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Biographical entry Smith, Charles Harold (1883 - 1976)

OBE; MRCS 1905; FRCS 1908; MB ChB Liverpool 1905; MD 1907; LRCP 1905.

19 June 1883
Egremont, Cheshire
10 December 1976
General surgeon and Military surgeon


A Fellow of the College for 68 years, Charles Harold Smith had 'a great appreciation for courage and endeavour which he himself displayed to a remarkable degree'. He served King, Country and Empire from 31 July 1909, when he was appointed Lieutenant Indian Medical Service until he retired, Lieutenant-Colonel, on 31 July 1936.

The only son of Charles Henry Smith, a mast and spar maker, he was born in Egremont, Cheshire, on 19 June 1883. He was educated at King William's College, Isle of Man, and at the University of Liverpool, distinguishing himself in eight subjects including surgery. After being house surgeon and demonstrator in pathology he was surgical tutor at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, gaining the MD and FRCS.

On probation with the RAMC at Millbank and Aldershot he passed with a good report and embarked on the 20 day passage to India. He arrived in Bombay on 22 February 1910 and was attached to the 5th Cavalry, 1/6 Gurkha Rifles and 87th Punjabis. He passed examinations in Urdu, became an accomplished rider and enjoyed polo, big-game shooting and dry fly fishing. After courses in operative surgery and ophthalmology he was appointed specialist in surgery to the 2nd Rawalpindi Division. At the outbreak of the first world war he embarked for France, seeing action with the First Indian Cavalry Division in the 104th Cavalry Field Ambulance between October 1914 and November 1916, being mentioned in despatches by Sir John French on 30 November 1915. Later, as a result of engagements on the North-West Frontier he was twice mentioned in despatches and awarded the OBE. Later still he was in Nepal, and after a major earthquake was left as the only British administrator in Katmandu to deal with the task of restoring order and combating disease over a wide area cut off for a number of weeks from all communication with the outside world.

Retired, he lived in a substantial house with a lovely orchard near the Hamble river and indulged his love of sailing on the Solent. During the second world war he bore his full share of Home Guard and medical duty.

On Christmas Day 1920 in St Thomas's Cathedral, Bombay, he was married to Alison Jean Alexander. Their only child, William, who was born in the Punjab, perpetuated the family's maritime origins, serving in the Royal Navy as Commander and being followed in turn by his son, also in the Royal Navy.

Christian in action and way of life and an individualist, his philosophy could be summed up in the words of the old soldier in Kipling's 'Kim', a passage he was fond of quoting: 'Let the Gods order it. I have never pestered them with prayers: I do not think they will pester me. Look you, I have noticed in my long life that those who eternally break in upon those Above with complaints and reports and bellowings and weepings are presently sent for in haste ... No, I have never wearied the Gods. They will remember this, and give me a quiet place where I can drive my lance in the shade, and wait to welcome my sons.'

He died on 10 December 1976.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1977, 1, 175; information from Commander WB Smith RN and Professor Charles Wells FRCS].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England