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Biographical entry Windsor, John Clement (1923 - 2007)

FRCS 1950.

2 February 1923
25 January 2007
General surgeon and Rugby player


I am honoured to be asked to say something about Clem as a friend and as a surgical colleague.

The first thing I want to say is the he was a family man and a gentleman to the core. He loved his wife Pat dearly and told her so every day of their married life. He was very proud of his heritage and idolised is father "Granfel", his nine children and 22 grandchildren - and their extended family.

We met briefly at London House in 1949 soon after he had taken part in the successful Wallaby tour and before he went up to work at the Leicester City General Hospital as a house officer. He left the hospital for 18 months and gained his FRCS both of Edinburgh and England in 1950. He then returned into a senior post at the hospital working with a distinguished surgeon, D'Offay, who trained him in Gastric surgery.

Clem was always a man of quick decisions - he met Patricia Lee, a third year nurse at the hospital, took her out for four weeks, became engaged on Australia Day 1953, married her in July 1953 when she was aged 20 years, and sailed for Australia three weeks later - pretty fast even for a surgeon!

In 1954, he gained his FRACS and was appointed Gastric surgeon to the Mater Hospital and joined the Brisbane Clinic. At this time, his father handed over all his considerable Gastric surgery to Clem.

In 1957, soon after the Princess Alexandra Hospital had opened, he and I were appointed surgeons and worked together for many years with Sir Evan Thomas as our senior. We did outpatients together and for years we did each other's work at weekends and on holidays.

In 1956, Clem did the first gastroscopy at Princess Alexandra Hospital and was the Hospital's Gastroscopist until 1970.

In 1968, Clem volunteered for a tour of duty with the civilian surgical team to go to Vietnam, and was stationed at Bien Hoa. There he met up again with Bill Maguire, an orthopaedic surgeon, with whom he has had a lifelong friendship ever since.

In 1971, Clem was appointed Senior Surgeon at the Hospital and continued in this position until 1983.

In 1973, he commenced the Gastro-oesophageal Project at the Hospital with his colleagues, Lionel Hartley, George Fielding and Owen Harris. This was a research study that recorded all cases of cancer of the stomach and oesophagus for eight years and subsequently published the data.

After he finished as a senior surgeon in 1983, he became Clinical Warden in the University Department of Surgery until 1986, looking after medical students. He took over from me as Co-ordinator of Postgraduate Surgical Studies in 1986 and trained many young surgeons, all now quite senior, until 1991.

Clem paid eight short visits to New Britain commencing in 1976. He worked at St Mary's Hospital at Vunapope in a huge Catholic mission. In 1942, the Japanese had occupied the complex and executed 31 missionaries. This is also where the famous Australian coast watchers were located. He had to deal with all the usual surgical emergencies, which included 31 successful caesarean sections - not bad for a general surgeon.

In 1991, Clem was invited to Work in the United Arab Emirates. In Sharjah, everything is green because desalination plants supply unlimited litres of water. The surgical patients were similar to those here but the Muslim women were reluctant to disrobe to allow clinical examination - some came fully clothed to the operating theatre and only after they were anaesthetised could disrobing occur.

Clem and I had great fun together over the years. We owned a small boat together - we knew nothing about boating, we had trouble launching the boat, getting the engine to start and remembering to put the bung in.

In his latter years he took up golf, and played a lot with Bill Maguire, Jack O'Callaghan and me. I had played for 60 years and was distressed when he often beat me. For some years we had lunch together every 4 to 6 weeks and it was enjoyable if I sat near his good left ear.

Clem had four great loves in his life - the Catholic Church, Family, surgery and rugby. He was devout and attended mass wherever he was. He and Pat were thrilled to meet Pope John Paul II in 1993. He praised Pat all the time and there is no doubt that he could not have done what he did without the constant support of Pat and his family. He was truly compassionate and always communicated well with the relatives.

What a man, what a friend!

May God hold him in his hand.

Neville Davis

Sources used to compile this entry: [Republished by kind permission of the President and Council of The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons from In Memoriam (].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England