS (England) in 1919. Thereafter he held house appointments and was surgical registrar at the London Hospital until he left London for general practice in Folkestone and was appointed assistant surgeon to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Folkestone.

At this time he was a very considerable athlete, both as a runner and a first class swimmer. He played rugby football for the London Hospital when they had one of the finest sides in the country. His interest in rugger continued in his later life, and to visit Dublin with him for the international matches was a memorable social and gastronomic occasion. He played cricket for Tonbridge School and the London Hospital and was a member of the Yellow-Hammers Cricket Club. He also was in early life a very accomplished skier and for many years made annual visits to Switzerland or Austria. In the days before Kitzbuhl was "discovered" by the English and ski lifts were introduced, he would play squash regularly before breakfast, in preparation for his arduous exercise on the mountains.

He probably left London largely because of his deep love of shooting and fishing and his hatred of dressing up. No man in his position has ever been less careful of his appearance. He was a first-class shot and delighted in offending his ancestors by shooting a fox each season. He shot regularly throughout his surgical career and his favourite labrador would frequently accompany him on his visits to the hospitals in South East Kent. On one occasion he performed a successful partial cystectomy on one of his dogs.

Soon after his arrival in Folkestone he was able to give up general practice and concentrate entirely on surgery which was always his major interest. As a surgeon he refused all forms of specialisation and was a general surgeon in the very widest sense. He operated with extraordinary dexterity and judgement and at great speed. Gastric surgery was, perhaps, his main interest and in his later years he was justifiably proud to have performed several series of one hundred gastrectomies without a death. He was a founder member of the very active Folkestone Medical Society and attended every meeting for very many years and was a frequent lecturer at the Society's meetings.

In 1939 he was beyond military age, and in 1941 he was appointed surgical adviser to the Ministry of Health for the South East Kent Hospitals. He travelled extensively and his work and advice were invaluable. At the end of the war he extended his activities and was appointed consultant surgeon to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital at Canterbury and the Ramsgate General Hospital. He held these appointments with great benefit to these hospitals until his retirement in 1957. For the year after his retirement he served on the South East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.

Manual dexterity was natural to him. He built a two-ton boat in his attic in Folkestone having calculated that by taking down the banisters he could get the hull downstairs with half an inch to spare. He was also a superb modeller and constructed an entire toy railway. About three years before his death he was in his workship when a blow-lamp exploded, causing extensive burns to his face, hands and chest. He faced this most unpleasant accident with his usual equanimity.

He died quietly on 9 April 1969 at his home in Guernsey, in his study reading War and Peace. His death was not entirely unexpected, because six months before he had a severe heart attack from which he made a surprising recovery. He left a widow, three children and six grandchildren.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 9 April 1969 without a memoir].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England