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Biographical entry Tanner, Clive Howell (1912 - 1974)

MRCS 1936; FRCS 1940; MB BS London 1936; LRCP 1936.

1 July 1912
23 December 1974
General surgeon


Born in Cardiff on 1 July 1912, Clive Howell Tanner was educated at Cardiff High School and the University of Wales, completing his undergraduate training at the London Hospital from which he graduated MB BS in June 1936. He was house physician and house surgeon at Cardiff Royal Infirmary and later resident surgical officer there, working under J O Wade, T E Hammond and J B Haycraft. He became FRCS in May 1940 and, because of a previous severe attack of rheumatic fever, he was unfit for active military service. Instead was appointed surgical registrar at the London Hospital and served throughout the 'Blitz', later becoming first assistant in general, ear, nose, throat and orthopaedic surgery. Sir Reginald Watson-Jones was then developing the orthopaedic and accident department at the London Hospital and the testimonial that he gave to Tanner showed great appreciation of his work as first assistant. He was appointed honorary surgeon to Swansea General and Hospital in 1946 and in that year he applied for an emergency commission in the RAMC and was nominated by the Central Medical War Committee. A medical board found him physically unfit for general service and the War Office refused his application. They seem not to have realised that a surgeon who had been almost single handed in a London hospital for most of the war must been quite fit!

On the inception of the NHS in 1948 he became consultant surgeon to Swansea and Morriston Hospitals and later to Singleton Hospital also. He was widely experienced and skilled in abdominal, thoracic and orthopaedic surgery and in the Swansea area he pioneered the surgery of the oesophagus. His opinion and skill were greatly valued by the local family doctors and as Chairman of the Swansea Division of the BMA in 1967, he championed the right of doctors to practice as they thought best for their patients. He had a special interest in the management of malignant disease and was ready to cooperate with the radiotherapists in patient care and to operate on several relatives of one of them, for a variety of major surgical conditions, with complete success.

He was a powerfully built man, his large, broad hands might have seemed more appropriate to a blacksmith than to a surgeon yet his surgical technique was gentle and meticulous. He married Mary Alice Gething, whose cousin, Helen, married Lord Evans, Physician to the Queen. Clive met his future wife, a nurse, on the steps of the old Swansea General Hospital in October 1946 and they were married in September 1949. They had two daughters, neither of whom were medically inclined, one being a graduate in German and the other in Italian.

Clive had a myocardial infarction in 1960 and a second fatal attack at his home on 23 December 1974. He was survived by his wife and daughters.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1975, 1, 280].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England