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Biographical entry Handfield-Jones, Ranald Montague (1892 - 1978)

MC; MRCS and FRCS 1920; LMSSA 1914: MB BS London 1920; MS 1921; LRCP 1920.

12 May 1892
21 April 1978
General surgeon


Ranald Montague Handfield-Jones was born in Wandsworth, London, on 12 May 1892. His father was a doctor and his mother the daughter of a doctor. His grandfather was MD FRCS, FRS and an uncle was MD FRCP. He was educated at Weymouth Grammar School and Epsom College. He entered St Mary's Hospital Medical School in 1911 with a scholarship.

At the outbreak of the first world war he qualified LMSSA, his only objective being to join the Army as soon as possible. He served in France, rising to staff rank and was awarded the MC before spending the last six months of the war as a prisoner. On his return to St Mary's he passed the Conjoint examination, acquired the FRCS and became University Gold Medalist in the MB BS examinations - all in the same year. He became assistant director of the surgical unit at St Mary's in 1922 and was appointed to the surgical staff in 1928.

'H-J', as he was always known, was an able and sympathetic surgeon whose smooth swift operating was a pleasure to watch. However, his great ability was to teach lucidly, whether at the bedside or when lecturing. Command of language and clarity of delivery, often dogmatic in style, served to make a lasting impression on his audience. Deservedly he gained a very wide recognition as a teacher of outstanding merit. He devoted much of his energies to his junior dressers, emphasising the importance of the correct approach to patients and to the methods of eliciting physical signs. Many surgeons in active practice today owe much to his personal interest in their training and development. The essentials of modern surgery, written in conjunction with A E Porritt (now Lord Porritt) was widely read throughout its five editions and his Surgery of the hand also went to two editions.

Between the wars, he developed a successful surgical practice which began through his association with W H Clayton-Greene, to whom he had been house-surgeon and whose work and personality he held in the greatest esteem. At the outbreak of the second world war he was appointed medical officer in charge of emergency medical services, St Mary's Hospital, where he lived throughout the bombing period. He was Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons, was elected to the Court of Examiners, eventually becoming Chairman. He also examined in surgery for several of the British universities.

Despite the demands of his surgical work, he could find time for a wide variety of other interests. Freemasonry was perhaps to occupy most of his spare time and after retirement it became his major occupation. He worked as honorary librarian at the Freemasons' Hall, where he compiled a series of lectures on English Freemasonry and its message. He was a good cricketer, playing for the Free Foresters for many years, and was President of the United Hospital Cricket Club. He was also an enthusiastic skier. After the war he became interested in lepidoptery and made a large and scrupulously catalogued collection of British butterflies, spending many happy excursions collecting in various parts of the country.

He was married three times; in 1921 to Elizabeth Heath, in 1935 to Jean Dewar and in 1942 to Lillian Tudor Jones. He had three sons, one of whom is MD MRCP FRCGP and one daughter. He died on 21 April 1978, aged 85 years.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1978, 1, 1355; The Times 25 April 1978].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England