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Biographical entry Bartels, Agnes Robertson Donald (1920 - 2014)

MRCS LRCP 1950; FRCS 1953.

1 September 2014
General surgeon, Nun and Teacher


Agnes Bartels was a general surgeon in the RAF. In later life she became a sister of the Society of Sacred Heart. She was born in 1920 and grew up in Sydenham, then a suburb of London.

After graduating she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and served in the Second World War as a radar technical officer. She was mentioned in despatches for secret work.

After the war she studied medicine at the West London Hospital Medical School and qualified in 1950. She became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1953. She joined the RAF medical branch in 1954 and attained the rank of squadron leader. She worked in RAF hospitals around the world. In 1956 she made headlines when she was flown 400 miles out to sea to operate on a sea captain.

In 1957 Bartels joined the Society of the Sacred Heart. (She had become a Catholic two years earlier.) She made her first vows in 1959 and became a full member in July 1965. From 1960 to 1974 she taught science, religion and philosophy at Society of the Sacred Heart schools in Hove, Tunbridge Wells and Hammersmith and at the Society's college in Fenham, Newcastle.

In 1974 she returned to working in hospitals, and from 1987 to 2005 she was a research fellow at the University of London.

After a long illness, Agnes Bartels died on 1 September 2014. She was 94.

Sarah Gillam

Sources used to compile this entry: [Society of the Sacred Heart England & Wales News & Events RIP Agnes Bartels RSCJ - accessed 21 October 2016; Historical RFA 'Master's life saved after Doctors mercy dash in Flying Boat' - accessed 21 October 2016; The Daily Telegraph 6 June 1956 p.1].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England